@
TNB Fiction TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world.

Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture.

Fiction Editor J. Ryan Stradal lives in Los Angeles, where he works as the Acquisitions Editor at Unnamed Press. His novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest is forthcoming in July 2015 from Viking / Pamela Dorman Books.

Associate Fiction Editor Ana Ottman is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Uno Kudo Vol. 4, and Dual Coast Magazine, among other places.

Associate Fiction Editor Leah Tallon's book reviews, interviews and fiction have been published at The Manifest-Station, The Collagist, The Rumpus, and other places. She lives in a Milwaukee suburb but her heart belongs to Chicago.

Recent Work By TNB Fiction

Snowblind_FINALDEAD TIL PROVEN OTHERWISE

Two am. Ann chokes off the alarm on her watch. Her bones ache, even the sockets of her eyes. She probes her flesh, groping for her moxie. How much does she have left? Yeah, and how much will she need? Half breaths of wind rattle the fabric of her bivy sack. Ha! One vertical mile of snowy Alaskan beast below the foot-wide sleeping ledge she’s chopped in the ice, and the beast is snoring. Ann unzips the hood of her bivy sack. Stars! Bright goddamn stars. And cold. Cold as a wage slave’s soul. Perfect. Day three, and her weather window has held. She’ll meet the sun on top of the mountain.

RuizCamacho_color-2Antonio, congratulations on your recently published novel Barefoot Dogs!

Thank you! It’s not a novel, though. It’s a collection of short stories.

 

Oh. I was told your book tells the story of a single family in exile, so.

Yes, Barefoot Dogs revolves around the Arteagas, an affluent family from Mexico City who must flee the country after their patriarch is kidnapped. But their saga is told through short stories–each one from the perspective of a different member of the family, or some of the housekeepers who worked for them back in Mexico, as they face exile.

 

It’s not a novel then.

Technically, no.

 

That’s a bummer, man. We’ll keep this short, then. Haha.

Fine by me.

BarefootDogs.coverimage

It Will Be Awesome Before Spring

It is the year everybody’s planning to spend the summer in Italy. Tammy and Sash will take a photography workshop in Florence and Jen will take a cruise around the Mediterranean with her family, and mine will rent a house in Tuscany. We’ve already made arrangements to meet in Milan for a couple of days and perhaps drive to Portofino and hang out there for another day or two—Italian highways are the best, we’ve heard, and no one cares about speed limits there, same as here, but highways there don’t suck, so everybody agrees it will be awesome. Before spring breaks, we’re already taking Italian conversation over cappuccinos at Klein’s on Avenida Masaryk once a week with this beautiful middle-aged Genovese woman I remember as Giovanna but I’m sure that was not her name. She looks like Diane von Furstenberg when she was in her prime, only with much less expensive clothes. She wound up in Mexico because she met some guy in Cancún, and has been trying to make a living here since, teaching Italian and any other language to foreign executives, because she’s a polyglot. Whenever we want a break from class we ask her to tell us stories about her other students—she’s an avid raconteur too, so she can talk and talk for hours on end—and she comes up with the wildest tales. My memories of that year have started to blur and I can only recall the story of the Danish executive who’s taking English conversation and fashions a grinding, horrible accent, our teacher says, flapping her branchy hands over our cappuccino glasses as if they’re logs on fire and she’s trying to turn them into embers. Irregular nouns and verbs make this poor Danish lady crazy, Diane—let’s call the Italian polyglot that—admits with a frown that makes the crisp features of her face look worn rather than sophisticated, so every time Diane asks her to talk about her morning routine, the Danish lady says, “Well, firrst ting rright out of my bet, I torouffly wash my teets.”

J_Rubin_Color_6x7Has it started yet?

Shhh, shut the fuck up.

I’m gonna do the asking around here if you—

 

Your novel is about an impressionist, Giovanni Bernini. Who does he impersonate?

