Introducing Tin House Issue 67: FAITH

Rob Spillman


This month sees the release of our newest issue, the Faith issue. Read our Editor Rob Spillman’s introduction below, scope some hopefully tantalizing quotes, read a few excerpts online, and then buy the issue or—better yet—subscribe! We have faith you’ll make the right call.


Samuel Beckett famously ended his novel The Unnamable “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Why? How? Is it faith that drives us onward? And if so, faith in what? Writers have struggled with this question since the first hominids started scratching symbols into rocks. Do we put our faith in our survival skills or create a pantheon of deities to guide and protect us? By the Twentieth Century, writers like Beckett put their faith in words. In our time of worldwide upheavals and immanent climate catastrophe, our faith in words is under constant assault. Yet writers do go on. For Joy Williams, a selection of micro-fictions from 99 Stories of God (soon to be published by Tin House Books) grapples with many of the same themes of her nearly fifty years of writing—the divine and the uncanny. Poet Natalie Diaz writes, “I make my faith in my hands.” Alan Lightman puts his faith in the laws of nature, while Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid contemplates the fraught nature of writing in a country named after faith. President Obama’s favorite writer-interview subject, Marilynne Robinson, argues that “faith and religion are neither synonyms nor antonyms.” Mira Ptacin visits Maine in search of the Spiritualists, while Alex Mar examines the life and legacy of Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft. Father-and-son authors Jonathan and Adam Wilson discuss their faith in the family seder, the rituals and food that transcend time and space. In his primer on the history of faith, James Carse makes the case for complexity and how not to define religion. We know that there are no simple answers to questions of faith, but after reading this issue perhaps you will be as Plato said, “twice armed if we fight with faith.” Our hope is that you are fighting the good fight.

—Rob Spillman

“What is redemption, real redemption? It is sometimes ordinary. It is my parents saving Green Stamps so that their daughter, raised in a little North Dakota town can listen to King Lear every night as she falls asleep.”

Louise Erdrich

“During a particularly easy period for things unrelated to the complicated business of baby-making, a YouTube series I’d started, called Nate Draws the Internet, took off.”

Daniel Torday

“This world compares to the next world as sleeping does to wakefulness.”

Joshua Cohen

“Quantum mechanics doesn’t somehow salvage the supernatural, but it does introduce quite a weird and seemingly ineradicable wiggle into the natural.”

—Christian Wiman

“I make my faith in my hands. A writer can declare faith in nothing but must bear faith in her hands.”

—Natalie Diaz

“A few times in my life I’ve felt a woosh of divinity, but never do I sense the invisible world more strongly than I do in one of my favorite novels.”

—Darcey Steinke