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Understories [Kindle Edition]

Tim Horvath
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

New Hampshire Literary Award Winner
NPR Books Summer Reading Selection

“My favorite collection of short stories in recent memory.” —NANCY PEARL, NPR Morning Edition

“Profound . . . with more to say on the human condition than most full books. . . . A remarkable collection, with pitch-perfect leaps of imagination.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Horvath doesn’t just tell a story, he gives readers a window into the hearts, minds and souls of his characters.” —Concord Monitor

What if there were a city that consisted only of restaurants? What if Paul Gauguin had gone to Greenland instead of Tahiti? What if there were a field called Umbrology, the study of shadows, where physicists and shadow puppeteers worked side by side? Full of speculative daring though firmly anchored in the tradition of realism, Tim Horvath’s stories explore all of this and more— blending the everyday and the wondrous to contend with age-old themes of loss, identity, imagination, and the search for human connection. Whether making offhand references to Mystery Science Theater, providing a new perspective on Heidegger’s philosophy and forays into Nazism, or following the imaginary travels of a library book, Horvath’s writing is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.

Tim Horvath teaches creative writing at New Hampshire Institute of Art and Boston’s Grub Street writing center. He has also worked part-time as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital, primarily with autistic children and adolescents. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughter.

Editorial Reviews


New Hampshire Literary Award Winner
Salon What to Read Awards
Largehearted Boy Favorite Short Story Collection of the Year
New Hampshire Public Radio Summer Books Selection

“Profound . . . with more to say on the human condition than most full books. . . . A remarkable collection, with pitch-perfect leaps of imagination.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Horvath doesn’t just tell a story, he gives readers a window into the hearts, minds and souls of his characters.” —Concord Monitor

“Absolutely splendid . . . I call it elastic realism . . . firmly rooted in a realistic tradition of writing, but the stories are very elastic. They stretch realism into unexpected places, wonderful little niches that I just adore. . . . These are stories that are funny, they’re odd . . . I loved this book.” —NANCY PEARL, KUOW’s The Record

“This stunning collection revels in wordplay and inventiveness, and is one of the finest short fiction collections I have read all year.” —Largehearted Boy

“Gets at the heart of our contemporary zeitgeist . . . Echoing the intricate metaphysical labyrinths of Borges, the philosophizing literary absurdity of David Foster Wallace, and the American-styled magical realism of Lethem, [Understories] is a deeply reflective, highly imaginative work.” —Tottenville Review

“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.” —HTML Giant

“Touching and captivating . . . though I may have come to Understories for the weirdness, I stayed around for the quality of the writing and the emotions of the characters.” —InDigest

“As any great book, Understories confronts the making of fiction itself, intermittently directly confronting the mechanics of fabrication. . . . A major accomplishment by a major writer . . . full of writing as deeply aware of its antecedents as it is aware of the possibilities within, of, and about narrative.” —Big Other

“This collection stand[s] out. There’s plenty of imagination [in Understories] but it’s rooted in recognizable and occasionally irrational emotions, a human quality that makes these stories endure. . . . Below the striking imagery, there’s abundant emotional depth to be found.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“Some books inspire, others seize. Understories seizes, shakes, then splits everything open.” —Punchnel’s

“Horvath’s writing is so consistently fun, engaging, inventive, and imaginative while displaying such range between stories, that the reader will never grow bored.” —Small Press Book Review

“Every echo, despite its resonance, is a kind of individual pocket. . . . As a fiction collection, then, Understories resonates not only on the stories as stories, but as an arrangement of individual parts. The buzz it gives off is the combined buzz of countless pockets, all charged with a life and surprise of their own.” —Collagist

“These stories are triumphs of the imagination.” —Fantasy Literature

“A wild ride. [Understories] is a highly inventive short story collection that interweaves absurdity with a deep understanding of what makes people tick.” —Kenyon Review

“With plenty of humor and a good dose of poignancy, Understories is an excellent assortment for those who want something that blends traditional and speculative fiction together well.” —Midwest Book Review