Great question. As a child, he has no control, really, over whom he impersonates. Then as he gets older, he starts to rein it in. At first, I think, he’s drawn to people who seem especially alive, charismatic. As he gets older, he prizes self-sufficiency. His word is “unrequiring.” He’s so malleable that he envies people who aren’t. He eventually becomes this very cold character, this nightclub owner named Bernard, in order to save himself from feeling too much, probably.

9780670016761_large_The_Poser“There you are! Christ!” Anthony Vandaline, of all people, came waddling up the stairs. “I’m a pilgrim in the dark. I’m searching and searching. And—ah, finally.”

At this late hour, only four men remained at the balcony bar, stoking each other’s laughter with shouted stories. One even bent at the waist, g ripping the back of a chair. Performing for me. Soon, I knew, would come the sharp compliment or offered beer, and I prepared myself by seeming unaware, a man immersed in his life. I stroked Lucy’s hand, doing that thing where I looked from her hands up to her eyes and down again. What she was saying in that low voice, however, the one she risked only when we were alone, I can’t rightly say, for I was listening to the men.

Then Vandaline arrived, and they fell silent. Lucy stood to meet him.

“Ugh, you’re one of those people who’s always heeere,” she said. “It’s like I’m gonna turn around and trip on you.”

“Look, my priest is gonna blush at this thing when I print it in full. All my sins. But I was talking to Max, and he said, and I quote, ‘the heart of his technique is something called’—yeah, here it is—‘the thread.’ ”

A show tune played through the house speakers.

“Now you answer this,” Vandaline said, “and I’m gone. I mean, I walk out the door.”

“It’s a skill you should practice more,” Lucy said.

IMG_2905Lisa is a really pretty girl and Gina and I aren’t, but still, she’s our friend. So when Lisa comes up to us in the Santa Monica High parking lot after school on Tuesday and asks us for a ride, we say yeah. And when I get in the driver’s seat and Gina sits down next to me, and Lisa opens the back door to get in right behind me, Gina turns to me with this wild, mean look in her eye and she whispers, “Let’s just go!”

saad 2You’ve never been to Iraq. You ain’t Iraqi. What the hell is your problem?

Escape from Baghdad is not a travelogue. It’s not a factual account of the war from the eyes of the victor. It is, as the name suggests, escapism, a fantasy, a depiction of the ‘other’.

 

Sticking up for the losers, eh?

Well it’s very easy to tell heroic stories about winners. Those are things people want to hear, but it’s boring. It doesn’t cover anything new, it becomes formulaic. At the same time, I think a straight up tragedy has little value to a reader, especially if you already know the story. I mean I know that Napoleon lost at Waterloo. I don’t really want to rehash that. If I’m rooting for Napoleon, I want a victory at the end. 

EscapeFromBaghdad-CoverPromo2[1]A bell at the door then, the Ghazaliya bell, they called it, the knock of rifle butts against splintered wood, the three second grace time before boots and flashlights, lasers and automatic rifle barrels. Better than the Mahdi Army, who didn’t bother to knock, and who had never heard of the three-second rule. Dagr surged towards the front of the house, already sweating, thrusting Kinza back. It was his job to face the American door to doors, because he still looked like a professor, soft jawed, harmless, by some chance the exact composite of the innocent Iraqi these farm boys from Minnesota had come to liberate. And Kinza…with his hollow eyed stare, Kinza would never survive these conversations.

Elizabeth Evans by Steve ReitzYou struck the supposedly galvanizing “Wonder Woman Pose” for at least the requisite two minutes. You’re writing with your favorite fountain pen. Also, you’re making up the questions, here. What’s with the racing heart?

I’m so much more comfortable with writing fiction than writing about my fiction.

 

Maybe you’ll calm down a bit if you focus on how you came to write this story of addiction and female friendships and lovers and betrayal and the human negotiations that endlessly fascinate you.

I’d written before about intense female relationships. I knew I’d be driven to dive into the topic’s sublime pools and scary quicksand again, and, eventually, that particular obsession attached itself to the germ of a story that had haunted me for years.

