“Julia Elliott’s magical debut collection, The Wilds, brings together some of the most original, hilarious, and mind-bending stories written in the last two decades. She journeys deep into mythic terrains with an explorer’s courage and a savant’s wit, and the reports she sends back from imagination’s hinterlands are charged with a vernacular that crackles with insight. Angela Carter, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell are similar visionaries in the short story form, but Elliott is very much her own irrepressible voice—and it’s one well worth heeding. The Wilds is simply a milestone achievement.”
—Bradford Morrow, author of The Uninnocent
At an obscure South Carolina nursing home, a lost world reemerges as a disabled elderly woman undergoes newfangled brain-restoration procedures and begins to explore her environment with the assistance of strap-on robot legs. At a deluxe medical spa on a nameless Caribbean island, a middle-aged woman hopes to revitalize her fading youth with grotesque rejuvenating therapies that combine cutting-edge medical technologies with holistic approaches and the pseudo-religious dogma of Zen-infused self-help. And in a rinky-dink mill town, an adolescent girl is unexpectedly inspired by the ravings and miraculous levitation of her fundamentalist friend’s weird grandmother. These are only a few of the scenarios readers encounter in Julia Elliott’s debut collection The Wilds. In her genre-bending stories, Elliott blends Southern gothic strangeness with dystopian absurdities, sci-fi speculations with fairy-tale transformations. Teetering between the ridiculous and the sublime, Elliott’s language-driven fiction uses outlandish tropes to capture poignant moments in her humble characters’ lives. Without abandoning the tenets of classic storytelling, Elliott revels in lush lyricism, dark humor, and experimental play.
“[Sister Golden Hair] absolutely dazzled me . . . a searingly accurate portrait of a time and a way of thinking—a moment in American history when gleeful abandon had decayed into regular old abandon, and when new cultural freedoms suddenly seemed more dangerous than intoxicating.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things
When Jesse’s family moves to Roanoke, Virginia, in the summer of 1972, she’s twelve years old and already mindful of the schism between innocence and femininity, the gap between childhood and the world of adults. Her father, a former pastor, cycles through spiritual disciplines as quickly as he cycles through jobs. Her mother is chronically dissatisfied, glumly fetishizing the Kennedys and anyone else who symbolizes status and wealth. The residents of the Bent Tree housing development may not seem like beacons of the secret knowledge that Jesse is looking for, but they’re all she’s got. Her neighbor tans on the front lawn and tells tales of her married lover; her classmate playacts being a Bunny at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club; the boy she’s interested in fantasizes about moving to Hollywood and befriending David Soul.
In the midst of her half-understanding, Jesse finds space to set up her room with her secret treasures: a Venus Flytrap, her Cher 45s, and The Big Book of Burial Rites. But outside await new sexual mores, muddled social customs, and confused spirituality. It’s a terrifying time—in the shadow of Manson and the hangover from the idealistic sixties—when alienation overtakes liberation. Girlhood has never been more fraught than in Jesse’s telling, its expectations threatening to turn at any point into delicious risk, or real danger. Darcey Steinke captures all of this with an intimate, startling grace.
Since 1984, Literary Arts has welcomed many of the world’s most renowned authors and storytellers to its stage for one of the country’s largest lectures series. Sold-out crowds congregate at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall to hear these writers’ discuss their work and their thoughts on the trajectory of contemporary literature and culture. In celebration of Literary Arts’ thirty-year anniversary, Tin House Books has collected highlights from the series in a single volume. Whether it’s Wallace Stegner exploring how we use fiction to make sense of life or Ursula K. Le Guin on where ideas come from, Margaret Atwood on the need for complex female characters or Robert Stone on morality and truth in literature, Edward P. Jones on the role of imagination in historical novels or Marilynne Robinson on the nature of beauty, these essays illuminate not just the world of letters but the world at large.
"Charles D'Ambrosio's essays are excitingly good. They are relevant in the way that makes you read them out loud, to anyone who happens to be around. Absolutely accessible and incredibly intelligent, his work is an astounding relief—as though someone is finally trying to puzzle all the disparate, desperate pieces of the world together again."
—Jill Owens, Powell's
Charles D’Ambrosio’s essay collection Orphans spawned something of a cult following. In the decade since the tiny limited-edition volume sold out its print run, its devotees have pressed it upon their friends, students, and colleagues, only to find themselves begging for their copy’s safe return. For anyone familiar with D’Ambrosio’s writing, this enthusiasm should come as no surprise. His work is exacting and emotionally generous, often as funny as it is devastating. Loitering gathers those eleven original essays with new and previously uncollected work, so that a broader audience might discover one of our great living essayists. No matter his subject—Native American whaling, a Pentecostal “hell house,” Mary Kay Letourneau, the work of J.D. Salinger, or, most often, his own family—D’Ambrosio approaches each piece with a singular voice and point of view; each essay, while unique and surprising, is unmistakably his own.