Understories is fueled by a wonderfully inventive mind, but ultimately, it is a mind in service to the heart. Horvath’s attention is always squarely on us: who we are, who we have been, and how a great story can transform us.” —MATT BELL, author of Cataclysm Baby and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods

“Remarkable writing and remarkably rewarding reading: stories equally saturated in contemporary fact and transfactual acids. An atlas of canny and uncanny maps, mainly cityscapes, of the branching imagination and convoluted heart. Move over, Mercator and Google Earth: make way for Horvath’s haunting projections.” —BRIAN BOYD, author of Stalking Nabokov

“Tim Horvath is a fluid, inventive writer who deftly interweaves the palpably real and the pyrotechnically fantastic. At once playful, deeply moving, and sharply funny, Understories satisfies the mind, the heart, and the gut.” —KATE CHRISTENSEN, author of The Astral and The Great Man

“Horvath seems to be channeling, all at once, Borges and Calvino and Kevin Brockmeier. And it all works.” —REBECCA MAKKAI, author of The Borrower

About the Author

Tim Horvath, a graduate of Vassar College, Teachers College-Columbia University, and the University of New Hampshire, teaches creative writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and Boston's Grub Street writing center. He has also worked as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital, primarily with autistic children and adolescents. Understories, Horvath's first collection of short fiction, includes the award-winning "The Understory," selected by Bill Henderson for the Raymond Carver Short Story Award, and "Circulation," selected by Clark Blaise for the Society for the Study of the Short Story Prize. His stories have also appeared in Conjunctions, Fiction, Alimentum, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughter.

Product Details

  • File Size: 689 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B0085CKWK8
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press (May 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007UPDCD0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,314 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get This Book July 29, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just spent some great time reading Tim Horvath's collection, UNDERSTORIES. I haven't done one of my entirely unorthodox book review-thingies on my blog in a while, and I wish I had the time to devote myself to convincing you to give this one your full attention.

So, here's a moment. Allow me to emphasize that it needs attention. I needed to read it carefully, attentively. First, Horvath knows how to write one kick-arse sentence after another. These are sentences to read aloud, to get the feeling of them rolling off your tongue; they're complicated but well-executed from beginning to end. That's just his sentence structure. Second, and I think everyone is saying this, the stories are so imaginative/inventive/fantastical/dystopian, etc. The city with films projected everywhere got me the most, until I read about how people inexplicably blew up into smithereens during tense conversations, with only a trace of mint in the air suggesting impending violence. Wow. Third, Horvath's prose is smart. I like smart fiction. I'm just impressed by philosophical astuteness in fiction. Fourth, if I were teaching my dream one-year-long fiction seminar, I'd like to end with Matt Bell's first book, and this one. I don't write like this at all. I don't do this stuff, but I know this: it's important. It speaks of the role of fiction, the development of literature. There. Get this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Discipline of Shadows November 5, 2012
Tim Horvath's story "The Conversations" documents the worldwide fear and unease that follows an outbreak of literally explosive dialogues. These disagreements, trivial and profound, about everything from anime to parenting to "roommates who left their shit everywhere," turn lethal on a dime, blowing their speakers to smithereens and turning their surroundings to a "panic of smeared colors." As a result, courts approve the use of pocket black boxes so that governments can record and play back Conversations, hoping to identify and forestall future verbal calamities.

"Part of what made it so difficult to detect the Conversations," Horvath writes, "was their pristine logic, their lavishness with detail, the intricacy with which it felt like someone had put them together." This uneasy statement could, in a slightly altered world, be made about Horvath's Understories themselves--stories that converse with other books and with each other, stories that delight and challenge and never feel safe.

