November 26, 2015 | by The Paris Review
Call yourself a foodie? Put down that cider-brined drumstick and order your copy of our Winter issue, including our Art of Nonfiction interview with Jane and Michael Stern, whose pioneering Roadfood first got Americans thinking about regional cuisine:
Our grand idea was to review every restaurant in America, which seemed like a really easy thing to do, considering neither of us had ever been anywhere … We just opened a Rand McNally map and said, Piece of cake. Three years later, we were still on the road.
Then there’s our interview with Gordon Lish, in which the editor of Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Joy Williams, Barry Hannah, and Harold Brodkey explains how he’s able to tell “shit from Shinola”:
I’ve got the fucking gift for it. Instinct, call it … I don’t go along—but am furious when others don’t go along with me. How can they not revere what I revere? How is it that my gods are invisible to them? It’s inexcusable but, of course, wretchedly expectable. Am I a zealot, a terrorist, out on my own limb? Yes, with a vengeance!
You’ll also find lost translations from Samuel Beckett; new translations by Lydia Davis; new fiction from Lydia Davis, Nell Freudenberger, Andrew Martin, Christopher Sorrentino, and David Szalay; the third installment of Chris Bachelder’s comic masterpiece The Throwback Special; poems by Anne Carson, Henri Cole, Jeff Dolven, Mark Ford, Kenneth Irby, Maureen N. McLane, Sharon Olds, and Jana Prikryl; and a portfolio of Richard Diebenkorn’s sketchbooks.
Get your copy now. And remember that a subscription to The Paris Review makes a great gift—especially when it comes with a free copy of our new anthology, The Unprofessionals. At just $40, it’s the best holiday deal around.
November 20, 2015 | by The Paris Review
Two days ago I gathered up a big stack of submissions to read over lunch … but I also took our brand-new office copy of Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Just in case I ran out of stuff to read, was my ridiculous thinking. The next time I looked up, an hour later, I was late for a meeting and deep in the heart of the Catiline conspiracy, and hadn’t even asked for the check, or looked at a single short story. I’ve promised myself I won’t open the book again until Thanksgiving. —Lorin Stein
In 1917, a Yale professor of public speaking named Grenville Kleiser published Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases: A Practical Handbook of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, and Oratorical Terms, for the Embellishment of Speech and Literature, and the Improvement of the Vocabulary of Those Persons Who Read, Write, and Speak English. I’m about two thousand useful phrases in, and let me tell you, this thing moves. It reads like an epic poem written in concert at the stuffiest dinner party in New Haven history. Of especial utility is section seven, on “Literary Expressions,” full of well-wrought piffle fit for the impending holiday-party season. You’ll want to commit “A campaign of unbridled ferocity” to memory. And “The nameless and inexpressible fascination of midnight music.” And “She bandies adjectives with the best.” And “A shadow of melancholy touched her lithe fancies, as a cloud dims the waving of golden grain”—plenty of occasions to put that one to good use. And (last one, I promise, though I’m going to have to devote a whole post to these some day) “The multiplicity of odors competing for your attention.” With these and roughly 14,995 other phrases at your disposal, you’ll be able to aggravate and annoy even your closest friends. —Dan Piepenbring Read More »
November 13, 2015 | by The Paris Review
Sleep doesn’t always come easy for me, so I was drawn to Linda Pastan’s new collection of poems just from its title: Insomnia. Pastan muses on the daydreams the sleepless have at night, the small histories that emerge as each day wanes. Her narrators sit up wishing their gnarled skin was as beautiful as an apple tree’s, or remembering the “fascinated nightmares” the woodcut novels of Lynd Ward inspired. They think about Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve and the poet Roland Flint and the way asteroids resemble giant brains plucked from their skulls. Though the title suggests otherwise, Pastan writes oneirically, knitting gentle verse together with playful, if often somber, scenes. In “Counting Sheep,” Pastan writes of how restless the sheep are, waiting to be added up: “I notice a ram / pushing up against a soft and curly female … It’s difficult / to keep so many sheep / in line for counting ... ” In “Insomnia: 3 AM,” “Sleep has stepped out / for a smoke / and may not be back”—I just love that. —Caitlin Youngquist
Jim Shaw’s “The End Is Here” is up through January 10 at the New Museum: three floors chockablock with thrift-store paintings, extreme Christian ephemera, and Shaw’s own distinctly outré drawings, paintings, and collages. J. Hoberman is right when he notes that “although [Shaw’s] obsessive faux naïve work dares you to find it creepy, it is more often strangely cheerful, as well as enigmatic.” This holds true no matter how outrageous his images are: two aliens fucking on a UFO flight deck, Santa getting his dick bitten off. This is a world where even an exsanguinated penis is just a lark; Freudians need not apply. The collected stuff compels, too—from junk piles and yard sales, Shaw has compiled some significant American detritus, and his arrangements make it all more cohesive than you’d expect. Even the titles for his dream drawings come to seem inevitable: “I was drawing a Pepsi sex float … ” “In Reno there was a Titanic mockup where a girl … ” “I think I was half awake when I thought of this upright piano modeled after the cave monster from It Conquered the World … ” —Dan Piepenbring Read More »
