>Short Story Month 2011: Tin House — Katie Arnold-Ratliff (#ssm2011)


Does anyone else think it a little unusual for Tin House the magazine to be publishing an excerpt from a book that Tin House Books is publishing this month? That is the case with “Bright Before Us” by Katie Arnold-Ratliff. Not her fault, of course. Does Tin House often do this?

In any event, I didn’t notice the disclaimer on the first page that this was an excerpt, so I found the piece disappointing as a story. As a taste of a novel, though, it’s fine.

The narrator, Mr. Mason, has been on a field trip with his very young students, and apparently the class came across a body on the beach. So now that they’re all back in school, the principal and parents are rightly concerned–especially because Mason was seen sobbing. So many of the parents are attending class this first day back. Meanwhile, at home, Mason’s wife is getting a sonogram, which is a big deal because she has a history of miscarriages. Back at school, the police call Mason with some questions about the “timeline” of the incident at the beach, and two juicy tidbits are revealed: Mason saw the woman jump off the bridge and the woman was his ex-wife. Needless to say the police have some more questions for Mason . . .

So. Not a short story, in my opinion (and it’s not claiming to be one, either, I hasten to add). An intriguing sample of a novel, though.

About the author


  1. >I just sent in my subscription for Tin House! I am always a little disappointed when I think I'm reading a short story and it ends up being a novel exerpt. It's a great way to find out if you want to read the novel, but I pick up short story magazines to read a short story. Not a stand-alone chapter of a novel.

  2. >I hear you. But at least there was a note to that effect at the bottom of the story's first page. Unlink, say, The New Yorker, which hedges their bets by calling everything "fiction" so that they don't have to call it a "story" or an "excerpt" or something else.

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