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Staff Picks: Border Towns, Brylcreem, Backstairs Intrigue

September 23, 2016 | by

Matamoros, Tamaulipas, 1978. © Alex Webb / Magnum Photos, via Aperture.

I’ve long felt that the best recommendations for photographic work come from other photographers. From Aaron Stern and Jordan Sullivan I learned about the work of Alex Webb, who, as luck would have it, has a show of photographs at Aperture right now. On view are Webb’s photographs from Mexico taken between 1975, when Webb was twenty-three, and 2007. He shot the images on the streets, in border towns, but it doesn’t feel right to call this street photography: there’s a theatricality to some of the photographs, but subdued, without the performative pomp of much American street work. One depicts a scene of mourning in which three anguished women are momentarily frozen in classical poses as they lament over a man’s body. Another shows a deserted boulevard of buildings under construction shot from an elevated perspective; the rocky terrain and buildings are mainly white, but in the foreground is a cardboard box from which an array of colorful women’s shoes bloom like a desert flower. There’s a sense of precariousness in many of these photographs, but it’s frequently offset by Webb’s brilliant use of color—acid green, sky blue, dusty rose—which light up each moment like a small celebration. —Nicole Rudick

I recently dove into C. K. Williams’s final collection of poetry, Falling Ill (which will publish posthumously early next year), and I’m in awe of it. As the title implies, it’s an unflinching chronicle of what it’s like to die, from terminal diagnosis—for Williams, the “alliterated appellation” multiple myeloma—to the difficulty of waking, to the things one says to oneself as the illness takes over, things like, Am I still hereCatch your breathAre you ready. Williams writes carefully, matter-of-factly, of death’s crippling seizure: the pops and farts and groans his body makes in defiance of him, the fear that has “outwitted me again / changed its costume sharpened its knives.” The book is slender, with fifty-two poems: one per page, each five stanzas of three lines apiece. Williams voids every poem of commas and periods as if to weave his unself-conscious urgency and unease into the very fibers of the collection. The last poem, “Farewell,” leaves us with these indelible, inconsolable words: “there must be // a way to cry goodbye aloud to leave you / these inadequate thanks without resorting / to rending farewell oh dear heart farewell” —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

Edward Albee, 1928–2016

September 18, 2016 | by

A manuscript page from A Delicate Balance. Click to enlarge.

INTERVIEWER

If one can talk at all about a general reaction to your plays, it is that, as convincing and brilliant as their beginnings and middles might be, the plays tend to let down, change course, or simply puzzle at the end. To one degree or another this complaint has been registered against most of them.

ALBEE

Perhaps because my sense of reality and logic is different from most people’s. The answer could be as simple as that. Some things that make sense to me don’t make the same degree of sense to other people. Analytically, there might be other reasons—that the plays don’t hold together intellectually; that’s possible. But then it mustn’t be forgotten that when people don’t like the way a play ends, they’re likely to blame the play. That’s a possibility too. For example, I don’t feel that catharsis in a play necessarily takes place during the course of a play. Often it should take place afterward. If I’ve been accused a number of times of writing plays where the endings are ambivalent, indeed, that’s the way I find life.

Edward Albee, The Art of Theater No. 4

Chris Bachelder’s The Throwback Special Nominated for National Book Award

September 16, 2016 | by

An illustration by Jason Novak for The Throwback Special.

Earlier this week, we announced that several of our writers have been nominated for this year’s Man Booker Prize, and more still for the National Book Award in poetry. Now we’re thrilled to report that Chris Bachelder’s novel The Throwback Specialwhich was serialized in The Paris Review and won our Terry Southern Prize for Humor this year—has been longlisted for the National Book AwardRead More »

What Our Contributors Are Reading This Fall

September 16, 2016 | by

In place of our staff picks this week, we’ve asked five contributors from our new Fall issue to write about what they’re reading. 

everything-is-cinema

From Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard.

