I read a lot of books. Some – most – I read for pleasure, and some for reviewing. Often the books I’m supposed to be reviewing will cross over into that pleasure category, but it’s not often that a book I’m reading for pleasure gets me so excited about literature and writing and the writer who made it that I’m motivated to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and tell the world what’s so wonderful about it.
Tim Horvath’s first short story collection, Understories, is a that kind of wonderful. It is a cat’s cradle of people and places and a mad scientist’s bubbling test tubes and levers, woven together and delivered by a writer possessed of an intense intellectual curiosity and playfulness. Here we have stories that perform not only as virtuoso pieces of writing, but as mirrors held up to humanity, filigreed with warmth and compassion for the poor souls mired in the chaos of this modern world. Here we have stories of Gauguin in the land of the the midnight sun, of Heidegger roaming the Black Forest, of single dads and burned-out mothers, broken-hearted projectionists and misunderstood umbrologists–all built within in a framework almost like an updated, tongue-in-cheek Invisible Cities. Continue reading
The Top Five:
As widely as my tastes ebb and flow, these five remain, stalwarts, five friends I want with me on my desert island with little to unite them except each’s brash individuality.
1. Mating by Norman Rush. My Everest, slopes of anthropology, ethics, politics, psychology slowly traversed by the path of character
2. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. All the more significant since I was abysmal at chemistry.
3. Cosmicomics/TZero by Italo Calvino. The oyster of the universe.
4. Visible Worlds by Marilyn Bowering. A book I’ve had to read several times, since the plot is so intricate, but whose language glimmers like an ice field.
5. The Atlas by William T. Vollmann. A stunning array of styles and places for inveterate and would-be wanderers—travels in the possibilities of narrative.
These next couple were highly significant when I was a teenager and remain so:
6. Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter. Just quoted “The Fall River Ax Murders,” last week.
7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Every Saturday for a year or so I had detention for an accumulation of small offenses, and I’d slip off to Bombay for the duration.
I Inherit a Box:
A guy who shared an apartment with my dad, Mark Johnson, a great writer and reader, left behind a box with a bunch of amazing things—a timely package.
8. Island People by Coleman Dowell. In simple garb, boundless refractions of reality.
9. RE/Search #11: Pranks Introduced me to the notion that a prank can be a work of art.
10. The Houses of Children by Coleman Dowell. Each story redefining what the genre could do for me. I still don’t understand what Dowell is up to.
11. Ah Pook Is Here by William Burroughs. Not the most well known, but what was in the box was in the box.
12. Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautremont.
A couple of weeks ago, Susannah Elisabeth Pabot asked me to introduce Tim Horvath before he read at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on March 21, 2012. Here, with some modifications, is what I’d said about Tim and his work:
Please join us for our next special reading and conversation with Susan Daitch, Brian Evenson, and Bradford Morrow. RSVP
Susan Daitch is the author of four works of fiction. Her short fiction has been included in The Norton Anthology of Postmodern Fiction, Tin House, Guernica, Bomb, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The Brooklyn Rail, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Ploughshares, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. Her work has been the recipient of two Vogelstein awards. Her novel L.C. won an NEA Heritage Award and was a Lannan Foundation Selection. She teaches at Hunter College.
Paper Conspiracies, Susan’s new book from City Lights Publishers
David Cooper’s review of Paper Conspiracies at The New York Journal of Books
Tim Horvath’s review of her story “The Restorer” on Matt Bell’s homepage
Larry McCaffrey’s interview with Susan at Dalkey Archive Press
The Soda Series is having our 10th reading Wednesday at the Soda Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn at 7pm. What makes our series unique is that it is a reading and conversation. First short readings and then a 30-40 minute conversation between the writers and the audience. This time we have Roberta Allen, Robin Grearson, John Haskell, and Kirsten Kaschock. Facebook RSVP
Also, on January 24th Bradford Morrow, Brian Evenson, and Susan Daitch will be reading. After that the series will be going to four times a year.
Here is a complete list of our past readers: Christine Schutt, Gary Lutz, John Domini, Claire Donato, Mary Caponegro, Tim Horvath, Nick Ripatrazone, Robin Beth Schaer, Brenda Shaughnessy, Anthony Tognazzini, Paula Bomer, Sasha Fletcher, Amy King, Eugene Lim, Matt Bell, John Madera, Jeff Parker, Amber Sparks, Dawn Raffel, David Peak, Ana Božičević, Edward Mullany, Janice Shapiro, Michael Leong, Mike Young, Steve Himmer, Joseph Riippi, Mairéad Byrne, Daniel Groves, Stephanie Barber, Andy Devine, Adam Robinson, Vincent Czyz, Melissa Broder, Stever Himmer, and Josef Horáček.
A very big thank you to all of these past readers and the future ones. You have made and will continue to make the Soda Series a spectacular event!