Tin House: Summer Reading 2017

Win McCormack

Drop it in your beach bag with the sunscreen and kadima paddles—our annual summer reading issue will feature a smorgasbord of new writing from established and new voices.

Tin House: True Crime

Win McCormack

Grand and slight, gritty and slick, our fall issue will be packing stories, essays, and poems inspired by the true crime genre. The long con is on you if you miss out on this one!

Pieces of Soap

Stanley Elkin

Stanley Elkin was one of our great American writers. “A divine exploiter of the idiocies and intricacies of our language,” as John Irving put it, and nowhere is that more clear than this collection of essays, which find Elkin wresting hilarity and heartbreak from the most unlikely of sources.

The Hidden Machinery

Margot Livesey

“Read everything that is good for the good of your soul. Then learn to read as a writer, to search out that hidden machinery, which it is the business of art to conceal and the business of the apprentice to comprehend.”  

In The Hidden Machinery, critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Margot Livesey offers a masterclass for those who love reading literature and for those who aspire to write it. Through close readings, arguments about craft, and personal essay, Livesey delves into the inner workings of fiction and considers how our stories and novels benefit from paying close attention to both great works of literature and to our own individual experiences. Her essays range in subject matter from navigating the shoals of research to creating characters that walk off the page, from how Flaubert came to write his first novel to how Jane Austen subverted romance in her last one. As much at home on your nightstand as it is in the classroom, The Hidden Machinery will become a book readers and writers return to over and over again. 

Loitering

Charles D’Ambrosio

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.

The World Split Open

Margaret Atwood

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.

Fantastic Women

Rob Spillman

Meet the daughters of Franz Kafka, Mary Shelley, the Brothers Grimm, and Angela Carter. Fantastic Women assembles the work of eighteen inventive, insightful women authors who steep their narratives in a heady potion of surrealism and macabre black comedy. The results are wildly creative stories that capture the truth about human nature far more than much of the fiction (or, for that matter, the nonfiction) being written today.

Why just women? More and more women writers are creating work that not only pushes the envelope but also folds realistic fiction into an origami dragon, transporting readers into worlds we’ve never seen before and digging deeper into the psychic bedrock than their male counterparts.

So slip into a pocket universe, drive through a family’s home, awake in the night to find you’ve become a deer, and dive into the ocean to join your mermaid mother. We can’t imagine ever wanting to escape this spellbinding world, but if you must, best leave a trail of crumbs along your way.

The Maker of Swans

Paraic O’Donnell

It is no small matter, after all, to create something—to make it so only by setting down the words. We forget the magnitude, sometimes, of that miracle. 

In the dead of night, shots ring out over the grounds of a sprawling English estate. The world-weary butler Eustace recognizes the gunman—his longtime employer, Mr. Crowe—and knows he must think and act quickly. Who is the man lying dead on the lawn? Who is the woman in his company? Can he clean up his master’s mess like he always has before? Or will this bring a new kind of reckoning? 

Mr. Crowe was once famed for his gifts—unaccountable gifts, known only to the members of a secretive order. Protected and privileged, he was courted by countesses and great men of letters. But he has long since retreated from that glittering world, living alone but for Eustace and Clara, his mysterious young ward. He has been content to live quietly, his great library gathering dust and his once magnificent gardens growing wild. He has left the past behind. Until now. 

Because there are rules, even for Mr. Crowe and his kind, that cannot be broken. And this single night of passion and violence will have consequences, stirring shadows from the past and threatening those he now cares for. He and the faithful Eustace will be tested as never before. So too will Clara, whose own extraordinary gifts remain hidden, even from herself. If she is to save them all, she must learn to use them quickly and unlock the secret of who she is. 

It is a secret beyond imagining. A secret that will change everything.

Night of the Living Rez

Morgan Talty

Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.

 

In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs. 

A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.

Little Foxes Took Up Matches

Katya Kazbek

When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels?

After suffering horrific abuse from his cousin Vovka who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairytale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life.

Told with deep empathy, humor, and a bit of surreality, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child, whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices. An arresting coming of age, an exploration of gender, a modern folktale, a comedy about family, Katya Kazbek breaks out as a new voice to watch.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

Kim Fu

In the twelve unforgettable tales of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, the strange is made familiar and the familiar strange, such that a girl growing wings on her legs feels like an ordinary rite of passage, while a bug-infested house becomes an impossible, Kafkaesque nightmare. Each story builds a new world all its own: a group of children steal a haunted doll; a runaway bride encounters a sea monster; a vendor sells toy boxes that seemingly control the passage of time; an insomniac is seduced by the Sandman. These visions of modern life wrestle with themes of death and technological consequence, guilt and sexuality, and unmask the contradictions that exist within all of us.  

Mesmerizing, electric, and wholly original, Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century blurs the boundaries of the real and fantastic, offering intricate and surprising insights into human nature.

