This Tin House carried stories with a satirical edge to them. The ones that stayed away from the dystopic and satirized reality worked the best. A number of these stories were only a few pages while others extended nearly twenty. They ranged from highly experimental to relatively traditional. The Winter 2017 Tin House had one particular stand out story, “Mendelssohn,” that makes buying this issue worth it alone. Overall though, most of the stories left me befuddled, rather than rewarded and satisfied.
The Stories from Tin House I
“The Wolves” by Kseniya Melnik
Often, Tin House implies that its best story comes first in the issue by putting the most famous authors up front (see Aimee Bender’s story in X issue). If that’s true, it only proves how subjective the publishing world is, as this was one of the stranger stories I’ve read recently. It begins with a girl being chased by wolves in a forest during the Great Purge in Russia. She stumbles upon a cabin, where she meets a man she’s known from the past. They have an enigmatic conversation. At the end of the story, the narrator/daughter/writer reveals that she’s relating a story her grandmother told her from her past. It gets meta and ends with her wanting to understand the metaphor of the story, with her grandmother saying that it isn’t one. It’s confusing. 2 Stars.
“She Was Warned” by Leni Zumas
This short story follows a female narrator approaching menopause who hopes to have a child. Unmarried, she looks at a variety of options for having children but recent law changes and a general cultural bias towards two parent households makes her dreams almost pointless.
Oddly, the writer throws in a dystopic aspect, with new laws like the Personhood Amendment, which bands abortion and make it illegal to transfer artificially inseminated embryos to a uterus. The character’s struggles felt real world enough to not require the dystopic layer. It made the story more didactic than it had to be and dampened its potential. Its
“Mendelssohn” by Seth Fried
To read the full review, click here. 5 Stars
“Communications” by Sofi Stambo
To read the full review, click here. 4 Stars
“The Cage” by Tania James
About two pages long, this piece follows a family rearing its first young child. The story is a meditation on the community of young parents,
“At the Center” by Delaney Nolan
This story has a biting tone that utilizes a fantastic premise that works better than “She Was Warned.” The protagonist works at The Dream Center, a rehab facility for those addicted to taking a medication that makes it possible to live without sleep. The story satirizes the trend towards productivity at all costs. Even with its broad aims, it stays focused on its social worker protagonist and her patient. It’s a nice story, but some of the characterization felt like filler rather than something invaluable. 3.5 Stars
One Story Carries the Issue
For this issue, “Mendehlssohn” is without question the runaway winning story. Its use of humor and its ability to represent the ups and downs of a remembered relationship make it a remarkable piece of fiction. Overall, it’s a solid issue of Tin House, but Seth Friend’s story takes it over the top.