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Between The Covers : Conversations with Writers in Fiction, Nonfiction & Poetry

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Ursula K. Le Guin : Words Are My Matter

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society & its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, & even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality. . .”  Words Are My Matter collects talks, essays, intros to beloved books, & book reviews by Ursula K. Le Guin, one of our foremost public literary intellectuals. It is essential reading, & through the lens of deep considerations of contemporary writing, a way of exploring the world we are all living in. The post Ursula K. Le Guin : Words Are My Matter appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 13mins

14 Feb 2017

Rank #1

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Sheila Heti : Motherhood

“This book is going to change how we think about life and women forever; like ancient Greek philosopher level of describing reality in a way that creates it. So, go or don’t go, read the book or don’t—either way your life will be changed by this thinker. I’m being serious here.”—Miranda July “This inquiry into the modern woman’s moral, social and psychological relationship to procreation is an illumination, a provocation, and a response—finally—to the new norms of femininity, formulated from the deepest reaches of female intellectual authority. It is unlike anything else I’ve read. Sheila Heti has broken new ground, both in her maturity as an artist and in the possibilities of the female discourse itself.”—Rachel Cusk The post Sheila Heti : Motherhood appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 28mins

1 Jun 2018

Rank #2

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Jesse Ball : How to Set a Fire and Why

Jesse Ball’s blistering novel tells the story of a teenage girl who has lost everything—and will burn anything. Lucia’s father is dead, her mother in a mental hospital, and now she’s been kicked out of school—again. She makes her way through the world with only a book, a zippo lighter, a pocketful of stolen licorice, a biting wit, and the striking intel­ligence that she tries to hide. “Lucia details a philosophy that smartly parallels the novel’s own–namely, that writing literature is, like arson, an act of creation and destruction . . . A song of teenage heartbreak sung with a movingly particular sadness, a mature meditation on how actually saying something, not just speaking, is what most makes a voice human.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review The post Jesse Ball : How to Set a Fire and Why appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 7mins

17 Aug 2016

Rank #3

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Tin House Live : Rebecca Makkai on The Ear of the Story

Given at the 2019 Tin House Summer Workshop, Rebecca Makkai’s craft talk “You Talkin’ to Me?: The ‘Ear’ of the Story” looks at an important but underappreciated aspect of story craft, the flip side of point of view, the point of telling.  In her words, “Who is the story’s implied listener? Are you casting your listeners as people who already know this world or people who need to be filled in? And what are the political and artistic implications of glossing a culture or setting for readers who don’t know it?” The post Tin House Live : Rebecca Makkai on The Ear of the Story appeared first on Tin House.

54mins

25 May 2020

Rank #4

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Carmen Maria Machado : Her Body and Other Parties

“Cross-pollinating fairy tales, horror movies, TV shows, & a terrific sense of humor, Machado’s work reminds me at different times of such wildly divergent figures as David Lynch, Jane Campion, Maggie Nelson, & Grace Paley; which is a way of saying, Machado sounds like nobody but herself.”—John Powers, NPR “Fresh Air” “The book abounds with fantastical premises that ring true because the intensity of sexual desire, the mutability of the body, & the realities of gender inequality make them so. These stories stand as exquisitely rendered, poignant hauntings.”—San Francisco Chronicle The post Carmen Maria Machado : Her Body and Other Parties appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 28mins

1 Feb 2018

Rank #5

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George Saunders : Tenth of December

“George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read All Year,” declared the cover of the New York Times Magazine several weeks ago. Since then, the world has rushed to agree that Saunders’ new story collection, Tenth of December, is a remarkable literary achievement. “George Saunders is a complete original, unlike anyone else, thank god—and yet still he manages to be the rightful heir to three other complete American originals—Barthelme (the lyricism, the playfulness), Vonnegut (the outrage, the wit, the scope), and Twain (the common sense, the exasperation). There is no author I recommend to people more often—for ten years I’ve urged George Saunders onto everyone and everyone. You want funny? Saunders is your man. You want emotional heft? Saunders again. You want stories that are actually about something—stories that again and again get to the meat of matters of life and death and justice and country? Saunders. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”—Dave Eggers The post George Saunders : Tenth of December appeared first on Tin House.

29mins

14 Feb 2013

Rank #6

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Garth Greenwell : Cleanness

“Garth Greenwell, whose first book is a masterpiece, amazingly has written a second book that is also a masterpiece. The great enterprise that Joyce and Lawrence began—to write with utter literal candor about sex, grounding one’s moral life and philosophical insight in what that candor reveals about us—finds fulfillment, a late apotheosis, in Greenwell’s work. Cleanness is the act of a master.” —Frank Bidart The post Garth Greenwell : Cleanness appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 49mins

14 Feb 2020

Rank #7

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Ursula K. Le Guin : Steering The Craft

Ursula K. Le Guin believes we cannot restructure society without restructuring the English language, and thus her book on the craft of writing inevitably engages class, gender, race, capitalism, and morality, all of which are not separate from grammar, punctuation, tense, and point of view for Le Guin. Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of more than sixty books of fiction, fantasy, children’s literature, poetry, drama, criticism, and translation. She talks today about her writing guide, Steering The Craft, newly rewritten and revised for writers of fiction and memoir in the 21st century. The post Ursula K. Le Guin : Steering The Craft appeared first on Tin House.

