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What We’re Reading

Desiderata

Michelle Wildgen (Executive Editor, Tin House Magazine): I’m reading Dana Goodyear’s Anything That Moves, her investigation into modern culinary outliers, whether it is eater and writer Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for LA Weekly, or a supplier to chefs of all foods outré, or people dedicating their careers to persuading Americans their next protein source should be insects. It’s a completely engaging, intelligent, and bright book, and though I’m only about halfway through it is hard to imagine she will top the indelible image of Gold, dangerously over-caffeinated after a day spent testing espressos, making a spectacular exit from a restaurant: bursting into tears, dashing out, and catching the bus home. This is what a food obsession will do to you, people. It happens to me once a week.

Brandi Dawn Henderson (Editorial Intern, The Open Bar): I was recently pleased to come into a copy of the almost-released Cobalt Press collection, Four Fathers, a collection of poetry and fiction by Dave Housley, BL Pawelek, Ben Tanzer, and Tom Williams, with a foreword written by Fathermucker author Greg Olear. Mine is an electronic copy, which I intended to download onto an e-reader after taking just a brief peek at the file on my computer to see what I was in for. Many hours later, the day dim, I realized I was still in my pajamas and that I’d greedily consumed the entire collection. Rarely have I been exposed to literature that offers a glimpse, let alone several different perspectives, on how men feel (I mean, really, deeply, in their heads and hearts feel) about the roles and responsibilities that come with bringing children into the world. In Dave Housley’s piece, in particular, I felt so completely drawn in to the chaos and confusion of his protagonist’s experience with fatherhood that, for those 37 pages, I was a father. My emotions were all over the place as I dedicated the entire day to scrolling further and further into the complex dimensions of fatherhood. As soon as I read the final words, I blinked against the fading light; then, more than the need for the food or water I’d denied myself during my literary binge, what I really needed most was to call my dad.

Thomas Ross (Editorial Assistant, Tin House): I’ve been reading three books from our friends at Wave Poetry in Seattle in preparation for a reading in Portland this weekend. Cedar Sigo’s Literary Arts makes the personal lyrical, covering love affairs, creative relationships, and life as an artist with an energetic music to its lines. In Etruria, Rodney Koeneke drops cultural references from the ancient Etruscans to Frank O’Hara to the internet, managing to sound brilliant even as he ends the collection with the line “drunk drunk drunk drunk drunk drunk drunk.” However, it’s Wave’s big, important collection/reissue of Robert Lax’s New Poems, Sea and Sky, and a handful of other poems that has most of my attention. Poems (1962-1997) makes Lax easily available in the US for the first time in a good long while. Wave reached out to currently Portland-based poet John Beer, who spent two years as Lax’s assistant on the island of Patmos in the late nineties. The simplicity of Lax’s poems can be surprisingly overwhelming—their repetitive language and narrow, columnar forms belie not a hidden complexity, but a meditative, expansive power. Beer’s introduction places Lax historically, personally, and spiritually with Lax’s friends and contemporaries like Merton and Reinhardt.

Victoria Savanh (Writer’s Workshop Intern): The first time I saw Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of The Virgin Suicides was at a birthday party in middle school. We were shocked. It was chilling, profound, and within a few hours we watched it again, not quite understanding why it resonated so deeply with us. I’ve only just now gotten to the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides thirteen years later and the story is perhaps more profound with nostalgia’s effects. I still feel pain for the five Lisbon sisters and their tragic acts, but beyond the events, the story is a mesmerizing reflection on the trauma of leaving childhood behind. It had me laughing and crying along with the collective narrators, a group of young men looking back on their adolescence (told in first-person plural) in suburbia. It’s elegiac, painful, and so sweet, moving fluidly between sweeping romance and stark reality, peppered with plenty of dark humor. The Virgin Suicides is not as much of a downer read as it sounds! So many parts are laugh-out-loud-reread-line-and-laugh-again funny. This is one gem of a coming of age novel. Also, for good complementary reading (or just on its own) check out Leslie Jamison’s essay “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.”

Liz Lampman (Editorial Intern, Tin House Books): I may not remember much from my college lit courses, but I do remember a few good books. This week Aamer Hussein’s collection of short stories, called Turquoise, jumped off my shelf and into my welcoming hands. From the first Akhmatova epigraph to the final (and my favorite) story, “The Needlewoman’s Calendar,” Hussein brings Karachi, Lahore, and London to life by blending ancient songs and stories with the intimacy and hardship of his memorable characters. Turquoise is careful, culturally rich, and musical.

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