Each year in July, local publisher Tin House hosts its Summer Workshop at Reed College, bringing writers from around the country to Portland for a week of workshops and lectures. While much of the week requires an application and tuition, the evening readings from the workshop’s faculty are free and open to the public. Tin House’s curation is always remarkable, and this year is no exception: Authors such as Lauren Groff, Alexander Chee, and Portland’s Lidia Yuknavitch will take the stage at Reed’s outdoor Cerf Amphitheater. Every night of the reading series looks so promising—and so packed with some of the best, newest, and most established voices in literature—that you really can’t go wrong. But here are a few you should be sure not to miss.
Catherine Lacey is the kind of prose stylist that will surely inspire a slew of imitators. Both her novels—2014’s Nobody Is Ever Missing and 2017’s The Answers—are odd page-turners where the stunning sentences are just as addicting as the curious plots. Her first collection of short stories, Certain American States, comes out next month. While the book makes it clear that the long form is her true home, the short form is a place where she lets loose a little—experimenting with form and bending genre. Lacey’s easily one of my favorite writers to come along in recent years, and her playful new collection is a pleasure. Wed July 11; w/Tommy Pico, Wells Tower
Lesley Nneka Arimah
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah’s 2017 debut story collection, woke me up from the opening sentence, demanded I pay attention, and never let up. The book’s chiseled, precise stories mix magical realism and dystopian speculative fiction with realist tales that travel between Nigeria and the US. It wouldn’t be accurate to call the collection cohesive, but the stories exist in conversation, exploring similar ideas from different angles. It’s difficult to read What It Means and not get distracted in wondering what brilliant stories Arimah will write next. Mon July 9; w/Robert Boswell, Lacy M. Johnson
Danez Smith’s National Book Award-nominated 2017 poetry collection Don’t Call Us Dead is an expansive, fevered work. Confronting police violence against Black men and the reality of life as an HIV-positive man, it’s a timely and necessary book that revels in complexity and directs attention toward difficult truths. Through all Don’t Call Us Dead’s necessary heaviness, it’s also imaginative, erotic, and funny, with poems that are urgent and very much alive. “[P]oint to whatever you please & call it church, home, or sweet love,” Smith writes. “[P]aradise is a world where everything is sanctuary & nothing is a gun.” Sat July 14; w/Alexander Chee, Melissa Febos
“Every story begins with an unraveling,” Melissa Febos writes in her 2017 memoir Abandon Me. Reading it, in turn, feels a little like being unraveled. I dogeared most of its pages, copied its lines into my journal, and sent excerpts to friends. In the book, Febos tracks her absent father while managing a tumultuous relationship with a married woman. Recounting these journeys, she weaves in centuries of mythology, bits of psychology and biology, and stories of addiction, desire, mental illness, and the sea. Abandon Me is both a consuming memoir about obsession and a meditative essay about what it means to show care, to be cared for, and to wrap your identity up in another person. Sat July 14; w/Alexander Chee, Danez Smith