Tin House, winter reading

by katystreet

Volume 17, Number 2.

I subscribe to Journal of the Month, which sends me a different literary magazine each month. Tin House seems to be heavy on fiction, but it also has essays, poems, some reviews of books, and, in this issue, one comic or graphic novel short.

I didn’t get into any of the poetry, even though they had a lot of pieces by Sharon Olds who I thought I really liked. That’s okay, I don’t get into most poetry. It was all a bit too… wispy for me. Not enough grabbed onto something real that could keep me engaged and or even on point for the entire poem. I didn’t finish a lot, even though they were mostly short, and though the longest poem in the bunch did engage me past the first page it went on too long without any, as far as I could gather, progression.

It had an essay I’d already read called On Pandering by Claire Vaye Watkins which stood up to a second reading well. I skipped a couple of the essays because they didn’t grab me. There was an essay about a woman’s romantic history, tracing back generations, which I enjoyed but felt would have been better as inspiration for fiction.

I prowled through the fiction greedily. I don’t read a lot of short stories, and even fewer outside the context of a single author’s collection. They were all high quality, good stories and I enjoyed them, but only one stuck with me and towards the end I got tired of the format, actually skipping out on the last two. (There were a total of seven in the issue.) The one that stuck with me was Children by Helen Phillips. I happened to have seen a book of hers, The Beautiful Bureaucrats, recommended at the Harvard Book Store recently; she was described as similar to Haruki Murakami if Murakami knew how to write women. I didn’t put this together until halfway through the story, which is wonderful and weird and still sticks with me vividly.