November 6, 2015 | by The Paris Review
The banker and poet Samuel Rogers (1763–1855) spent his life at the center of political and literary London. He knew everyone (both Wordsworth and Tennyson borrowed his court suit for royal occasions), and like the Brothers Goncourt—or a Regency Renata Adler—he had a nightly habit of writing up his dinner conversations. As Christopher Ricks observes in a preface to Rogers’s Table-Talk & Recollections, Rogers loved to repeat other people’s gossip. But he loved to record their quirks and sayings, too. Of the Whig leader Charles James Fox, for example: “Very candid—Retracts instantly—continually putting wood on the fire.” “He loves children.” “Josephine a very pleasing woman.” Most interesting for me are the private literary opinions of Rogers’s powerful friends, who talk about Milton, Pope, and the classics very much in the tone of late-night Dylanologists two centuries later, and at the same passionate level of detail. —Lorin Stein
While this may be remembered as the week virtual reality went mainstream, I found myself absorbed in a more time-tested medium—a portfolio of photographs, “Weather Man,” by Evgenia Arbugaeva. Arbugaeva, who grew up in the Russian Arctic, spent several weeks visiting a remote meteorological station in Khodovarikha, one in which data on wind speed, precipitation, visibility, water levels, and the like are still measured and recorded by hand—by Vyacheslav “Slava” Korotki, the station’s resident meteorologist. Slava lives and works in isolation, in a station built in, and by all measures still reminiscent of, 1933. Says Arbugaeva (and so her photos attest): “He doesn’t have a sense of self the way most people do. It’s as if he were the wind, or the weather itself.” —Stephen Andrew Hiltner Read More »
October 30, 2015 | by The Paris Review
Last Halloween we recommended some things that scared us. But there are many such things—we’re easily frightened—so this year we’re doing it again. Stay spooky.
In college, I took a seminar about female Surrealist artists—Remedios Varo, Unica Zürn, Claude Cahun, and Dorothea Tanning, et al. Many of these women’s life stories were harrowing, and their artwork, which often mines frightening psychological territory, is dark, humorous, visionary, and uncanny. It still creeps me out. Dorothea Tanning’s paintings, for instance, are full of tattered clothing and deserted hallways. They’re haunted by somnambulant young girls and oddly sentient sunflowers. Her painting Guardian Angels scares me whenever I look at it: strange, ragged, winged creatures that look like vicious, plucked chickens swirl and tear at each other, rippling with some obscene energy. Later in life, Tanning made forays into sculpture, fashioning soft, upholstered structures that ooze across the boundary between furniture and human figure. My favorite work of Tanning’s is The Birthday, a self-portrait in which she has painted herself stepping through an open door into a corridor that’s full of other doorways. A monster—sort of like one of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz—huddles, couchant, at her feet, and her expression is otherworldly. Is she letting this beast in or sending him across another threshold? —Hannah LeClair Read More »
October 23, 2015 | by The Paris Review
Before The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, or Blue Sunshine, there was Mischief, Charlotte Armstrong’s 1950 suspense novel and home of the original psychotic babysitter. The story, newly reissued in Sarah Weinman’s anthology Women Crime Writers, follows an out-of-town couple in a Manhattan hotel; for a night out on the town, they leave their only daughter in the care of a meek woman who knows the elevator guy. (Good help is so hard to find.) From there things go quickly south. Armstrong’s fixation on social mores, on the subtle ways we pay obesiance to convention, reminds me of John O’Hara—Mischief’s crazy sitter has an implacable ennui that would put her right at home in the pages of Appointment in Samarra. Her violence is motivated by sheer boredom, and her psychology makes the novel eerily effective, even in its clunkier moments: Armstrong tapped into postwar fears about class and belonging in a new and terrifying way. Two years later the book was adapted in Don’t Bother to Knock, with Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark; “The female race,” says the latter, “is always cheesing up my life!” —Dan Piepenbring
In The Act of Killing, a 2012 documentary, the directors Joshua Oppenheimer and Christine Cynn travel to Medan, Indonesia, where they film the feared and vaunted Anwar Congo, Adi Zulkadry, and Herman Koto: deified “gangsters” of the paramilitary Pancasila youth. Congo and co. are family men, cinephiles, and mass murderers who have never faced punishment for their crimes. They’re invited by Oppenheimer and Cynn to make a film about their contribution to the mass killings of 1965–1966, in which a million alleged communists lost their lives. In it they dramatize their “glory days,” abiding by their favorite Hollywood tropes (gangster, western, musical). In one scene, on a rooftop, Congo explains his preferred method of killing: strangulation by wire. In another, we watch him gently admonish his two grandsons for treating some backyard chicklets with too rough a touch. As the camera rolls on, we see Congo’s defenses against remorse and self-disgust erode. Watching these scenes you sense him begging for his comeuppance—“I’m always gazed at by those eyes I didn’t close”—but a full admission of guilt is slow to arrive. It’s probably best to take this one in over several viewings, with a bottle of something strong nearby. Then watch The Look of Silence. —Joshua Maserow Read More »