After a long dry spell, my interest in reading renewed recently when I read the opening lines of Rachel Cusk’s forthcoming book, Transit: “An astrologer e-mailed me to say she had important news for me concerning events in my immediate future. She could see things that I could not: my personal details had come into her possession and had allowed her to study the planets for their information. She wished me to know a major transit was due to occur shortly in my sky.” As readers of Outline will know, Cusk absorbs other people’s stories, letting them rest in her mind and retelling them as her own. In one section of Transit, the narrator has a student over to her house. The student is in her late thirties, and has three hundred thousand words of notes about the painter Marsden Hartley, whose work she saw once in Paris. Marsden Hartley and the student are, the student says testily, the same person. After asking a few questions about the student’s research, the narrator asks her what happened the night before she saw the paintings. The next sixteen pages are the story of that night. I admire and envy Rachel Cusk for her maturity and her shameless intelligence, and her coldhearted willingness to steal stories from her students. —Amie Barrodale (“Protectors”)

I’ve been (very slowly) reading and enjoying Richard Brody’s Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard after a recent rewatching of Pierrot le Fou. My girlfriend and I were actually trying to watch a Rohmer movie, but the Internet stream kept cutting out, so we turned to our scattered DVD collection. The low-key charm of Full Moon in Paris gave way to the hyperactive extravagance of Pierrot, and neither of us was at all sure how we felt about the change in tone. We were simultaneously overstimulated and a little bit bored. We wondered how seriously we were supposed to take any of it; somehow it had all made a lot more sense when we first saw it in college. An incident described early on in Everything Is Cinema presages our viewing experience. Before either Godard or Rohmer had made a full-length film, Godard directed All the Boys Are Called Patrick, a short film based on a script of Rohmer’s. “Little in the film suggests that Godard had any particular devotion to the story,” Brody writes. “Eric Rohmer was surprised and dismayed by the changes Godard had wrought upon his script and ended their collaboration.”  —Andrew Martin (“No Cops”)Read More »

Monday: Terry McDonell and Graydon Carter at 92Y

September 14, 2016 | by

Terry McDonell and Graydon Carter.

Join Terry McDonell, president of The Paris Review’s board of directors, next Monday, September 19, at 92Y, as he discusses his new memoir, The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers, with Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. Tickets are available now.

Terry boasts a daunting résumé: he’s worked at Rolling Stone, Newsweek, EsquireSmart, Outside, and Sports Illustrated. The Accidental Life chronicles his career at some of America’s most influential magazines. “Every time I run into Terry McDonell,” Jeffrey Eugenides writes, “I think how great it would be to have dinner with him. Hear about the writers he’s known and edited over the years, what the magazine business was like back then, how it’s changed and where it’s going, inside info about Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Annie Proulx, old New York, and the Swimsuit issue. That dinner is this book.”

Read an excerpt from The Accidental Life about our founding editor, George Plimpton.

In Which Our Writers Do Great Things

September 13, 2016 | by

Detail from the cover of our new Fall issue, doubling here as a celebratory bouquet.

On the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize are two of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize winners, Ottessa Moshfegh and David Szalay. Szalay is nominated for his novel All That Man Is, two sections of which first appeared in the Review: “Youth” and “Lascia Amor E Siegui Marte.” In our last issue, he talked to our editor, Lorin Stein, about writing All That Man Is. The two will convene again for a discussion at McNally Jackson Books on Friday, October 14.

Moshfegh, nominated for her novel Eileen, has published seven short stories in the Review: “Disgust,” from our Fall 2012 issue; “Bettering Myself,” from Spring 2013; “The Weirdos,” from Fall 2013; “A Dark and Winding Road,” from Winter 2013; “Slumming,” from Winter 2014; “No Place for Good People,” from Summer 2014; and “Dancing in the Moonlight,” from Fall 2015.

And Paul Beatty, whose novel The Sellout made the shortlist, discussed the book at length in an interview last year with the Daily.

Meanwhile, the National Book Awards have announced this year’s poetry longlist, and here, too, the Review is well represented: Peter Gizzi has three poems in our Spring 2015 issue and Monica Youn’s “Goldacre” appeared in our Summer 2016 issue; for the Daily, Youn wrote about what she refers to as “my Twinkie poem.” Solmaz Sharif spoke to the Daily this summer about her collectionLook. Finally, our poetry editor from 1953 to 1961, Donald Hall, has been nominated for his Selected Poems.

Our congratulations to all the nominees!