Fiction v. Reporting; Blind Dates
July 8, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
Having been a reader of the Review for some time now, I’ve seen your publication evolve and change over the years. I’m curious about the reasoning behind one of these changes: the disappearance of political reporting and socially minded nonfiction from your pages. Such writing not only, I thought, was very valuable in and of itself, but also gave important temporal and situational context to the contemporary fiction and poetry that a reader would often find on the next page. —Mona Stewart
Part of the change is simply a matter of who’s around. My predecessor, Philip Gourevitch, was and is a brilliant reporter, one of the best at work today. (For proof look no further than this week’s New Yorker.) He has a feel for these things. My background as an editor is in fiction, poetry, and literary essays. Of course I have nothing against political nonfiction. Like you, maybe, I read The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, New York, The Atlantic, and n+1, all of which publish excellent political reporting—plus the paper every day (two of them, since the beginning of the DSK affair). But being a fan and being an editor are two separate things.
Furthermore, those other magazines exist. And yet there is no magazine—none with the reputation and reach of The Paris Review—that is devoted entirely to literature as such. This was true when the magazine was founded in 1953, and it’s still true today. That’s what we do best. (And if you’re going to run a magazine, why not stick to what it does best?)
I went on my first blind date last week. The date went well and I thought we were into the same things, but when I went back to his house his walls were filled with paintings of Mount Vesuvius (dormant and erupting, ancient and new). The bookshelves are empty, save for books on the subject. How much can one really read into somebody’s cultural collection? Have you ever met someone whose attraction ran toward the bizarre? I want to get to know him, but every time I look at him all I see is Mount Vesuvius!
Fascinating. I think you should ask him about Vesuvius! People with a passion are people worth getting to know. (And as far as pictures go, it could be worse. Remember A-Rod and the centaurs?)
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