58mins

1 Oct 2015

Rank #8

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Richard Powers : The Overstory

“This book is beyond special. Richard Powers manages to turn trees into vivid and engaging characters, something that indigenous people have done for eons but that modern literature has rarely if ever even attempted. It’s not just a completely absorbing, even overwhelming book; it’s a kind of breakthrough in the ways we think about and understand the world around us, at a moment when that is desperately needed.”—Bill McKibben The post Richard Powers : The Overstory appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 30mins

1 Nov 2019

Rank #9

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Mary Ruefle : My Private Property

“Mary Ruefle’s careful, measured sentences sound as if they were written by a thousand-year-old person who is still genuinely curious about the world . . . She combines imagistic techniques from surrealism with narrative techniques to create surprising, high-velocity, and deeply affecting work.”—The Stranger “Mary Ruefle is, in this humble bookseller’s opinion, the best prose-writing poet in America. (And one of our best poets, too.) My Private Property, her latest collection of stories, essays, and asides, is as joyous and singular a book as you’ll read.”—Stephen Sparks, Literary Hub The post Mary Ruefle : My Private Property appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 13mins

22 Jul 2017

Rank #10

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Marlon James : Black Leopard, Red Wolf

“Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the kind of novel I never realized I was missing until I read it. A dangerous, hallucinatory, ancient Africa, which becomes a fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter’s. It’s as deep and crafty as Gene Wolfe, bloodier than Robert E. Howard, and all Marlon James. It’s something very new that feels old, in the best way. I cannot wait for the next installment.” —Neil Gaiman The post Marlon James : Black Leopard, Red Wolf appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 22mins

4 Mar 2019

Rank #11

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Brian Evenson : A Collapse of Horses

A stuffed bear’s heart beats with the rhythm of a dead baby; Reno keeps receding to the east no matter how far you drive; and in a mine on another planet, the dust won’t stop seeping in. In these stories, Brian Evenson unsettles us with the everyday and the extraordinary—the terror of living with the knowledge of all we cannot know. “Brian Evenson is one of the treasures of American story writing, a true successor both to the generation of Coover, Barthelme, Hawkes & Co., but also to Edgar Allan Poe.”—Jonathan Lethem “There is not a more intense, prolific, or apocalyptic writer of fiction in America than Brian Evenson.”—George Saunders The post Brian Evenson : A Collapse of Horses appeared first on Tin House.

59mins

30 Mar 2016

Rank #12

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Ted Chiang : Exhalation

“Ted Chiang has no contemporary peers when it comes to the short story form. His name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Carver, Poe, Borges, and Kafka. Every story is a universe. Every story is a diamond. You will inhale Exhalation in a single, stunned sitting, because true genius doesn’t come along nearly as often as advertised. This is the real thing.”—Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter The post Ted Chiang : Exhalation appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 10mins

1 Jul 2019

Rank #13

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Kelly Link : Get in Trouble

Kelly Link has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction” and by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure.” Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. The post Kelly Link : Get in Trouble appeared first on Tin House.

52mins

4 Mar 2015

Rank #14

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Zadie Smith : Grand Union

“Grand Union is an unusual creature, combining all the experimental exuberance of a writer discovering a form with the technical prowess of one at the height of her abilities. The result is exhilarating. Between the covers of one book, readers will find such disparate forms as allegory, parable, speculative thriller and satire, as well as shorter incarnations of Smith’s characteristic social comedy . . . Smith’s voracious intellect is on full display.” —San Francisco Chronicle The post Zadie Smith : Grand Union appeared first on Tin House.

54mins

21 Oct 2019

Rank #15

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Colson Whitehead : Zone One

Host David Naimon speaks with award-winning writer Colson Whitehead about his new novel Zone One, described as a “wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel.” The world has been devastated by a plague. There are two types of survivors: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and Sag Harbor. He has also written a book of about his hometown, a collection of essays called The Colossus of New York. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Granta, Harper’s, and the New Yorker. A recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, a MacArthur Grant, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, he lives in New York City. The post Colson Whitehead : Zone One appeared first on Tin House.

21mins

29 Dec 2011

Rank #16

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R.O. Kwon : The Incendiaries

“Every explosive requires a fuse. That’s R. O. Kwon’s novel, a straight, slow-burning fuse. To read her novel is to follow an inexorable flame coming closer & closer to the object it will detonate—the characters, the crime, the story, &, ultimately, the reader.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen “Kwon’s multi-faceted narrative portrays America’s dark, radical strain, exploring the lure of fundamentalism, our ability to be manipulated, and what can happen when we’re willing to do anything for a cause.” —Atlantic.com “A God-haunted, willful, strange book written with a kind of savage elegance. I’ve said it before, but now I’ll shout it from the rooftops: R. O. Kwon is the real deal.”—Lauren Groff The post R.O. Kwon : The Incendiaries appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 11mins

1 Nov 2018

Rank #17

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Maggie Nelson : The Argonauts

An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family. Maggie Nelson binds her personal experience, the story of her relationship with the fluidly-gendered artist Harry Dodge, to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language, offering a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making. The post Maggie Nelson : The Argonauts appeared first on Tin House.

54mins

29 Jul 2015

Rank #18

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Christine Schutt : Pure Hollywood

“Nobody writes like Schutt . . . and her latest collection is the perfect entry point for readers new to her work . . . In each of the collection’s 11 stories, Schutt gives readers dissipated women staggering to the brink of sanity, desperate men with foggy intentions, and an eerie atmosphere that radiates menace, sexuality, and murder . . . Schutt is always in control in this work by an experimental American writer of unparalleled style.”—Publishers Weekly The post Christine Schutt : Pure Hollywood appeared first on Tin House.

1hr 39mins

1 Apr 2019

Rank #19

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Neal Stephenson : Seveneves

A catastrophic event renders the Earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere: in outer space. Only a handful of survivors remain . . . Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown, as they voyage to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth. Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy,  psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. The post Neal Stephenson : Seveneves appeared first on Tin House.

49mins

20 May 2015

Rank #20