The Tin House of Faith

Tin HouseOn either side of my bed I have identical multi-cubical shelves that both bring my reading lamp, clock radio, telephone extension and Bi-Pap machine up to a workable level but they also provide several cells where I stash my issues of Conjunctions, Story, and Tin House magazine. While planning for my move to let my daughter take care of me in her home, I considered dumping all these volumes, most of which were only partially read at best.

I started a box for the Tin House volumes, thinking to mail them to a friend, but the box was filled three times over and each time it weighed a little less than one of the larger stone blocks holding up the Great Pyramids. Postage, if the boxes could even be sent, would approach the Gross National Product of a small country.

Now my daughter tells me to bring all my books: as on the third day of creation she said, “Let there be room” and gosh-all-hemlock, there was a surfeit of room for literature and literary journals like Tin House. So I’m keeping my collection!

Then this afternoon I found yet another issue of Tin House in my mailbox. It’s Volume 17, Number 3 and titled “Faith.” There’s a nice quotation of the title page from Proust

Whether it is the faith which creates has dried up in me, or
that reality takes shape in memory alone, the flowers I am shown
today for the first time do not seem to be to me real flowers.

Here’s what the editor says about the current issue:

Samuel Beckett famously ended his novel The Unnamable “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Why? How? Is it faith that drives us onward? And if so, faith in what? Writers have struggled with this question since the first hominids started scratching symbols into rocks. Do we put our faith in our survival skills or create a pantheon of deities to guide and protect us? By the Twentieth Century, writers like Beckett put their faith in words. In our time of worldwide upheavals and immanent climate catastrophe, our faith in words is under constant assault. Yet writers do go on. For Joy Williams, a selection of micro-fictions from 99 Stories of God (soon to be published by Tin House Books) grapples with many of the same themes of her nearly fifty years of writing—the divine and the uncanny. Poet Natalie Diaz writes, “I make my faith in my hands.” Alan Lightman puts his faith in the laws of nature, while Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid contemplates the fraught nature of writing in a country named after faith. President Obama’s favorite writer-interview subject, Marilynne Robinson, argues that “faith and religion are neither synonyms nor antonyms.” Mira Ptacin visits Maine in search of the Spiritualists, while Alex Mar examines the life and legacy of Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft. Father-and-son authors Jonathan and Adam Wilson discuss their faith in the family seder, the rituals and food that transcend time and space. In his primer on the history of faith, James Carse makes the case for complexity and how not to define religion. We know that there are no simple answers to questions of faith, but after reading this issue perhaps you will be as Plato said, “twice armed if we fight with faith.” Our hope is that you are fighting the good fight.

Here is a peek at the contents of this issue

Fiction: Joy Williams, Jamie Quatro, Caoilinn Hughes, Michael Helm, Ramona Ausubel, Daniel Torday
Poetry: Anne Carson, Alicia Jo Rabins, Chuang-Tzu, Sarah V. Schweig, Maureen N. McLane, James Gendron, Nate Klug, Marcus Slease
Features: James Carse, Mira Ptacin, Alex Mar, Alexis Knapp, Joshua Cohen
Limits of Faith: Mohsin Hamid, Aimee Bender, Alan Lightman, Natalie Diaz, Marilynne Robinsons, Christian Wiman
Lost & Found: Cheston Knapp, Leigh Newman, Justin Nobel, Pauls Toutonghi
Interview: Louise Erdrich

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