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Understories by [Horvath, Tim]
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Understories Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Length: 258 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


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

“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

“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

“Weird and wonderful. . . . But for all th[e] playfulness—sometimes intellectual, sometimes bawdy—Understories is no rarefied exercise. Horvath rallies all the senses, smell and touch and taste and the others, in support of his interrogation of the universe, and his work is firmly grounded in the real world no matter how fantastic his musings.” —Bloom

“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: 1934137448
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press (May 1, 2012)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007UPDCD0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,051 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tim Horvath has an amazing imagination. He can take his work in academe (as a writing teacher) and turn it into a story about a dying department of umbrology, the study of shadows, complete with all the political scheming for promotion and infighting about ancient scholars (Galileo or Socrates?) you might expect in such a story. But then he can also imbue it with poetry when describing a lunar eclipse, or with whimsy, as in relating his experiences watching shadows on a ski slope, or even the nature of love ("she told me once she preferred rainy days because on them I looked at her more directly"). The entirety of "The Discipline of Shadows" is so strange, and yet so familiar, that it can induce vertigo.

Understories, Horvath's first collection, is full of such dizzying tales. In "The Gendarmes," for instance, a man discovers that a baseball game is in progress on his roof. They use a special ball to play, one that can't come into contact with chlorophyll without danger of explosion. The owner of the house shimmies up to the roof, discovering that it's covered with artificial turf, and joins the game, because really, what else would you do when you discover a baseball game on your roof? Things get stranger from there.

The title story, "The Understory," is an alternate history tale in which a professor of botany remembers his early adulthood years exploring a forest -- the Schwarzwald -- with a philosopher teaching at the same university, Martin Heidegger. The botanist, a Jew, escaped to America before Hitler did his worst, but he has never fully relinquished his feelings of fellowship with Heidegger.
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Format: Paperback
Understories is Tim Horvath's first short story collection, and it is a mightily fun one to read.

This collection contains eight "Urban Planning" case studies, most of which are roughly three pages long; six miscellaneous stories; and seven longer pieces in the 20-to-35-page range.

The "Urban Planning" stories were fascinating to read. In each of these stories, we pay a brief visit to a different completely fantastical city. There's one city with elastic streets and sidewalks, where newcomers unused to the movement are sent flailing and sprawling. In another city, residents tune out the thousands of overwhelming sensations they are bombarded with each day to focus on a single sense and thus preserve their sanity. A third city is in denial that it is a city; inhabitants call the skyline "the tree line", the sidewalks "the arroyos," and the skyscrapers "mountains." Yet another city has a culture revolving completely around food, where clothing boutiques serve to help people coordinate their dress to their meals and where chefs are at the top of the social ladder. Each of these glimmering urban environments are vividly imagined and pulsing with life.

Very different from these surreal, delirious case studies are the longer stories, which include "Circulation" and the collection's title story, "The Understory". These pieces are more realistic, exploring themes such as human relationships, identity, and loss. Although less fantastical than the "Urban Studies" stories, they contain the same quirkiness and humor; we meet a professor who teaches umbrology, or the study of shadow; a divorcee who takes his young daughter to a Chuck-E-Cheese-like place that he calls Runaroundandscreamalot!; and a botanist who befriends Martin Heidegger before the Holocaust.
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