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What We’re Reading

Michelle Wildgen (Executive Editor, Tin House Magazine): I just finished Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland, which follows one-time indie darling Anna Brundage on her hopeful comeback tour. The novel zigzags from the present tour to her past and back again, especially her artist father and the long but slowly weakening shadow he casts as artist and inspiration. The book’s most wonderful passages are all about music, how it feels to play it, to soar in it, to struggle for it and sometimes to fail at reproducing that elusive shimmer you first heard in the brain. It’s the details hat burrowed into me as I read: Anna and her band on stage, the languorous but bold sex scenes, the album titles D’Erasmo came up with for Anna that are so well chosen they show me Anna’s whole career.  I keep wanting to see the album covers for Whale and Bang Bang, and really they should have been made just to become the book’s cover. (Paperback editors, take note!) The novel even comes right out and says that Bang Bang was a disaster, but I refuse to believe it because I’m pretty sure I can hear this music in my head now. It is possible I have become over invested in this, but D’Erasmo is such a potent, intoxicating writer, who makes artistic creation feel so tactile and many-chambered, that seriously, how can you blame me?

Rob Spillman (Editor, Tin House Magazine): Coming out of the horror that is BookExpo, there were a trio of September novels that literary folks were excited about, galleys being snapped up quickly: Dylan Landis’ Rainey Royal, which will be out September from Soho Press (an excerpt staring the fierce Manhattan teen who has to navigate the surreal jazz-house her father runs, appeared in Tin House #56 and was just chosen for an O’Henry Prize; David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (coming from Random House, and it is next on my nightstand stack); and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. Part David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, part Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, part Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, it is a post-apocalyptic (by pandemic flu) literary puzzle, jumping time and characters effortlessly as it follows an itinerant Shakespearian and musical troupe as it wanders the blighted US landscape. I urge you to pre-order all three.

Thomas Ross (Editorial Assistant): Faithful readers of Tin House #FridayReads will remember my effusive gushing over mysterious French author Antoine Volodine’s short stories written under the name Manuela Draeger. On the recommendation of those stories’ faithful translator, Brian Evenson, I recently picked up another Volodine project, We Monks and Soldiers, a collection of linked stories written under the name Lutz Bassman (translated by Jordan Stump). Post-apocalyptic and strange like the Draeger stories, the Bassman collection is darker, drearier, and more experimental. For instance, the same story appears twice, told differently and with slightly altered details, and by the second telling, the world Bassman invents is more complete and the shards of hope seem smaller, but shine brighter in the very dark world Bassman evokes. The stories are populated (and usually narrated) by post-human beings (Angels? Bird people? I don’t know, they have wings.) trying, desperately or idly, to save humanity from its self-inflicted death, or at least comfort it in its dying moments. (Please, someone suggest something lighter for me to read!)

Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): I recently came across the work of Lynd Ward, specifically his graphic novel God’s Man, while researching art for a book cover. Ward published six wordless novels of woodcut illustrations between 1929 and 1937. His Expressionist prints have strong Art Deco elements, with an obvious German influence, as well. In 139 panels, Gods’ Man tells the story of a struggling artist who sells his soul for fame and fortune. This morality tale is predictably dark and Ward’s art is effective in communicating isolation, ambition, and violence.

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