The Daily

A Letter from the Editor

A Letter from the Editor

June 1, 2010 | by

To the Reader:

Welcome to the The Paris Review Daily, a culture gazette brought to you by the editors of The Paris Review.

Since its founding in 1953, The Paris Review has devoted itself to publishing “the good writers and good poets,” regardless of creed or school or name-recognition. In that time the Review has earned a reputation as the chief discoverer of what is newest and best in contemporary writing.

But a quarterly only comes out…well, you know. We have been looking for a way to keep in touch with our readers between issues, and to call attention to our favorite writers and artists in something close to real time.  If the Review embodies a sensibility, this Daily will try, in a casual and haphazard and at times possibly frivolous way, to put that sensibility into words.

Taking inspiration from the Review’s founding editor, George Plimpton, our mode will be participatory journalism, our beat the arts. We will write about what we love, not as critics, but as participants—as amateurs in the Plimptonian sense of the word. That anyway is our aim. Furthermore we hope that you will enjoy the Daily and—most of all—that you'll write in and tell us what you think.

If you are like us, you hear a lot of gloomy talk about the future of reading, but you don't quite recognize yourself in these discussions: books are the reading you care most deeply about, and you doubt that’s going to change. You love your favorite blogs, but you also know when to turn off your devices. You read your favorite magazines faithfully—and if sometimes you skip the fiction, it’s not because you think new writing is in some sort of inevitable decline. It’s probably because you are what Roberto Bolaño called a “desperate” reader, on the lookout for a story that will speak more directly to your condition.

“Perhaps the critics are right,” wrote William Styron half a century ago, in the Review’s first issue: “this generation may not produce literature equal to that of any past generation—who cares? The writer will be dead before anyone can judge him—but he must go on writing.”

In the same spirit, we say there is plenty to interest us in the writing of our moment, and not only in the writing. Everywhere we look, whether it’s the new painting, film, or YouTube clip, we find beauty sufficient unto the present day, the only one we’ve got.

Ever faithfully yours,

Lorin Stein

 

24 COMMENTS

21 Comments

  1. John Siddique | June 1, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Dear Lorin
    Looking forward to reading the blog. I enjoy the magazine very much, and the occasional correspondences with some of your editors. was just thinking it would be very nice if this daly post was also available as a subscribed email, a bit like the daily email Yoga Journal do. (do check it out, non intrusive, to the point, informative..) Will add a link to your blog on my blogpage too, it is good to share.
    Kindest regards

    John Siddique

  2. Michael Bratton | June 1, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Wonderful. Thanks for taking this great effort to stay in touch with those of us who have loved PR for so many years.

    Michael Bratton

  3. Ed Hawco | June 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Excellent news! I’m one of those people who think that literature has a promising future, and the best way to assure that future is for quality publications like TPR to embrace new media tools to enhance its established formats. Bravo!

  4. Bluestalking | June 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I’m so pleased you’ve decided to start a blog. As you noted, there’s a long lag between issues and much to talk about in between. Pleased to have the promise of more quality writing in the blogosphere!

    Lisa Guidarini

  5. Simon Larter | June 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Wonderful! I’ll look forward to your pensées, dear editors.

  6. Steven Augustine | June 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Took long enough, eh…?

  7. Steven Crandell | June 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I loved the line about skipping the fiction. Made me feel guilty and understood at the same time.

    Not sure I want to be known as “desperate,” though. How about just “not in the mood.”

    Choosing to read a story is like choosing to strike up a conversation with some one. Usually the switch is on or off.

    Thanks for the new blog. I look forward to more serious fun. Best of luck.

  8. Lorin Stein | June 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    You’re right to opt out of “desperate”! I was thinking of this speech, given by the mad architect Joaquin Font in The Savage Detectives, but I’d forgotten just how critical he is of us desperados:

    Let’s take, for example, an average reader, a cool-headed, educated man leading a more or less healthy life. A man who buys books and literary magazines. So there you have him. This man can read things that are written for when you’re calm, but he can also read any other kind of book with a critical eye, dispassionately, without absurd or regrettable complicity. That’s how I see it. I hope I’m not offending anyone. Now let’s take the desperate reader, who is presumably the audience for the literature of desperation. What do we see? First: the reader is an adolescent or an immature adult, insecure, all nerves. He’s the kind of fucking idiot (pardon my language) who committed suicide after reading Werther. Second: he’s a limited reader. Why limited? That’s easy: because he can only read the literature of desperation, or books for the desperate, which amounts to the same thing, the kind of person or freak who’s unable to read all the way through In Search of Lost Time, for example, or The Magic Mountain (a paradigm of calm, serene, complete literature, in my humble opinion), or for that matter, Les Miserables or War and Peace. Am I making myself clear?

    Thank you, everyone, for these very encouraging notes!

  9. mike paulle | June 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I’m thrilled to have this new treat daily.

  10. Martha Toll | June 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Lorin, what a delightful antidote to the gloomy talk that constantly bombards us. Those of us who love books and are “desperate” for inspired literary conversation applaud your daily participation. Looking forward!

