December 6, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
We love these gorgeous vintage ALA posters!
December 6, 2013 | by David L. Ulin
There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. —Red Smith
I wrote my first first book over the course of three months, from July 23 to October 23, 1979. Four weeks in, I turned eighteen. This was a novel, and not the first I’d attempted; in fifth grade, I had written forty pages of a saga called Gangwar in Chicago, inspired by The Godfather and taking place in a city where I’d never been. Setting the story in Chicago meant scouring the map in World Book for locations: Canal Street, I recall, was one. I chose it because I knew Canal Street in New York, and it seemed the sort of landscape in which a gang war could take place. To this day, I have never seen Chicago’s Canal Street, despite the twenty years I spent visiting my wife’s family in a suburb on the North Shore.
The other novel, the one I finished, was motivated almost entirely by a specific case of envy—of my friend Fred, who had spent the same summer working on a novel of his own. Fred and I were high school writing buddies, confiding to each other, as we wandered the grounds of our New England boarding school, that we both wanted to win the Nobel Prize. Now, he’d written a campus novel, tracing his difficulties as a one-year senior, parsing the school’s social hierarchy in a way that seemed enlightening and true. Fred was more serious, more focused; he not only knew what symbolism was but also how to use it. It made sense that he would write a novel, and that it would be good. A year later, he would write another one, and then we lost track of each other, until six or seven years later, when his short stories started to appear in magazines. Read More »
December 6, 2013 | by The Paris Review
“We all find we cannot take on any more patients. We are all waiting for calls from superiors, pick up the phones each time hoping it is one of them, then find it is only another patient. The superiors of course think of us as patients and dread our calls.” Last Sunday I spent the hours between five and eleven A.M. finishing Renata Adler’s 1983 novel Pitch Dark, and they were the best four solid hours of my week. Thanks to NYRB Classics, which recently reissued Pitch Dark and Adler’s earlier novel, Speedboat, Adler is coming to be recognized as one of the great novelists of our time, on the strength of two slim books. Until now I had avoided Pitch Dark because it has the lesser reputation, and because Speedboat seemed to me so perfect, I couldn’t imagine lightning striking twice. But Pitch Dark—the story of a breakup, and of a solitary vacation gone awry—has all the suspense of a mystery, all the wit and companionability of an essay, and all the satirical worldliness I loved in Speedboat. Adler should be required reading for M.F.A students, at the considerable risk of shutting young writers down for lack of anything to say. The rest of us can read her for pleasure. —Lorin Stein
When you think about it, there really are a startling number of remarriages in screwball comedies: His Girl Friday, My Favorite Wife, The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth—and those are just the films in which Cary Grant ends up with an ex-wife. The philosopher Stanley Cavell takes on this phenomenon in 1981’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, and argues that the plot device was more than just a way to flirt with the Hays Code. As he writes, “Can human beings change? The humor, and the sadness, of remarriage comedies can be said to result from the fact that we have no good answer to that question.” —Sadie O. Stein
The Fargo Moorhead Observer reports that a Fargo man has been arrested for clearing snow with a flamethrower. The man stated that he was simply “fed up with battling the elements” and that he did not possess the willpower necessary to “move four billion tons of whitebullsh-t.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan Read More »
December 6, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
My colleagues here at The Paris Review all know that I harbor an irrational aversion to any shade of purple, which reminds me of Lisa Frank stickers, aging hippies, and wizards. (All very well in their own ways, I suppose.) So it is with some reluctance that I report Pantone’s Color of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid. Quoth the color-choosing powers,
Radiant Orchid blooms with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination. It is an expressive, creative and embracing purple—one that draws you in with its beguiling charm. A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great joy, love and health.
And wizards. They forgot wizards.
December 6, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
December 5, 2013 | by Susannah Jacob
Some memory of Rose Williams underpins all of Tennessee Williams’s plays, but it was with the 1944 premiere of The Glass Menagerie that he both immortalized his sister and launched his Broadway career. Rose is the basis for Laura Wingfield, the withdrawn high school dropout who passes her days listening to old phonograph records and caring for her collection of glass animals while the world closes in around her. Williams based Tom Wingfield, Laura’s brother, on himself. The play depicts real events, up to a point; years before he wrote Menagerie, now in a successful run on Broadway, Williams left home to pursue his own writing ambitions. During that time, Rose descended into violent insanity. “To escape from a trap,” Williams wrote in Menagerie’s production notes about Tom Wingfield, “he has to act without pity.”
The Williams family moved from Clarksdale, Mississippi, to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1918. Prior to that, Rose and Tom lived “agreeable children’s lives under garden hoses in the hot summer,” according to Williams’s 1975 Memoirs. Nine-year-old Rose and seven-year-old Tom danced in the living room to music playing on the Victrola. The records were gifts from Cornelius Williams, their itinerant father, who was, like Laura and Tom’s father in Menagerie, a traveling salesman.
When Edwina Williams, Tennessee’s mother, became pregnant with her third child, Dakin, Cornelius accepted an office job at International Shoe’s St. Louis branch. The family moved into a small house, not nearly as squalid as the tenement apartment the Wingfields occupy onstage, but the tension between Williams’ parents made the atmosphere even more explosive. Cornelius, like the character of Tom and Laura’s father, was restless, alcoholic, and abusive. After the family moved to St. Louis, he was, however, not absent. Edwina and Cornelius’s marriage reeked of dysfunction; she withheld sex to punish his infidelity and abrasive presence. Williams recalled hearing his mother’s screams, futile protestations as his father cornered her in their bedroom. Tom, Rose, and Dakin would run out of the house and to the neighbors’ to escape. Read More »