Where You Come From

Sasa Stanisic

In August, 1992, a boy and his mother flee the war in Yugoslavia and arrive in Germany. Six months later, the boy’s father joins them, bringing a brown suitcase, insomnia, and a scar on his thigh. Saša Stanišic’s Where You Come From is a novel about this family, whose world is uprooted and remade by war: their history, their life before the conflict, and the years that followed their escape as they created a new life in a new country.

Blending autofiction, fable, and choose-your-own-adventure, Where You Come From is set in a village where only thirteen people remain, in lost and made-up memories, in coincidences, in choices, and in a dragons’ den. Translated by Damion Searls, it’s a novel about homelands, both remembered and imagined, lost and found. A book that playfully twists form and genre with wit and heart to explore questions that lie inside all of us: about language and shame, about arrival and making it just in time, about luck and death, about what role our origins and memories play in our lives.

Win Me Something

Kyle Lucia Wu

Willa Chen has never quite fit in. Growing up as a biracial Chinese American girl in New Jersey, Willa felt both hypervisible and unseen, too Asian to fit in at her mostly white school, and too white to speak to the few Asian kids around. After her parents’ early divorce, they both remarried and started new families, and Willa grew up feeling outside of their new lives, too.

For years, Willa does her best to stifle her feelings of loneliness, drifting through high school and then college as she tries to quiet the unease inside her. But when she begins working for the Adriens—a wealthy white family in Tribeca—as a nanny for their daughter, Bijou, Willa is confronted with all of the things she never had. As she draws closer to the family and eventually moves in with them, Willa finds herself questioning who she is, and revisiting a childhood where she never felt fully at home. Self-examining and fraught with the emotions of a family who fails and loves in equal measure, Win Me Something is a nuanced coming-of-age debut about the irreparable fissures between people, and a young woman who asks what it really means to belong, and how she might begin to define her own life.

What Storm, What Thunder

Myriam J. A. Chancy

 

At the end of a long, sweltering day, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude shakes the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Award-winning author Myriam J. A. Chancy masterfully charts the inner lives of the characters affected by the disaster—Richard, an expat and wealthy water-bottling executive with a secret daughter; the daughter, Anne, an architect who drafts affordable housing structures for a global NGO; a small-time drug trafficker, Leopold, who pines for a beautiful call girl; Sonia and her business partner, Dieudonné, who are followed by a man they believe is the vodou spirit of death; Didier, an emigrant musician who drives a taxi in Boston; Sara, a mother haunted by the ghosts of her children in an IDP camp; her husband, Olivier, an accountant forced to abandon the wife he loves; their son, Jonas, who haunts them both; and Ma Lou, the old woman selling produce in the market who remembers them all.

Brilliantly crafted, fiercely imagined, and deeply haunting, What Storm, What Thunder is a singular, stunning record, a reckoning of the heartbreaking trauma of disaster, and—at the same time—an unforgettable testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit.

 

Something Wonderful

Jo Lloyd

In Something Wonderful, prize-winning author Jo Lloyd has crafted nine stories that delight in language and shine with wit, wisdom, and deep humanity. Whether seeking knowledge, riches, or a better life, the characters in this debut collection are united by a quest for lasting value, as they ask how we should treat our world, our work, our selves, and each other in both past and present. A vainglorious mine owner dreams of harnessing all of nature to the machinery of commerce. Two women hunt rare butterflies in a pre-First World War landscape already experiencing the first bites of biodiversity loss. A young man tracks down the father who abandoned him inside a festival exhibit. A rural Welsh community is fascinated and angered by glimpses of its invisible, wealthy neighbors.

Clear-sighted and lyrical, compassionate, and full of truth, Something Wonderful from Jo Lloyd, winner of the BBC National Short Story Award, announces a remarkable new voice with a sensibility all her own.

Unsettled Ground

Claire Fuller

At fifty-one years old, twins Jeanie and Julius still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation in the English countryside. The cottage they have shared their entire lives is their only protection against the modernizing world around them. Inside its walls, they make music, and in its garden, they grow everything they need to survive. To an outsider, it looks like poverty; to them, it is home.

But when Dot dies unexpectedly, the world they’ve so carefully created begins to fall apart. The cottage they love, and the security it offered, is taken back by their landlord, exposing the twins to harsh truths and even harsher realities. Seeing a new future, Julius becomes torn between the loyalty he feels towards his sister and his desire for independence, while Jeanie struggles to find work and a home for them both. And just when it seems there might be a way forward, a series of startling secrets from their mother’s past come to the surface, forcing the twins to question who they are, and everything they know of their family’s history.

In Unsettled Ground, award-winning author Claire Fuller masterfully builds a tale of sacrifice and hope, of homelessness and hardship, of love and survival, in which two marginalized and remarkable people uncover long-held family secrets and, in their own way, repair, recover, and begin again.