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Little Magazines

Persistently Unusual Subjects

An impressive new Tin House compilation.

Book Cover With The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays From Tin House edited by Lee Montgomery, literary magazine Tin House culls (with a few original exceptions) its Summer Writers Workshop and offers up 17 essays by the likes of Dorothy Allison, Jim Shepard, Aimee Bender, Rick Bass, Margot Livesey, Antonya Nelson, Chris Offutt, D.A. Powell, Peter Rock, and Jim Krusoe.

Editor Lee Montgomery opines that these writerly pieces behave like "intimate conversations," which is one of the reasons it makes some kind of sense to offer these to the general reader. (Though if a writer is buried--sometimes deeply--in the heart of every reader, that may be why James Wood's How Fiction Works has broader appeal.) As importantly, almost any subject is good reading in the hands of a talented writer. And believe me--though these are not household names (which writers are?)--these are fine writers. Take Williams College mentor Jim Shepard on "Generating Fiction From History and/or Fact":
Because I have the inner emotional life of a 10-year-old child, I have always been interested in what one reviewer has called "persistently unusual subjects" and I try, in my own stunted way, to do everything I can while writing to stay in touch with pleasure, with fun with play, with the passionate engagement that we all experience as children...

I think it was Gurganis who said that one of the main reasons we write literature is because there's probably nothing more profound than imagining other people's lives and nothing less profound. The favor of doing this may be the best thing that we can do for each other. We have to give ourselves over to other people, no matter how intimidating or frustrating the process may be...

I think of it as the most useful sort of human exchange... I am continually gathering others unto me. In a way that Walt Whitman wrote about much more eloquently, but in a way that I hope he would recognize.
And in case this cornucopia of writers writing on writing is not enough; there is a bonus CD included.
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