“This is transformative prose at its best. . . . If you want an actual contemporary wordsmith who does not just tinker but thrives in the micro-worlds of Calvino and Borges, Walser and Perec, read Understories.”
My story “The Tungsten Record,” which emerged out of Un-bow, my collaboration with Rafaele Andrade, can be found at Conjunctions Online. While you’re there, if you click the “Listen to the audio” link, you can hear Andrade’s composition “Sasando,” the musical track that served as the story’s inspiration.
In 2017, I was invited to participate in an exhibition of visual art and ekphrastic writing at the University of New Hampshire’s Museum of Art. Two flash pieces came out of that experience, and though the exhibition is long gone, I wanted to share the work and the art that sparked it.
“I am incomplete,” said the man.
“I know,” I replied. I had made him, and he was right; there was no sense in arguing. He was no mere pile of butchers’ entrails, either. I’d rendered him painstakingly, twined his sinews in tight bundles, had his organs shipped on pure ice by the swiftest of couriers.
“How, then, do I complete myself?” he asked.
I could have told him to go to the base of a cliff on Coburg Island and gaze up at the thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes by the thousands, raising their choral squawk. Or to walk the perimeter of the Duomo after gazing on Medusa’s dripping head in Cellini’s sculpture. I could have urged him to bear a sickly child to the ER while she gasped, leaning in toward where he assumed her windpipe to be with moist breath, parched lips.
But I had done all of those things, and I was not complete. So I said, “There’s nothing, nothing now. Except, that is, to have a hearty breakfast.”
And so we made eggs, side by side, staring into the unbroken yolks like two versions of the same man, one of whom still had a fighting chance.
My father, shattered mosaic, occasionally came into focus four drinks in. He was an optician, trade of exactitude and infinite patience. “How about this? This?” he’d say, again and again. I imagine few, if any, turned the question around. Thus they thought him quiet. Never heard him sound off–about jumping out of planes, about cow-tipping (him! Paragon of dignity!). Before the war, he and a buddy had helped transport an octopus between two aquariums. He’d sneaked down to Boston to see the Beatles on their first US tour, after they’d cancelled a gig in Montgomery that would’ve been segregated. For the thirty-five minutes they’d played, the screaming had been so all-consuming that he’d only heard a single Beatle all night, John yelling, “Shut up!”, which of course made everyone scream louder. I wish I’d needed glasses; I would’ve plied him with questions while my pupils pulsated like total solar eclipses, the kind that blind. I would’ve torqued the chair to face him head-on. Now that chair has been auctioned off and sits in some chain store, and what I have is my own fingers tugging at my eyelids, as though they could make anything appear that wasn’t already there.
“Diagnosis” is the first of a series of pieces from Un-bow, a collaborative work with composer/cellist Rafaele Andrade, to find its way into the world. Thanks to editors Jake Rivers and Cole Phillips for including it in the gorgeous third issue of Malasaña. Read it here: https://malasana.onl/Tim-Horvath
I’m excited to share my story “The Directions,” published in the 100th(!) issue of The Collagist. Lots of other stuff in here to feast on, too! Thanks so much to Gabe Blackwell for all he’s done to sustain this journal and make it feel at once fresh, vital, and venerable. Here’s to the next issue-century!
I’m excited to share a novel excerpt entitled “A Portrait of the Composer as a Young and Then Not-So-Young Temp” in AGNI 87. AGNI has been a journal I’ve long admired, devoured, and savored, so it is a particular thrill to find my writing in its pages amidst the work of Melanie Rae Thon and Stephen Dixon and so many others of note. I invariably dig their covers, but this one by Paul Katz seems particularly captivating, and I’m looking forward to learning its story, too. Grateful to be able to work with the amazing editors there, who helped so much in honing this piece and enabling it to reach launch velocity. Here’s how to subscribe, order, or browse around: http://www.bu.edu/agni/index.html
I’m thrilled to be back teaching again in the Summer Writing Retreat in Granada, Andalucia, Spain, with Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, co-founders of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop this coming summer, August 1st-6th, 2018. I’ll likely be teaching a survey of Contemporary Fiction in Spanish, showcasing favorites like Borges, Cortázar, and Valenzuela, and current faves like Samanta Schweblin, Valeria Luiselli, and Andrés Neuman. Application deadline is May 1st…lots more info here:
My first foray into mystery is a piece called “The B-Roll” in Murder Ink 3, an anthology of New England Newsroom Crime stories. The story was borne of a series of moments–touring the New York Times years ago, going to the Future of Storytelling Festival, fumbling with the cardboard VR viewer the day it came with the Times that one Sunday morning, and thinking about the vital, precarious role of newspapers in our current moment. I’m delighted to have the story in an anthology with so many pros and all-stars. Here’s a link to order: http://www.nhbooksellers.com/product-page/murder-ink-3-pre-pub-ordering
The one, the only Nancy Pearl had some tremendously generous things to say about UNDERSTORIES in conversation with Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition. Calling the book “her favorite short story collection in recent memory,” she went on to dub the work “elastic realism,” explaining that the book is “firmly grounded in realism,…[b]ut then…stretches that definition of realism into places that we might not think it would go.”
Plainly and simply, I love this characterization and broke into a rather elastic dance upon hearing her.
She also had kind words for Bellevue Literary Press on Seattle’s The Record, stating, “Their books are just gems. It’s hard to find a Bellevue Literary Press book that, for me, doesn’t work.”
I’m humbled and thrilled to announced that UNDERSTORIES has been chosen as the winner of the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Fiction. Congratulations again to all of the other nominees, and to the winners in other categories, many of whom I’m fortunate to have met: Andy Merton in Poetry, Terry Farish in the Young Adult category, Rebecca Rule for Children’s Literature, and Mary Johnson in Nonfiction. The awards were presented at New Hampshire Writers’ Day on March 22nd on the campus of Southern New Hampshire University. I can’t thank the Writers’ Project enough for all of their support over the years! http://www.nhwritersproject.org/
My “story.” No, wait. Is it a story? What is it? It’s a thing called “Partial Instructions for the Game.” What is it? What game? Wait, where can I find it? What is Outlook Springs? Is it a small town, off-kilter but on-grid, in a swing state? Do I put that in my GPS? Is there geocaching involved? Is this a journal buried in geocaches? Is it a journal that is borne aloft in the minds of thousands of migrating lazuli buntings as they traverse the country thusly: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/occurrence/lazuli-bunting/? No? No and yes and what were we talking about again? Ah yes, seek this out: Issue 2, coming shortly.