Horvath is interested in the ways the everyday and unplanned can stumble into the visionary, and vice versa. It's no mistake that the book begins in "The Lobby," which warns us in playful legalese against any attempt to depict "the astonishing visual properties of the lobby of this building." The unnamed guide also, however, recommends a neighborhood bar and finally draws our attention to the "heart-rendingly simple doors." In an era when most books seem content to pursue narrow, genre-specific goals, it's a pleasure to discover a writer equally at home in the macro- and microcosmic, the speculative sweep and the mooring detail.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Tieryas
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed Understories- it's a must-read collection by one of the most talented writers out there. I'd read Horvath's earlier novella, Circulation, and found it humorous, sad, and very witty. I'd been looking forward to this collection and was not disappointed. The stories within are brimming with creativity and there's a humanism in each of them that helps you to understand a little more about the human condition. Take for example a story that I loved, a shorter one in the collection called, "The Gendarmes." The premise is the narrator finds a group of people playing baseball on his roof. This piqued my interest, but as it turns out, it gets even more interesting. These gendarmes are actually teaching animals about extinction and survival tactics. It's a tight story that lingered long on after the initial reading. There's stories about a department of shadows, a talking box, a brilliant portrayal of Heidegger, and even the original novella of Circulation which I loved so much. Definitely one to to pick up! You will not be able to put it down!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book came to be via the Kindle Buffet as I was browsing about for something to read on vacation. Since I actually paid $1.99 for this book for a change, I'm exceptionally motivated to be honest about it.

Generally I like to frame my reviews as positives, negatives and summary. Occasionally, I come upon a book that breaks this mold because I can't find an appropriate comment for some section. In this case I can't really find anything negative to say about this book. The author is an obvious talent. He can craft sentences into the most twistedly entertaining prose I've seen in a long time. His talent for coining words baffles the dictionary and forces the reader to stop and think about what they're reading. Horvath's verbiage is high art.

As accompaniment, his content is delightfully surreal. Through all his stories there is a common thread of "What in the ...?" that pleases in the same way that Dali's melted clocks, though nonsensical on the surface, display a deeper and more significant undercurrent of importance.

In summary, well worth the investment of a few dollars. While the purchase should not be questioned, however, the environment of consumption should be carefully considered. This is not one to be read while the kids play frantically in a maelstrom of manic energy. Understories is best left for a quiet contemplative environment in which it can be completely and fully appreciated. Give this one some space in your brain and you shall not be disappointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very much enjoyed the stories and suggest this book to those who ...
Mr. Horvath writes stories that engaged my mind and made me laugh, ponder, and think. Very much enjoyed the stories and suggest this book to those who enjoy a fresh engaging voice.
Published 1 month ago by Sheila M Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Case Study: Inventive
Tim Horvath’s book Understories is a well-written, creative, unique, inventive and challenging book, filled with a collection of short stories that bent my perception. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jason Landry
4.0 out of 5 stars Story as a puzzle
Intellectual worldbuilding, more than character-driven or emotional stories. This author has an intriguing mind. Glad I picked this up again after abandoning it
Published 6 months ago by E. Jahneke
1.0 out of 5 stars Very abstract, uninteresting
I found this book of short stories on the NPR book reviews website and thought I'd give it a try. Something different for me. Read more
Published 11 months ago by William S. Holmes
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating collection of stories from unconventional point-of-view
Fascinating collection of stories from a very unconventional storytelling mind. At once firmly set in the real world and the surreal world, the author introduces the reader to... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Diane L. Lybbert
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally Unreadable...
Totally Unreadable. I normally will tough it out to the end of a book, no matter how bad, because I'm using books to keep my mind busy during the downtimes. But this one... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A great collection
I thought Understories was a wonderful book- full of richly detailed short stories. I really liked the strange environments he invented and the way his characters lived in them. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars We need more writers like Mr. Horvath
Astounding, thought provoking, sublime. This is a collection for those who enjoy thinking and who appreciate true craft with language and ideas.
Published 15 months ago by ceri
5.0 out of 5 stars Underreview
Horvath is at his best when he develops characters to their fullest, in The Understory, The Discipline of the Shadows, and The City in the Light of Moths. Read more
Published 15 months ago by jkozubek
1.0 out of 5 stars A Real Disappointment
I was so disappointed in Understories that I did not finish reading it. That's rare for me. The first few stories read too much like "stream of consciousness".
Published 15 months ago by Susan B
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More About the Author

Tim Horvath teaches creative writing at New Hampshire Institute of Art and Boston's Grub Street writing center. He has also worked part-time as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital, primarily with autistic children and adolescents. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughter.

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