Winter Reading

Do you like to read in a dark room with a pleasant fire in the fireplace and a favorite reading lamp while scrunching into the deep cushions of an oversized chair you bought at an estate auction that came with a lifetime supply of antimacassars? Or do you like to take a sling chair down to the beach and soak in the salt and sun while reading a great book and trying at the same time not to get oily fingerprints on each page as it is turned?

Those both sound good to me. I was in the habit of taking one or two weeks down at a beach house and always had a cloth bag full of intended reading: some times I went the route of Big Fat Books and only took two or three (I read War and Peace in one week at the Jersey Shore) and at other times I grabbed eight or ten slimmer volumes, expecting to make room on my bookshelves by knocking off several of those books that just seemed to hang around month after month. I never was as successful as I hoped and even on a cruise (I never get off the ship) I came home with more than one unread book.

TH 62 Cover

Being retired and living in South Carolina now I am far from the crackling fires we used to enjoy up north; but I still like to read in a dark room with a good reading lamp focused on the page. The television is mercifully off and the dogs are sleeping in their favorite haunts, so it’s only me and the book. But as I have admitted many times already, I am becoming more and more reliant on the magic of my iPad to allow me to make the text bigger for my old and somewhat funky eyes. This does have the added advantage since that good reading light is not as important, but I really feel comfortable with the halo of light and even with the backlit iPad, I keep the lights on.

Oh, I don’t go to the shore any more so I’m not sure I would endanger my iPad by taking it down to the salt water, sand, and marauding kids, but I do take it out on the lanai where I can read comfortably while watching the herons and alligators.

But no matter what my actual practices are, the idea of Winter Reading sounds comforting to me. Thus, when I ripped open that plastic envelope containing the newest issue of Tin House I saw the subtitle, Winter Reading, and was ready to go into literary hibernation.

This new issue includes fiction by Joy Williams, Alejandro Zambra, Ursula K LeGuin, Dean Bakopoulos, Rebecca Makkal, John Bandit, Josh Weil, and Madeline ffitch; poetry by Dorothea Lasky, Richard Siken, Jane Hirshfield, Carey McHugh, Frank Stanford, John Goethe, Deborah Landau, K. A. Hays, John Kinsella, and Julia Clare Tillinghast; with features by Alia Volz and Joshua Foster. Add to this several regular departments and reviews and it sounds like a very exciting issue.

Check out the Tin House site if you are not familiar with this fine literary magazine. Remember, you can’t find stuff like this in Popular Photography or the Economist. If you enjoy good writing and esspecially new and exciting writing, Tin House may be just what you’re looking for. The Hope Gangloff painting on the cover of Issue 62 may be worth the cost of the entire publication.

But don’t just go by what I say (even though I have no stake in the magazine), rather, here is what the editor has to say about this new issue:


“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” Chekhov must’ve been happy when he wrote that. And why are we happy to keep pushing that boulder up the literary hill when we know that it is just going to roll back down and we’re going to have to start all over again? Because putting out issue after issue truly does make us happy. We believe that great writing is as essential to our well-being as bread and wine and a roaring fire. It is also an honor and thrill. A thrill to be surprised time and again, even from work that comes from beyond the grave. Frank Stanford, the gritty Arkansas poet nicknamed the “swamprat Rimbaud, dies nearly forty years ago, but recently a cache of unpublished gems surfaced and we’re delighted to share them with you. Then there is the family of Tin House writers we’ve long known and who never fail to dazzle us with their ability to show us the world anew. In this issue Joy Williams channels the spiritualist Georges Gurdjieff rising the Arizona childhood home of Susan Sontag and Ursula K. LeGuin leads us into a brutally unforgiving desert in her parable “The Jar of Water.” Any slings and arrows of outrageous submissions are worth it when you get to read new poetry from Dorothea Lasky and Richard Siken. And all of the toil and trouble gives way to the excitement of discovering new voices, herewith Madeline ffitch’s story “The Big Woman” and Julia Clare Tillinghast’s poems “And War” and “Nature.” As Tillinghast writes, “In the woods even the insects / Aremoving jewels.” That’s why we keep pushing that snowball up the hill, and why we will keep on keeping on. Throw another log on the fire and join us in forgetting whether it is winder or summer.

2 thoughts on “Winter Reading

  1. I don’t have a fireplace, but I have been known, often, to snuggle up next to the radiator. I guess the benefit is no firewood to chop or ashes to cart out.


    1. I had a fireplace once but I might have saved money and had better fires if I just threw money into the flames. Growing up in San Diego we had one furnace that was not quite as big as the broiler on a stove so we tended to turn it on in the morning and stand right over the vent until we warmed up sufficiently to start our day. Once the sun was up and the house was warm, the furnace was turned off until the next morning.

      Ever since then it’s been almost exclusively forced-hot-air so finding a warm corner to read in was about the best I could ever do.

      I actually prefer reading at my desk or at a table with a strong light on my book (or my backlit iPad). Through the years I realized that any sort of extremely comfortable position, especially lying down, served more to induce sleep than to do anything else. To this day there are hundreds of books where I read dozens of pages with my eyes slipping down and my brain drifting off. Usually if I caught myself I would reread the passages, but you know how it works … I would read and reread the same passages several times and they still might be a blur. A clue to this condition is when I don’t leave a bookmark and the text I should have read seems very unfamiliar … so I set a bookmark where I know I have read and then reread the same passages from the night before with a vague sense of having been there and done that.

      Oh, I forgot: I do have a fireplace now … it’s electric, looks fairly realistic, and functions as a room heater to take the chill off some of these South Carolina winter mornings. I keep the family photos on the mantel and and even have hung a stocking or two from a sturdy map-tack at Christmas, but it’s not in a convenient spot for reading unless I lie on the floor and at my age if I tried that I might never get up again.

      Liked by 1 person

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