  11. David Abrams | June 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for offering another blog voice to the on-going conversation. My favorite line? “…books are the reading you care most deeply about, and you doubt that’s going to change.” I look forward to more days of dialogue centered on the tent-pole of great, good, or even adequate writing.

  12. Rebecca | June 1, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    God, I love hearing a voice so loud and clear! Hip hip horray for the new blog!

  13. Steven Crandell | June 2, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Not having read Los Detectives Salvajes — which in itself is an admission of certain desperate leanings — I cannot be sure.

    However, wouldn’t the desperate reader turn to the literature desperation — or away from other literature — as a self-identifying gesture — even to a group defined by not belonging to other groups?

    Might we who blatantly skip passages, pages, yea, even whole stories in periodicals of effanineffable, deep and inscrutable worth, be only acting with a budding critical sensibility?

    One day such a sensibility might evolve to allow us to read anything “dispassionately,” as our mad architect says, to dissect all literature in our path — even before we make certain it’s dead.

    Or we might choose to keep slumming it with the other no-hopers.

    Indeed, it seems more about choice than category. Just how do we divide the desperate and those of the calm dispassionate eye?

    Aren’t we all merely different stops on the same subway line?

  14. John Siddique | June 2, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Hello
    have to agree with Steven Crandell about skipping the fiction and being a “desperate” reader. Like him I think for me it is a “mood’ thing. I usually do come back to issues later on and take in the fiction. Just as often I buy novels a long time in advance of reading them, but then somehow the time is right. I do admit a hierarchy of reading when the Review drops on the mat. I tend to read the poetry first (being a poet,) then the interviews, photo essay, dispatches/memoir.. and then the fiction. Am I searching or suicidal or insecure, Don’t think so… better go for a check up all the same though.. well yes I am searching as I have always been as a reader, as a lover of all kinds of book and an openness to pretty much any good writing. But being an open reader means perhaps making choices sometimes in what one reads, or when, and one does have particular tastes which doesn’t make one “desperate” but rather if we are not insecure it is simply who we are.

    Great that you have started the blog.

    Kindest regards
    John Siddique

  15. Saxon Henry | June 2, 2010 at 9:07 am

    What a wonderful find! So glad you will be giving us an intellectually stimulating outlet in the cacophonous fray on the internet. I love the Styron quote: we must, indeed, go on writing.

  16. Matthew Condon | June 3, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Your gazette speaks to my condition.

  17. Mary Stewart Hammond | June 3, 2010 at 2:29 am

    I am a desperate reader! Not for the reason attributed to Bolano, and not for any of the reasons Lorin gives in his retraction of the use of the word “desperate.” Don’t take it back. It’s exactly right.

    I am a desperate reader because I am desperate for the time to read, and when time becomes available, the desperate question becomes what of everything lying around here waiting to be read will feed a thirst I didn’t know I had? Mood is not the selector. Sometimes I pass my hands over the stack of books and journals I want to read as if they held a dowsing rod. Am I going to hit water?

    I am also a desperate reader because I NEED to know the things novels, poetry, criticism tell me. And I am not alone in my desperation. The claims on our time are greater than they have ever been. At the same time, our need to know what books tell us, i.e., what it is to be human, is greater than ever. Where did the time go when we could read, say, “My Antonia,” or “Moon Tiger,” and burst into tears at the end, not in sorrow, but because we are overwhelmed by joy at the magnificence of the writing?

    A literary blog may be just the thing to help give reading a future. There is so much trivia we have to read it is like some sci-fi blob emerging up out of our innocent-looking little laptops ready to suck our brains down into it. Some of the lost, serious reading time has gone to reading and answering email, and reading our friends’ blogs. They want our feedback, they need our clicks. As brilliant as some of my friends are, this is hardly like reading Goethe’s “Elective Affinities.” While The Paris Review Daily won’t be either, it could keep alive the knowledge of what reading is really all about.

  18. Steven Augustine | June 3, 2010 at 6:18 am

    “Some of the lost, serious reading time has gone to reading and answering email, and reading our friends’ blogs. They want our feedback, they need our clicks. As brilliant as some of my friends are, this is hardly like reading Goethe’s ‘Elective Affinities.’”

    Goethe wanted his friends’ feedback; he needed their clicks, too

  19. Joshua Cohen | June 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    hey….love what you are doing here….

  20. Steven Augustine | July 25, 2010 at 8:42 am

    If you’re going to delete the comments of mine that are critical of your preening, hypocritical nonsense, Stein, then delete *all* of them. I’d rather not be a part of this quasi-intellectual sham, thanks. If I’d wanted to contribute to a Vanity-Fair-in-disguise, I’d have left comments at Slate.

  21. Lorin Stein | July 26, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Dear Steven,

    I’m grateful to have such an energetic commenter. I wish all our readers were so engaged. We may disagree about Marion Williams or Terry Southern or Seymour Krim–all well and good. This comment section isn’t a place for insults, though. It seems to me there is a sufficiency of that elsewhere on the web. (And from the tone of your note, I have to wonder where you find the fortitude to keep reading! It reminds me of those two old men on The Muppets … “) In any case, if you do keep reading, I hope we may raise your low opinion of the Daily …

    Lorin

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