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Vol. 7, No. 4
Two years ago, at the Tomales Bay Writers’ Workshop, north of San Francisco, I went to a reading with Tin House favorites Ron Carlson and Dorothy Allison, both of whom we’ve published multiple times, beginning with the very first issue of the magazine fourteen years ago. Another author was sandwiched in between whom I had never heard of—Jodi Angel. Carlson and Allison are both astonishing, captivating readers, yet Angel somehow upstaged them both with her reading of “A Good Deuce,” her story of a rural California teen dealing with the aftermath of a mother’s overdose. She pulled us into a lower-class world of emotionally stunted teens, a bleak yet vibrant land a million miles away from the shiny, happy America of TV and advertising. I was blown away.
But I wondered if it was only her delivery—deadpan, direct, through a veil of dark hair hanging over her face, her leather jacket adding to her overall vibe of “Why’d you drag me out of the biker bar to make me tell you this story?” Afterward, I took the story out of Angel’s hands to see if it was as good on the page as it was in the ether. It was. And is. Later, she told me she wrote the story in one sitting, only a few days before, because she needed something new to read. Angel works stories over in her head, sometimes for months at a time, without writing down a single word, then, when she can’t take it anymore, gets it all down. “A Good Deuce” needed hardly any edits or copy edits. Her “first draft” was nearly flawless.
We are so taken with Jodi Angel’s writing, we’re publishing her new collection of stories, You Only Get Letters From Jail, next summer.
Finding Jodi Angel is one of the great pleasures of continuing to produce Tin House. While it is always wonderful to publish the recognized masters at the height of their powers, there’s nothing like finding a dazzling new voice.
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Editor, Tin House
IS THIS WORTH POSTAGE?
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by Jodi Angel
Recommended by Tin House
I WAS ON MY SECOND BAG OF DORITOS and my lips were stained emergency orange when my best friend, Phillip, said he knew a bar in Hallelujah Junction that didn’t card, and maybe we should go there. We had been sitting in my living room for eighteen or nineteen hours watching Robert Redford movies, where Redford had gone from square-jawed, muscled, and rugged to looking like a blanched piece of beef jerky, and we had watched it go from dark to light to dark again through the break in the curtains. The coroner had wheeled my mother out all those hours ago and my grandma Hannah had stalked down the sidewalk with her fists closed and locked at her side, insisting that a dead body had every right to stay in the house for as long as the family wanted it there. My mother was no longer my mother; she had become Anna Schroeder, the deceased, and my grandma Hannah had been on the phone trying to track my father down. The best we had was a number for the pay phone at the Deville Motel, and only one of two things happened when you dialed that number—either it rang and rang into lonely nothing or someone answered and asked if this was Joey and hung up when the answer was no. My grandma called the number twenty-two times, and the only thing that changed was the quality of the light, and my mother went out, and Phillip came in, and my sister, Christy, packed her things so she could go, and I did not.
I understood why my grandma didn’t want to take me. There had been that time when I was eleven and smart-mouthed and full of angry talk and I had made her cry. I still thought of that sometimes, what it looked like to see her in her bedroom, staring out her window in the half darkness, and how I walked up beside her and said her name and then realized that she was crying. I can still smell the room she was standing in, talcum powder, stale lace, but I try very hard to forget what I said, though it hangs in my mind like the dust caught in the weak shafts of sun. It did something to my heart to see her like that, something that I can’t explain, and it did something to hers, too, I guess, because after that she never looked at me directly with both of her eyes. And now Christy was handed a suitcase and I was handed a brochure for the army recruiter office in the strip mall by Kmart and told I could take my mother’s car over as long as I gave it back when my bus left. Christy was thirteen, and I was seventeen, and what she had was no choice, and what few choices I had were being made for me.
Read the rest of “A Good Deuce,” now available as a Kindle Single
About the Author
Jodi Angel’s first collection of short stories, The History of Vegas, was published in 2005 and was named as a San Francisco Chronicle “Best Book of 2005” as well as a LA Times Book Review “Discovery”. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Zoetrope: All-Story, and The Sycamore Review, among other publications and anthologies. Her stories have received several Pushcart Prize nominations and she was selected for Special Mention in 2007. Most recently her story, “A Good Deuce,” was noted as a “Distinguished Story of 2011” in The Best American Stories, 2012. She grew up in a small town in Northern California—in a family of girls.
About the Guest Editor
Tin House is a beautifully designed periodical featuring the best writers of our time alongside a new generation of talent who are poised to become the most important voices of the future. Content includes short stories, profiles, author interviews, poetry, essays, and unique departments such as “Lost & Found,” in which writers review overlooked or underrated books, and “Blithe Spirits” and “Readable Feast,” which present tales and recipes for drinks and food in a literary way.
"A Good Deuce" originally appeared in Tin House and is reprinted here by permission of Tin House. All Rights reserved by the Author.