Tin House

Tin House is a literary magazine published every quarter in Portland, Oregon. In the summer issue there were several short stories and poems, two long essays, five book reviews, one culinary memoir and the usual Tin House crossword puzzle. Quite a brainy feast.

The first short story, “The Right Way to End a Story,” was written by Holly Goddard Jones, a writer I’ve never heard of before but after reading her story, I knew I wanted to read everything she’d written.

Juliet had been tending a fantasy about the famous photographer who would be lodging with her at the college’s guest house. She knew that he was older than she – twenty years at least – but that was perhaps a good thing at this point in her life, as recently separated as she was, as recently thirty as she was. An older man, an artist, a jet-setter in (she imagined) khaki trousers and a vest: she’d seen his self-portrait on the Internet and felt very kindly toward him.

Juliet writes good sentences, but her stuff’s just too domestic for most men to care about. Men don’t care about these relationship stories she does. And you know who edits the journals that are worth a shit? Men.

A few pages further on is a short story, “Dolly,” by Alice Munro of all people, perhaps the short story writer of the century. It is about an older couple coming to grips with mortality and emotions that are immune to age.

There had been some discussion of death. Our deaths. Jackson being eighty-three years old and myself seventy-one at the time, we had naturally made plans for our funerals (none) and for the burials (immediate) in a plot already purchased. We had decided against cremation, which was popular with our friends. It was just the actual dying that had been left out or up to chance.

…no lies, after all, are as strong as the lies we tell ourselves.

Then there are several fine book reviews, including a long essay, “The Merritt Parkway Novel,” by Gerald Howard in which he reviews Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road and Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm, each of which takes place in the suburban Connecticut countryside, not far from the Merritt Parkway.

Paul Charles Griffin writes about buying a used Raymond Chandler novel on Amazon when he needs to decide whether to order a copy rated “Like New” or “Very Good” or “Acceptable”. On principle, he never buys one given an “Acceptable” rating but when the seller claimed that his satisfaction “was his top priority,” he succumbed.

Pleased to have someone even remotely concerned with my happiness, I went with the “Acceptable” rating and waited for the mailman to arrive.

And then he writes about Chandler’s Lady in the Lake, and quite delightfully about reading the yellow highlights and marginal notes in the used copy. They are clever and he thinks they were written by a young Indian, Sanjay.

It was as if I were reading the book with him, as if we were discussing it together in a book club…my excursion into the mind of Sanjay K reminded me of what reading is all about, looking to another person’s soul, hearing his thoughts, feeling his feeling and seeing the world through his eyes…This is why reading has always been the most important thing to me. It allows me a reprieve from my private universe, allows me to be somebody else for an hour.

I could go on for a while longer about other book reviews, essays, and the culinary memoir, as well as the solution to the Tin Hat crossword. But I will leave it to you to track down a copy if you’re interested. I do believe it will be worth whatever it costs, new, used (very good, or acceptable).