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She wasn’t going to the hospital again, no way. It smelled like pee there and her mother always yelled at her to stop kicking her foot against the leg of the chair while they waited for the doctor. She didn’t like the hospital, despite what her dad said: “Well, for not liking it, you sure […]
Walking son to school we pass an old pay phone and I suggest we call someone. He asks me who we should call. I say we should probably call me and find out how I’m doing. I put two quarters in and dial my cell number. No sound. Dead line. The phone took the money. Won’t give it back.
This variety of spider is born dead, Noll told us. Stiff packets of chitin and darkness. Teensy tiny organs rattling like dried beans if we listened with the right tools (which Noll had). Out-of-state scientist come with his white van and silver knives to explain to us what our forest held. Only when someone warmed […]
If you’re a writer who’s ever felt sucky about your pitiful advances, the lack of reviews for your books, or your inability to place your literary work altogether, you will finish reading New Grub Street feeling much, much better. Because in the Golden Age of the Novel, things were actually much, much worse.
From our 2009 Summer Workshop, Steve Almond and Aimee Bender—both the offspring of therapists—discuss how and why less experienced writers manage to sabotage their own fiction. Among the topics covered are: simplicity phobias, the artistic unconscious, OMD (obsessive metaphor disorder), fear of emotional exposure, prose envy, and obfuscation in the service of the id.
TODAY’S PICTURE was from the Musée d’Orsay: the bright, vaulted windows, gilded finishings, and me, smiling underneath. I thought I’d have time to see most of the museum before the kids’ school let out, but I moved too slowly among the impressionists, then had to hurry with the rest. I did stop for several minutes […]
Life Expectancy It’s 2016, just after gravity’s first speech. Here I am, lying in the dirt, attempting to sense the rotation of an earth I imagine to be singular in space. I watch the breathable take shape, though my eyes are inadequate, poised between nanobes and primitive galaxies. You’ll find me at my sewing machine, […]
I want a female main character with power. And I want her to do harm, because there’s no story without trouble.
“You’re like a radiant corpse,” she said to the man in her bed. She had wanted to say it for days. “I know,” he said brightly, looking up from his book. He was older than she was. “I get exhausted,” he explained. “I really do. But then I get excited.” “Then you forget your body,” […]
If you walked into that house you’d think you’ve just walked out of it. It always smells like toast. Toast and fertilizer. There are a lot of green plants around but none of them are alive, unless you believe plastic breathes, and the man in there does. He does tai chi after breakfast every morning […]
The boyfriend’s girlfriend used to speak to him like he was a baby. She would come up to him stringing nonsense sounds together like “jeebie jeebie” or “newmoo newmoo” and hug him or pinch his cheeks. After she bought the dog, however, the girlfriend stopped talking to the boyfriend like he was a baby. Instead, […]
The wrestler emerged from the kitchen, the weight of a coal-burning grill in both hands, and I felt like clapping. The “barbecue” was more Korean yakiniku than tabletop Coleman, and it had landed in the middle of our table. With a fork, he speared a hefty cube of pig fat and rubbed it back and forth across the burner, until it sizzled and oozed and I possibly audibly ahh’d. His assistant poured, from a burnished kettle, an herb-fragrant broth into the moat that surrounded the smoking coals. The wrestler slowly lifted an egg above his head and brought it down with a crack! on the metal tureen. Strands of gold and milky white raced into the broth, swirling and solidifying in the steaming brew.
When we went to see the trailer we’d rented, officially Uhauling, it was clear immediately: our books weren’t going to fit. I had eighteen boxes. She had eighteen boxes. The shipping would cost over a grand and so we reconsidered. We were moving the cheapest way possible, to a new state where neither of us […]
Taking my hand, he led me through the Louisiana Swamp Gallery to a verdant artificial garden. Arias of brightly colored canaries were locked in a cages along the wall. Holly stood on a plastic bridge and butterflies filled the air. An immense azure morpho landed atop her head. She knelt down to show Zion its palpating wings.
I look at her bed and imagine her in her faded nightgown, lying sleepless, a thin arm outstretched to my father’s bed alongside her.
I look at his bed and see his pillows smoothed and propped up, his sheets tucked tight, his blanket folded at the foot.
In college, just as I was starting to think of myself as a writer—also known as my “insufferable” phase—I felt a vague anthropological obligation to interview the elderly people on my mother’s side of the family. I figured I only had a couple of years, tops, before they all died. My uncle’s parents, for instance, […]
Literature, read on the sly, gave the author her first taste of the strange world of that mysterious being, the adult. From Issue 63, Rejection. What I remember is a park in Boise, a summer picnic in the late 1960s, and my father lurching to a stop on the sidewalk to let a girl pass. […]
In Olympia, my father
to whom I will not speak,
whose face heavies with the shrinking
ledger of days,
plants azaleas after surgery, the grooves
in his fingers filling with soil
April is National Poetry Month, so we thought we’d check in with our staff for some poetry recommendations. Where better to start than with Matthew Dickman, our Poetry Editor: Matthew: I can’t stop reading work by Khadijah Queen. Her poems are dynamic, ecstatic, and important. Copies of her books Fearful Beloved and Non-Sequitur are never […]
Sometimes I’d cry when I read and sometimes I’d feel nothing at all, just numbness. But there was always this strange mix of caring, compassion, helplessness, and rage— the four things mixed in different proportions. I found that I wanted to write something about that feeling, that combination of empathy and impotence.
When I interviewed people about the murders, some cautioned that the crime was a black hole that held nothing within. Heinous crimes are like that, people said. They do not teach lessons, they only confirm the worst suspicions about what can happen in our world. To venture close to an entity so dark and try to wrest value from its depths was not only foolish, it was dangerous: a black hole withholds and mangles all it consumes and devours anything wandering too close to its invisible mouth. Yet, the same people who compassionately issued this warning also told me, often at length, of all the crime had come to mean in their lives, how it had challenged their beliefs or fortified them. How it continued to flicker as a figure on the edge of their peripheral vision, moving out of range when they turned to see it head-on.
At the Best Buy on Reserve, I saw my future self in line to buy an Xbox. He had twenty years and fifty pounds on me, and he’d lost his hair. But he was me; I recognized myself, like you can recognize your red Outback in a parking lot full of them. I don’t play […]
We still get a Christmas tree. We still light the menorah. My husband continues to prepare pork chops with a sense of ritual and familiarity that must feel like coming home. The kids have grown up—now 23 and 19—one bar mitzvahed, the other a devout atheist–and are free to make religious commitments of their own.
The following appears in the current issue of Tin House, Faith. Writing about the subject of faith in a country named for faith, founded upon faith, with faith as the central word of its national motto, is, shall we say, a somewhat fraught endeavor. I have for the past six years again lived in Pakistan, […]
The diabetic alcoholic across the street had lost all limbs by now. He only came out anymore for Medi-Van transport to dialysis. It took two strong men to hoist him and his wheelchair down the splintered wooden front stairs. He lived alone with his aging mother, who never came out to wave goodbye. That mother? […]