What We’re Reading

The Open Bar

Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): Years of Lyndon Johnson Volume 1: The Path to Power. I’ve finally begun listening to the audiobook of Robert Caro’s epic multi-volume Lyndon Johnson biography. Caro’s a master, Johnson’s a scoundrel, and I’m delighted to have so much rolling tape in front of me. Avoid this space in the coming months if you’re decidedly uninterested in what LBJ ate for breakfast in college.

Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): I’m a little late to the game, but I just got around to reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. I should have read it sooner, but I’m glad I waited. It was the perfect companion on a gloomy evening.

Thomas Ross (Editorial Assistant): I’m finding it a little difficult to read without a deadline currently, so I’ve imposed a loose one for now: I’m going to finish Inherent Vice before the Paul Thomas Anderson movie comes out in August. I can’t wait to see Joaquin Phoenix as the delirious hippie private investigator Doc Sportello, Josh Brolin as fameball cop Bigfoot Bjornsen, or any of the other cast members (Benicio del Toro! Reese Witherspoon! um… Martin Short!) as hilariously-named Pynchon characters. It’s easily the most “adaptable” Pynchon novel, and I’m counting on Anderson to deliver something that will live in the drug-addled adventure canon with Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski.

Lance Cleland (Workshop Director): Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal. An unexpected snow day here in Portland found me sitting in the kitchen at 3pm, beer in hand, dog at my feet, Jutta Hipp on the stereo, fiancé finishing a novel in the seat next to mine. I wanted something familiar to read, something that would let me drift in and out of the story the way the headlights of the cars outside appeared to be drifting in and out of the snowflakes. Greedily, I wanted two narratives at once. I had recently given someone Hrabal’s perfect novella as part of a book exchange and in handing it over I had the ping of wanting to experience it again. I first encountered the book on a similar type day, next to a similar type window, for reading the first few pages not only brought me back into the world of young Milos Hrma, Hrabal’s protagonist, but also back ten years, to when I was living in the small Czech town of Olomouc and had the luxury of entire weeks reading novellas through afternoon snowstorms. I realize I am saying nothing of what the book is about, but yesterday was probably my sixth or seventh time reading Closely Observed Trains (not to mention watching the excellent film adaptation three or four times) and the story feels more like an old postcard to me, sent by a friend with whom you once traveled but have lost touch with over the years. The thing is, I suspect you might feel that way about it after one read. And that is a hell of an achievement for any book.