“If you’re not seized by dread you’re not paying attention.” “We are now recognizing each other’s humanity, are connected and transformed by each other’s experiences. Or so we hope.” Do these statements contradict each other? Yes! Do they represent the realistic dichotomy of American life in the current moment? Yes! Do they summarize the dual themes of “dread” and “hope” that organize the work in this issue of Tin House? Yes!
Ever a model of design delight, this issue juxtaposes “dread” and “hope” with an upside down/backwards presentation. One side is dread; flip it over, the other side is hope. The journal’s business info and an abundance of fiction appear in “hope.” “Dread” is sort of disembodied. Is this to be expected or a surprise?
I love Tin House, despite its pretensions. And this dread/hope issue is terrific. “Dread” is a short story by the now ubiquitous Ander Monson (is there a genre in which he hasn’t proven himself to be a star?); poetry by Sophie Cabot Black, Mathea Harvey, and a number of other poetry stars; essays by Alex Lemon, Montana Wojczuk, Curtis White, and the fabulous novelist Sigrid Nunez (her last novel was the most under-rated fiction of its decade). Did you know she was the lover of Susan Sontag’s son David? I confess, I did not. Is that a kind of dread, that we have or will miss the obvious or what everyone else knows? The Nunez piece is a scathing, almost voyeuristic, and for that reason utterly engaging, glimpse of Susan Sontag.
“Hope” is fiction by Karen Russell, Alaa Al Aswany, Michael Byers, Michael Dahlie, and Abigail Thomas; poetry by Matthea Harvey (hope and dread!!) and – indeed, for the absolute essence of hope for his exquisite, elegant, heartbreaking verse – the late Mahmoud Darwish. If you love poetry, not to know Darwish’s work is, indeed, dreadful. There are interviews with popular novelist Lorie Moore and writer and painter Breyen Bretyanbach; an essay by Corey Doctorow and several short and original “Lost and Found” entries that explore the works of William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Patchen, and John Donovan. Nothing more hopeful than the idea that work of the past still resonates.
Dread or hope, the work is beautiful, original, memorable. And, as always, Tin House is gorgeous. “We live in hope,” concludes the Editor’s Note to the hope side of the equation. Here’s hoping – and believing – the next issue will be as magnificent.