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Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead is the author of two novels: Astonish Me (Knopf, 2014) and Seating Arrangements (Knopf, 2012), which was a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. She has been a National Magazine Award finalist in fiction and a contributor to The Best American Short Stories

Author

Illustration by Kristen Radtke

Backcountry

Winter 2017 | Fiction

When Ingrid was twenty-five, she lived for four months in a big house on the edge of an unfinished—never to be finished—ski resort. This was in Montana, on Adelaide Peak, twenty years ago. Richie, her much older kind-of boyfriend, and mastermind of the whole sad enterprise, had borrowed against his land to build the house, a baronial place full of grandiose touches like antler chandeliers and stone fireplaces and a drawer that warmed plates. It was the only structure on the mountain. After Richie went missing and Ingrid was left alone, all his expensive possessions started to seem foolish, and a careless contempt for them would steal over her—for him, too, who had been dumb or weak enough to probably die. 

Richie liked to say the house was ski-in, ski-out, even if skiing out took some work since there weren’t any lifts. If they wanted to go down, they had to climb up, earn their turns. After the search was called off, Ingrid hiked or skinned up Adelaide on the days when the weather allowed and skied different routes down, looking for some sign: a ski tip poking out of the snow, his blaze-orange beanie snagged on a branch. Truthfully, though, she wasn’t looking very hard. Going up, she often lost herself in the rhythmic jab of her poles, the cold air cycling through her lungs, the crows caw-cawing in the trees, the distant frozen lakes visible from the summit. Coming down, she got to thinking about her technique and line and sometimes forgot all about Richie until she was back at the house. Then the sight of it, stone and timber, dark and empty, reminded her he’d be spending another night out there, somewhere, either dead in the cold with the night creatures or, less probably but still possibly, alive and safe somewhere else, somewhere like the Cayman Islands, having abandoned her and his other problems with one tidy disappearance.

Photograph by Maggie Shipstead

The Truths of Antarctica

June 16, 2016

1. No ship had ever been so far south. S 78°43.971’. The Russian research vessel turned Antarctic tourist ship Akademic Shokalskiy set a new record, though not by much: less than 100 feet. The Ross Ice Shelf is a floating platform of glacial i [...]

Labor

Fall 2012 | Fiction

September was Louisa’s turn to host. Even though her pregnancy, entering its seventh month, had begun to be burdensome, she was determined to give her friends a proper home-cooked meal, and she heckled the butcher for his freshest and most tender l [...]

La Moretta

Fall 2011 | Fiction

Bill and Lyla had graduated, gotten married, and departed directly for Europe. Lyla's parents had given them a thousand dollars to spend on a honeymoon, sowing the seeds for months of argument. Bill wanted an adventure, but Lyla, who had already had too many adventures, wanted to relax. She wanted sun and wine. They should spend the whole time in Italy, she said. “But where’s the thrill?” Bill had asked.

The Cowboy Tango

Fall 2009 | Fiction

When Mr. Glen Otterbausch hired Sammy Boone she was sixteen and so skinny that the whole of her beanpole body fit neatly inside the circle of shade cast by her hat.