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Author Archive

Help Us Support St. Mark’s!

October 6, 2011 | by

Yesterday, Lorin wrote about St. Mark’s Bookshop—“where the staff knows how to spread the word about good writing, face to face, hand to hand”—and the importance of keeping independent booksellers like this one alive.

We meant every word of it, and to prove it, we’re offering a special discount to St. Mark’s patrons. Beginning today, when you buy a copy of our fall issue at St. Mark’s, you’ll receive a coupon good for 25% off a one-year subscription to The Paris Review, starting with our next issue (it’s good for T-shirts, tote bags, and mugs, too).

It’s our way of saying thank you for supporting this beloved East Village institution!

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Justin Taylor on ‘The Gospel of Anarchy’

February 28, 2011 | by

The Gospel of Anarchy is the debut novel from Justin Taylor. The story follows a group of anarchist hippies living together in Fishgut, a house turned commune in the college town of Gainesville, Florida. Philosophizing on religion, freedom, and happiness, they await the return of their Anarchristian friend, Parker, whose left-behind journals have become their own gospel. I met with Taylor to talk about the book.

The Gospel of Anarchy is your first novel. Did you encounter any challenges in the process of switching from the short story format?

One of the hardest parts of writing a novel is figuring out the structure. Mine went through a lot of different versions. The “zero draft” was all in first person, told by David, and then it was all rewritten in third, but still just about him. I wanted to include the others’ perspectives, so I tried doing it in a first-person round, almost like Rashomon or something, which didn’t work either, and somehow or other I came around to what you see now.

The way in which the topic of faith is discussed in the book reminds me of Flannery O’Connor. Was she on your mind in writing this story? Were their other authors that influenced your writing?

Flannery O’Connor was definitely an influence, especially her “other” novel, The Violent Bear It Away, which I actually like much better than Wise Blood. Violent is very funny but very dark, and the stakes of the entire book are basically whether this idiot child should be baptized. For her this is a matter of life and death, and the baptism might actually be more important than death, and I love that. Another author I really love is DeLillo. You can end up in some pretty murky waters trying to do your own take on DeLillo, so hopefully the book steers clear of imitation, but he was a big influence and there are a couple DeLillo shout-outs in the book. The first comes early on, when a character named Thomas sarcastically quotes the opening of White Noise in conversation. Later on, a couple characters compile a zine based on their friend Parker’s journal, which itself is a jumble of uncited allusions, quotes, and references to all kinds of political and religious thinkers mixed with Parker’s original thoughts. But there’s a line slipped in there about how “our faith makes us crazy in the world.” That’s from the Moonie character in DeLillo’s Mao II.

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Reynolds Price

January 21, 2011 | by

Photograph by D. L. Anderson

Yesterday, we learned that Reynolds Price had passed away following complications from a heart attack on Sunday. Price set all of his books in his home state of North Carolina, where he also taught at Duke University for more than fifty years. In his 1991 interview with The Paris Review, Price discussed his process as a writer:

First, my eyes are my primary teachers. And I assume that this is true for a vast percentage of the human race, certainly for the entire sighted portion. For us, the world enters there—it mainly enters my mind through my eyes, and I make of it what I will and can. The granary, the silo—my garnered experience—begins as stored visual observation … I love to watch the world, and that visual experience becomes, in a way I couldn’t begin to chart or describe, the knowledge I possess; that knowledge produces whatever it is that I write. From the very beginning of my serious adult work, when I was a senior in college, my writing has emerged by a process over which I have almost no more conscious control than over the growth of my fingernails.

A prolific author, Price’s career was nearly cut short because of a battle with spinal cancer from 1984 to 1986. The radiation treatments left him paralyzed from the waist down, and he was unable to focus on reading or writing. As he explained in the interview, he was “deeply stunned and then intent in every cell on healing and lasting.” But he quickly regained focus and, in 1986, finished Kate Vaiden, one of his most beloved novels (and for which he was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award). Even in the most trying times, Price believed in his work: “Writing is a fearsome but grand vocation—potentially healing but likewise deadly. I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.”

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Franzentime, Christmastime

December 17, 2010 | by

When Jonathan Franzen appeared on Oprah last week, we were inspired to do a video mash-up of her show. After all, we have our own interview with Franzen in the latest issue. Here's what I put together these last few days. Enjoy, and consider picking up a copy of our winter issue:

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Santa Comes to White Street, Holds Monster Truck Rally, Lorin’s Head Explodes

December 15, 2010 | by

Just in time to launch our December issue—out now!—Santa showed up in the person of longtime Review fan Paul Opperman, plus his friends Aaron Mirman (music), of the Duotone Audio Group, and Todd Stewart (editing), of Consulate Films. They gave us our first video ever! Paul assures us that no drawings or authors were actually harmed in the making of this tribute.

Music is by Paul and Aaron. Monster truck vocals—including Monster Truck Franzen and Monster Truck Erdrich—are by Todd. (“I only do monster truck.”) Footage of Lorin talking was repurposed from the cutting-room floor of Plimpton!, a work in progress by Tom Bean and Luke Poling.

As they say in the advertising business, this is your “call to action”—order now!

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Laura Kipnis and a Theory of Scandal

October 19, 2010 | by

Laura Kipnis is not a scandalous person. The Northwestern Professor of media studies has written five books, received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and is a contributor to Harper’s, Slate, and The New York Times. In her latest book, How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior, she develops a “theory of scandal.” The book does not include the latest tabloid gossip; rather, Kipnis takes an academic approach in understanding the psychology behind stories of people like Linda Tripp and James Frey. I recently interviewed Kipnis in her New York apartment (where I was happy to see a set of The Paris Review interview series on her shelves).

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of writing on the “theory of scandal.” What kind of research did you do for this book?

There’s a currently little-read psychoanalyst named Theodor Reik, a student of Freud’s, who wrote on what he called social masochism, which involves people using society as an instrument of self-punishment, acting things out in public in a way that guarantees some kind of social retribution. I found this incredibly fascinating and useful, since the big question of the book ends up being about self-destruction, about people organizing their own downfalls. Reik isn’t very in fashion anymore, I don’t know why. He’s also written a lot of very counterintuitive stuff on guilt and revenge, which I draw on in a number of the chapters. René Girard’s book on scapegoats was also helpful in thinking about the social dynamics of scandal. What I didn’t find was much on scandal itself that was particularly useful, but that’s also exciting as a writer: You get to invent the terrain. Read More »

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