Tim Horvath is the author of Circulation, released by Sunnyoutside Press in 2009, and stories out or forthcoming in Conjunctions, Fiction, Puerto del Sol, Sleepingfish, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. His story "The Understory" was selected by Bill Henderson for the 2006 Raymond Carver Short Story Award, and he has received a Yaddo Fellowship. He teaches creative writing at Chester College of New England and Boston's Grub Street Writers, and will be an Associate Prose Editor for a new print journal of prose and photography, Camera Obscura, which opens for submissions in mid-October. His website is http://www.timhorvath.com/.
what are you reading now
I’m reading Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist and Bolaño’s 2666 and Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia.
last book to make you laugh out loud
I’m not a guffawer by temperament and by no means would call myself a giggler, but The Anthologist keeps making me snort with a slight undulation like I’m being tickled.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
Anna Karenina. I really wish there was a theme park based on Russian novels and someone had lined up vacation plans for me there. That would force me to read it. It would be like a height requirement—you’d have to have read a certain number of pages. I could ride on the Dostoyevsky-coaster and the Turgenev carousel, but I’d be shit out of luck at the Tunnel of Tolstoy. I suppose there’s always a trip to St. Petersburg.
book you borrowed and never returned
I’m a terrible borrower of books. For someone who’s written a novella from the standpoint of a librarian, I have a pretty wretched track record when it comes to bringing things back. I think there’s something really profound about human nature that’s revealed in my propensity for taking things out and my not bringing them back. But I’m not sure what it is. It has something to do with dopamine. Taking away, the dopamine’s spurting out of my ears. Bringing back, it’s like a deficit. Why does my daughter like pulling stuff out but not cleaning it up? The objects weigh the same.
But to answer your question, I have the Betwixt and Between issue of Conjunctions borrowed from Donna. Sorry, Donna.
all-time favorite novella
Hmmm, maybe Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. Or Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata. Hey, I have read some Tolstoy.…
last reading you attended
I saw Nicholson Baker read from The Anthologist. It was exciting in that I roadtripped it with my fiction class and we held workshop for a student story on the highway, successfully I might add. A surly toll-booth operator snarled “Take yer quarter!” and on the return trip she was waiting for us on the southbound side in a classic Seinfeld symmetry, this time cashing out. This context enhanced the reading somehow, the sort of marginalia Baker himself would’ve been attuned to, the drive intrinsic to the experience. Also, we sat right under hulking Baker, his voice dipping and thrumming like a singer of scat. Only afterward, seeing the text, did I realize how much shorter and more intimate his sentences have grown since The Mezzanine. I kind of feel like I’ve grown up with Baker, since my dad handed me The Mezz when it first came out, and I can remember identifying with it because I worked in one of those soulless offices down near Wall Street where there was naught to do but attend to every non-obvious detail of that alien landscape, how guys carried themselves while urinating and so forth, though hardly with Baker’s genius eye. Introducing myself to him after the reading, I made the mistake of saying, “Hey, I was down on Wall Street too, probably reading your book on my lunch hour.” So he signed my copy, “To a fellow Wall Streeter.” Ah, well.
weirdest dream involving a book or literary character
Okay, straight out of el dream journal:
I’m about to meet Jonathan Franzen. He’s got this device that lets him know how nervous the person meeting him is, like those radar signs that tell you your speed. He knows I’m shitting the proverbial pants. But he’s ready for me and has suggestions. One is that I could become “orthodox.” I nod. Another is that I could become better versed in history, and feel more grounded. I have no clue what he means, but I am relaxing. The third is that I could research people who are locked out of their houses and talk to them about what they are doing while locked out, and could sell this to The New Yorker. Now I’m holding up the line, and there’s a woman behind me. She tells me she likes my sneakers, and I look down and see that they’re subpar, really not fit to wear out, and then I realize she’s just trying to get me to haul my ass along so she can get her face-time with Franzen. I start to take off my sneakers just to stall and at this point Franzen raises his voice and yells, “That wasn’t one of my suggestions. WERE MY SUGGESTIONS NOT GOOD ENOUGH?” My urge is to say, “You’re not my dad,” but then I’m not so sure. I turn around to see if the woman is my mom, but she’s gone. Pan out and the whole thing has been at Sea World and the jellyfish are petitioning for brains and Franzen’s like, “Was this happening all along?” That’s it.
book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone
Coffee table? Planting a book on a coffee table is like painting a bison on your walls to dazzle someone. Today’s coffee table is the book-based social networking site, like Goodreads. My Goodreads shelf is pretty authentic, but if I had a sub-shelf that was Books That I Put Out There To Maybe Just A Little Bit Try To Impress Someone, I’d fess up that maybe I’m not really reading Tournier’s The Ogre right now, even though it says I am. But I started it. Hence. Have I shown you my rendition of a bison?
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
Conjunctions, sans doubt.
best thing you’ve read online recently
That would have to be Joshua Cohen’s “North Vain, Bluff” at Harp & Altar. It’s from a thing that I believe is finished—not sure when the whole thing’ll be released— called Two Great Russian Novels (there we go, back to that theme), all of which is to marvel at. If you know Cohen’s amazing Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto, you already know him as an avalanche, but one of language and history and humor; here he is literal wintry action scenes in Alaska. Plus there’s a helicopter. I’m way more into it than, say, Michael Chabon’s Sitka Jewish homeland-relocation-noir.
most anticipated upcoming release
The English translation of Macedonio Fernández’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel, slated for next year—a series of prologues to a book never written. He was Borges’s secret influence/foil/double/_____. He sounds as if he was less responsible than Borges, maybe, and thus got his work out into the world less and didn’t develop a career (Borges always considered himself a lucky imposter as went his own success; maybe he was thinking of Macedonio).
recommended reading list:
Peak Bagging the Mighty Montages
Even though the word “montage” derives etymologically from “mounting,” I’d like to take it a step back further and think of mountains, that when a story feels more like a collage than a straightforward narrative, it gives you that sense of adrenaline and liberation and perspective you might get leaping from mountain to mountain. So, here are books that make a few, but not too many, concessions to linearity or to consecutiveness, that squeeze white valleys onto the page in order to disrupt the reading experience—but also to propel you forward, and thus make it more like memory, more like the way I, at least, experience daily life/thought/the past.
- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
- The Barnum Museum by Steven Millhauser
- Speedboat by Renata Adler
- The Atlas by William T. Vollmann
- Doctor of Silence by Robert Kelly
- Mating by Norman Rush
- The Bathroom by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Representative stories: Rick Moody’s “Demonology,” Heidi Julavits’s “Marry the One Who Gets There First,” David Means’s “Coitus,” Matt Bell’s “Ten Scenes from a Movie Called Mercy.”