Tin House 49 – Cesar Aira Interview and Excerpt, Ben Okri, Kelly Link, and Oliver Broudy – A Review

Tin House issue 49, The Ecstatic, arrived last week and in a fit of diligent reading I finished it off in a week’s time, I’m rather pleased with this. Anyway, the issue, as always, had some high points and some forgettable pieces. What I was most exited with was Scott Eposito’s interview with Cesar Aira which was quite good (unfortunately it is not available on-line). Scott is a good reader and had some great questions to for Aira. Most interesting is his way of working which is a revisionless writing that only continues until he is uninterested or his idea is exhausted. (He does spend a day or so per page, so it isn’t exactly revisionless writing). The review and the excerpt did make me want to read his work. The excerpt which will be out in 2012 was interesting, more than most excerpts, is about a Panamanian government official who writes a master piece by accident. It has potential and I am interested in knowing where he is going with it. The only thing that annoyed me was that tedious statement that says the only way you can enjoy something is in the original language. Not true and rather limiting. I wish writers would stop with this kind of nonsense. There are limits, but there is no other way for most of us to read the world.

The interview with Ben Okri was interesting, if a little too much about NY. It is on-line but you’ll have to a little diffing to find it. The short story from Kelly Link called the Summer People was very good. A mix of the fantastic and the surreal about a young woman who is the care taker for the mysterious inhabitants of an old house. They are never seen, but communicate telepathically giving her their wishes. Anytime she does something they reward her with fantastically create objects, often wind up toys of undescrible complexity. But they are a strange people who though never seen are described in terms of queens and workers, as if they were a form of bee. Link was able to build a fascinating and complex world that has no explanation and though cannot exist, seems like it just could. My only criticism is it was filled with southernisms and while I’m not against them it seems as if they were more stereotypical than real. I haven’t been to the south in years, so I don’t know if they are real, but they felt a little forced.

Finally, Oliver Broudy’s non-fiction piece about a kung fu master who is running a school to train the next masters of white crane style was great. As someone who grew up on kung fu, to read about a man who has gathered a handful of students in a ten year course of study, living a monkish lifestyle of training and asceticism was fascinating. He told the story, in part, from the perspective of a poor young American who seemed the most unlikely to finish the training. The conflict between the easy American life, even in a run down part of Pennsylvania that has no future, and the hard work of kung fu is an almost insurmountable tension. In many ways, it is evocative of problems facing the nation.