March 25, 2014 | by Lorin Stein
On April 8, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’re looking at Seidel’s poems.
Over the weekend, I turned on Studio 360. A cardiologist was describing the health benefits of dance—and this cardiologist was none other than Holly Andersen, hero of a great poem by Frederick Seidel, from his 2006 collection, Ooga-Booga. Dr. Andersen is also the dedicatee of the poem. I guess you could say she is its muse, but hero is the better word. This is a poem about heroism: doing your job in the face of death. It happens also to be a love poem, for in Seidel’s work love and admiration are rarely far apart. I never have a drink at the Carlyle Hotel without thinking of the first lines, and I think of the last lines much more often than that.
Seidel has never given a public reading, but he has made several recordings of his poems, including this one. I played it as soon as the segment was over.
What could be more pleasant than talking about people dying,
And doctors really trying,
On a winter afternoon
At the Carlyle Hotel, in our cocoon?
We also will be dying one day soon.
Dr. Holly Anderson has a vodka cosmopolitan,
And has another, and becomes positively Neapolitan,
The moon warbling a song about the sun,
Sitting on a sofa at the Carlyle,
Staying stylishly alive for a while.
Her spirited loveliness
Does cause some distress.
She makes my urbanity undress.
I present symptoms that express
An underlying happiness in the face of the beautiful emptiness.
She lost a very sick patient she especially cared about.
The man died on the table. It wasn't a matter of feeling any guilt or doubt.
Something about a doctor who can cure, or anyway try,
But can also cry,
Is some sort of ultimate lullaby, and lie.
August 9, 2013 | by Lorin Stein
In the first three years that I edited The Paris Review—a reader pointed out last spring—we never published a short story from a child’s point of view. This wasn’t a matter of principle. I just like stories in which the narrator knows as much as possible. I like to see a writer stretch to represent a consciousness as big, as clued-in, as grown-up as the reader’s own mind. What’s called dramatic irony—where the writer and reader sort of conspire together over the narrator’s head—doesn’t interest me. Except every once in a while, when it does.
From the first sentence of “Marion”—“Cars the color of melons and tangerines sizzled in cul-de-sac driveways”—Emma Cline takes us inside the thoughts of an eleven-year-old girl who does not always understand the adults around her, or the sexual desires of her older best friend, but who intensely feels their heat. The language is so vivid, Cline registers her confusion so exactly, that she creates the same confusion in the reader. Part of us knows what’s going on between these girls, part of us is lost and needs the story to take us by the hand. Which it brilliantly does, as you will hear in this excerpt read by Cline herself.
Read the full story in our Summer 2013 issue.
July 26, 2013 | by Lorin Stein
This essay may sound strange, read by a man—it is very specifically a woman’s essay. But Dombek’s voice is so powerful, every time I read “Letter from Williamsburg,” I hear it in my head. It’s like a song I want to sing along to. In fact, I remember reading the first two paragraphs to our Southern editor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, over the phone, before the rest of the essay was written. I wanted him to hear how beautifully Dombek modulates her tone from the sublime to the mundane. I only wish I could do justice to the music on the page.
Read the full essay in our Summer 2013 issue.
June 7, 2013 | by Lorin Stein
Our friend Toby Barlow has written a novel, set in Paris in the 1950s, in which an expat literary magazine gets embroiled in a CIA plot. Naturally the whole thing is fiction … or is it? Here Barlow describes the genesis of Babayaga and his valiant attempts to erect a statue to our founding editor, George Plimpton.
May 28, 2013 | by Lorin Stein
The proofs of our Summer issue just arrived at Twenty-Seventh Street from the printer. This afternoon is our last chance to catch any mistakes. You always find a few typos—and we have more names to spell-check than usual, because this issue contains more stories, poems, and interviews than any in recent memory.
Some of these writers are regular contributors, including Lydia Davis—with her first publication since she won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for fiction—and David Gates, whose new story is a favorite of his and ours. Others are writers we’ve been waiting to publish for a while, namely Ben Lerner, whose first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is one of the best debuts we’ve seen in the past few years, and Kristin Dombek, whose essays in n+1 electrified us. The newly translated stories by Robert Walser are from his groundbreaking 1904 collection, Fritz Kocher’s Essays. This book (which won the admiration of Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin) made me feel for the first time that I understood what all the fuss is about.
Still others, including Emma Cline, Gillian Linden, and the Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli—translated by the likes of Jorie Graham and Mark Strand—are new to us and will probably be new to you. We look forward to saying, You read them here first.
Plus, three interviews.
Two are devoted to the art of literary biography. Michael Holroyd’s lives of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, among others, revolutionized the study of Bloomsbury and Edwardian literary history.
I am a great believer in private life, which is quite unfashionable now—to be a celebrity is the thing, or you are nothing. But I believe in private life for the living, and I think that when one is dead one should be a little bit bolder, so that the rest of us may have some record of how things actually were. Otherwise we will be left with well-meant lies, which add to the difficulties of life and lead to real misunderstanding.
Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton are just as influential.
What is it like to write a death scene?
It depends how they died. Some cynical biographer said to me, Make sure it’s a good death. Make sure you’re not picking someone who just declined.
Finally, we have an Art of Fiction interview with the Nobel laureate Imre Kertész. It is, according to Kertész, the last interview he will ever give. Luisa Zielinski’s probing, sensitive questions explore the reasons that Kertész—ten years after he survived the Holocaust—decided he had to write.
Look, I don’t want to deny that I was a prisoner at Auschwitz and that I now have a Nobel Prize. What should I make of that? And what should I make of the fact that I survived, and continue to survive? At least I feel that I experienced something extraordinary, because not only did I live through those horrors, but I also managed to describe them, in a way that is bearable, acceptable, and nonetheless part of [a] radical tradition … Perhaps I’m being impertinent, but I feel that my work has a rare quality—I tried to depict the human face of this history, I wanted to write a book that people would actually want to read.
May 22, 2013 | by Lorin Stein
Hats off to our beloved contributor Lydia Davis, who was just awarded the Man Booker International Prize, Great Britain’s most prestigious prize for fiction. In the judges’ citation, Sir Christopher Ricks asked how best to describe Davis’s works: “Just how to categorise them? They have been called stories but could equally be miniatures, anecdotes, essays, jokes, parables, fables, texts, aphorisms or even apophthegms, prayers or simply observations.”
Click here to read some of Davis’s most recent fiction in The Paris Review—or click here to receive our next issue, with five of her newest stories (or miniatures, or anecdotes, or essays, or whatever you’d like to call them).