AsGoodasDead_HC_catThe fateful morning—no exaggeration, fateful—that my long- lost friend, Esmé Cole, showed up on our front steps, I was sitting at the desk in the room that I used for a home office. My chair, I remember, made an uneasy perch, all slippery and lopsided because I hadn’t bothered to remove the items that I’d dumped on the seat the night before: a manila folder crammed with information about a job applicant being considered by the English Department; a puke-green envelope holding an entry for a book prize I’d reluctantly agreed to judge; and, then, a three- ring binder of my own writing that creaked whenever I shifted in the chair.

The sky in the window over my desk was a clear blue that morning. The temperature outside would climb into the high eighties as the day progressed, but the room faced north and its exterior wall still held the cold that settled in on desert nights—this was October in Tucson, Arizona—which meant that the ancient space heater at the level of my feet pinged away, giving off a metallic odor that might have been unpleasant to somebody else (I connected it with writing and comfort, and so I liked it).

Esmé Cole Fletcher, I should call my long-lost friend. Esmé Cole—betrayed by me twenty years before—did take the name of the man she married. Once upon a time, she and I had vowed to keep our own names forever, but this is a tale about nothing if not about changes of heart.

claire fullerOur Endless Numbered Days – isn’t that the name of an Iron & Wine album?

Yes! Are you a fan too? Shall we skip the books and the writing and just talk about music? No? OK. It’s also the title of my debut novel. I wrote the book while listening to all of Sam Beam’s (also known as Iron & Wine) music on a loop and now when I put it on I’m ready to write. But it’s not just that I love his music, the title is also very appropriate to the story.

OEND Cover FINAL RGBTwo mornings later, I woke to the scream of the wind, shrieking through the gaps in die Hütte, shaking and rattling the roof shingles and sending invisible icy streams across my face. Outside, the noise from the forest was of crashing and whipping, as if the trees were being uprooted and flying through the air. My father stirred beside me, mumbling something but not waking. I squeezed closer into his side and buried my head under my sleeping bag, trying and failing to ignore the sound of the storm. Finally, I wriggled my way out, scrambled over him, and pulled the door open. It was only a chink, but frenzied snow blasted me in the face through the gap. It took the weight of my body to push the door closed. I shook my father’s shoulder; he groaned, although his eyes remained shut.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the biggest criticisms about your work is that it is gruelingly, at times overwhelmingly, dark. Why so sad?

When I first told people that Call Me Home was slated to be published, friends and acquaintances kept asking me, “Is it funny?”

“No,” I would say. “Not even a little bit. Not even for a second.”

This makes me laugh, but it’s true. I think I can be decently funny in person, on a good day, and I respect (and am fairly jealous of) anyone who can be funny on the page, but I’m not a humorous or light writer, often to a fault.

Cover_CallMeHomeJackson

Silver, Idaho 2010

The belated Easter party was to be held that Saturday night at A-frame A, the most complete of the new houses. Just a few beers, and then the Longhorn, according to the much-circulated plan.  Who had an Easter party? Jackson didn’t care. He was going to see Don. He hadn’t seen him since Honey brought him to the East side on Tuesday; each day that Don’s truck didn’t appear, Jackson tried to pretend he wasn’t disappointed. Now he shaved in the pocket mirror, the one he’d stolen from Lydia, and put on a clean shirt. He did everything slowly, meticulously. He drank the rest of the bottle of wine. What a girl he was. He thought again about the lock of hair he’d given to Chris. In his imagined, more perfect life, he discarded sentimentalities. Into the trash with the birthday cards, faded photographs. A better Jackson would scorn them all.

hallebutlerThere are a lot of conversations in this book. What’s your worst conversational habit?

I don’t like to talk about myself or what I’m doing because I find it embarrassing (or I’m afraid it will be embarrassing), and then I get annoyed when the person I’m talking to is going on and on about themselves, like I wish they were as embarrassed as I am, or like it’s impolite to not be embarrassed. But then I keep asking them questions about themselves, so what are they supposed to do?