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Points of View, Points of Origin

November 10, 2014 | by

This essay prefaces Matteo Pericoli’s Windows on the World: Fifty Writers, Fifty Views, out this week. We’ve featured Matteo’s work for years on the Daily, and his sketch of the view from our old office graced the cover of our Summer 2011 issue. To celebrate his new book, we’re offering that issue for only eight dollars, and only until Thanksgiving. We’re also holding a Windows on the World contest—submit a photo of your view and you could win a sketch by Matteo.

Pericoli’s drawing of The Paris Review’s view from our former office on White Street, as seen on the cover of Issue 197.

Can you picture John Kennedy Toole, the author of A Confederacy of Dunces? I can’t. Say his name and I see his hero, Ignatius Reilly. How about Willa Cather? What comes to mind isn’t a person at all—it’s raindrops in New Mexico “exploding with a splash, as if they were hollow and full of air.” What did Barbara Pym look like, or Rex Stout, or Boris Pasternak, or the other writers whose paperbacks filled our parents’ bedside tables? In most cases we have no idea, because until recently, the author photo was relatively rare. You could sell a million copies and still, to those million readers, you’d be a name without a face.

Things are different now. Nearly every first novel comes with a glamour shot, not to mention a publicity campaign on Facebook. The very tweeters have their selfies. We still talk about a writer’s “vision,” but in practice we have turned the lens around, and turned the seer into something seen. Read More »

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The Norwegian-American Literary Festival Comes to New York

May 13, 2014 | by

NALFFor the last two years, a small group of American writers and critics has convened in Oslo for a series of informal lectures, interviews, and discussions. Dubbed the Norwegian-American Literary Festival, this unlikely gathering has introduced packed houses to the likes of Donald Antrim, Elif Batuman, Lydia Davis, Sam Lipsyte, and John Jeremiah Sullivan, and—on the American side—has helped spread word of contemporary Norwegian masters including Karl Ove Knausgaard, Joachim Trier, and Turbonegro.

Now, for one night only, The Paris Review is proud to welcome the Norwegian-American Literary Festival to New York.

On Wednesday, May 28, join us at Chez André in the East Village to hear Claire Messud and James Wood in conversation with the Norwegian novelist Linn Ullmann, followed by rare musical performances by James Wood and John Jeremiah Sullivan. Liquid refreshments will be served.

Admission is free, but space is limited—reserve tickets for you and one guest now by e-mailing us at rsvpNALF@theparisreview.org.

 

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“For Holly Andersen”

March 25, 2014 | by

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.

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Bemelman's Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, New York. Photo: Arvind Grover

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.

 

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Emma Cline’s “Marion”

August 9, 2013 | by

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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.

 

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Kristin Dombek’s “Letter from Williamsburg”

July 26, 2013 | by

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Il Pordenone, The Holy Trinity

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.

 

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Stranger than Fiction

June 7, 2013 | by

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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.

 

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