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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Watkins, Rothbart, Footman

September 7, 2012 | by

So many of you have written to tell us how much you loved Davy Rothbart’s true story “Human Snowball,” in our current issue. Now you can get a whole book of his adventures. That’s right: his collection My Heart Is an Idiot goes on sale this week. —Lorin Stein

I just gulped down Claire Vaye Watkins’s debut collection Battleborn, and it’s the best fiction from the recent American West I’ve encountered east of Stegner. (See Paris Review issue 195 for the debut of Watkins’s story “Goldmine,” here retitled “The Past Perfect, the Past Continuous, the Simple Past.” —Samuel Fox

I am currently on vacation, and my travel companion has been reading David Footman’s 1936 cult novel Pig and Pepper. The story of a young English bureaucrat stationed in the Balkans, it’s funny, fresh, very British, substantive—in short, the sort of book you want to recommend to everyone you know. Footman was an accomplished spy and went on to a distinguished career as a public servant, but in a just world, this forgotten novel alone would be enough to make his name. —Sadie Stein

Having recently watched  Our Daily Bread, a 2005 Nikolaus Geyrhalter documentary that observes the high-tech farming industry completely sans comment, I’ve since found it difficult to look at a pepper without remembering the hilarious image of a polytunnel-bound pesticide sprayer on a Segway. At many points it’s hard to believe you’re not watching avant-garde sci-fi. Special mention goes to the shot of chicks being dropped down a mechanical chute. —Thea Slotover

It’s tempting to lay down Norman Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself for good when, after several hundred pages of self-regard, he reaches his masturbatory climax by reprinting a letter he once sent to Ernest Hemingway. In the span of nine lines (mysteriously formatted like poetry), Mailer goes from coyly soliciting Hemingway’s opinion of The Deer Park to threatening Papa with his wrath: “if you answer with the kind of crap you use to answer unprofessional writers, sycophants, brown-nosers, etc., then fuck you, and I will never attempt to communicate with you again.” But quitting at this point would mean giving up on a work of fascinating, if at times painful, intellectual narcissism that can now be seen for what it really was: the birth of America’s first reality star. —Graham Rogers

Another Paris Review contributor—our hero—Harry Mathews is the subject of an entire issue of The Quarterly Conversation. Mathews has been publishing with The Paris Review since 1965. His 1972 novel The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium was the first book we ever serialized in its entirety (and the last, until Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich). His memoir of meeting his wife appeared on the Daily two weeks ago. Now seven critics, including Ed Park, Laird Hunt, and Jeremy Davies beat their brains against his difficult and seductive and very funny books in a sort of online Festschrift. We commend it to your attention! —L.S.

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2 COMMENTS

2 Comments

  1. Drew Johnson | September 9, 2012 at 1:03 am

    The Quarterly Conversation Mathews issue is great so far. Worth noting: Mathew’s second novel, Tlooth, was the first book in the Paris Review Editions, 1966.

  2. mfkrh-ar.com | September 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    TAGS Claire Vaye Watkins, David Footman, Davy Rothbart, Ed Park, Ernest Hemingway, Harry Mathews, Jeremy Davies, Laird Hunt, My Heart is an Idiot, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Norman Mailer, Roberto Bolaño

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