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From the Archive

“Snow Is a Hat Worn By Mountains”

February 13, 2014 | by

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Some might suggest that for a literary blog to feature three snow-related posts in a day is excessive. Well, tough. The weather has always been a great common denominator. And to our credit, we’ve refrained from calling this “Winter Storm Pax” or “the snowpocalypse.” We have standards.

Here, then, are seven poems from our archives fit for a snowy night. I won’t claim they’ll warm or comfort you—they’re poems, not pap—but they’re terrific reads, and they will be of some help. Next time you share an elevator with a distant colleague, you’ll use the weather as a conversational crutch, as one does; but instead of saying, “Man, it’s cold out!” you’ll say, “Snow is a hat worn by mountains.” You’ll make a lasting impression.

Note, too, that the majority of these poems were published in the spring or summer: a reminder that what’s unendurable now will be desirable in a few months’ time.

Debora Greger, “To the Snow” (from The Paris Review No. 154, Spring 2000)

Snow, let go. It’s late,
You are cornmush. You are cold.
Let me cover you with this white sheet.
No one will know.

Agha Shahid Ali, “Snow on the Desert” (from No. 107, Summer 1988)

the sliding doors of the fog were opened,
and the snow, which had fallen all night, now
sun-dazzled, blinded us, the earth whitened

out, as if by cocaine, the desert’s plants,
its mineral-hard colors extinguished,
wine frozen in the veins of the cactus.

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Hear Chinua Achebe Discuss Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014 | by

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Achebe at the fiftieth anniversary of Things Fall Apart. Photo: Angela Radulescu

Last week we brought to light a few videos of George Plimpton we’d found on the original version of our Web site, circa 1996. Today we have another highly apropos discovery from those days: audio from an unused portion of the Art of Fiction No. 139, an interview with Chinua Achebe conducted for our Winter 1994 issue. In this clip, Achebe, who died last year, discusses the legacy of none other than Martin Luther King Jr. A transcript follows:

Yes, I think certainly, in my view, that Martin Luther King is an ancestor. And although he died at the age of thirty-nine, this is something we do not often remember: how young he was when he was cut down. But his achievement was such that some who lived to be a hundred didn’t achieve half as much. So he does deserve that status, that standing. If he were in my country, he would be worshipped … I did not meet him, unfortunately, and I think one of the reasons was what I have just said: that he died too young. He was thirty-nine. Gandhi, with whom he is often compared, had not even returned to India at thirty-nine; he was still studying. We are thinking not about a sportsman, who can achieve his peak at eighteen; we are thinking of a philosopher, a thinker, who had to mature into action. I have been lucky in the past few years to be invited, again and again, to speak on his day—two years ago at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and then last year at the Smithsonian, so I’ve become something of an expert on Martin Luther King.

 

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A Few Exits Back on the Information Superhighway

January 16, 2014 | by

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Thanks to the unflagging efforts of Archive.org’s Wayback Machine—which has had, since 1996, the unenviable task of preserving as much of the Internet as possible—we recently exhumed the original version of our Web site. Better still, we rediscovered these two videos of our late founding editor, George Plimpton. In the grainy, hypercompressed format that marked mankind’s earliest forays into digital recording, he helpfully explains where you are and what you might do here.

These were the days of 28.8k modems, of CompuServe and Netscape, when the word multimedia carried a frisson of ultramodern potential. As you watch, you can practically hear the bleat and drone of the dial-up connection. That’s technology, baby. These videos are not high definition. They are virtual fossils. Handle them with care. Read More »

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New York, Not Too Long Ago

November 29, 2012 | by

I hadn’t seen Jake since years ago, when we had met at the Guggenheim before going away to college. I remember only one scene from the encounter: spinning around the museum’s spiraling staircase with our arms spread like wings. When we reached the ground floor, we ran out as fast as we could before anyone could have a word with us about our behavior. I don’t recall talking about France, because I don’t think we really did. I remember just twirling with abandon. He had been the only one to understand my kind of crazy. I wouldn’t see him again for five years.

Our second meeting was in Manhattan at the Odeon restaurant. Jake looked the same as he had in France, though a little taller, a little more handsome, but the same sandy hair and flashing eyes. Except more than ten years of maturity had lent him the calm that had eluded us both back then. He seemed at ease with himself and happy with his work in filmmaking. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t appreciated his attention as much as I should have when we were young, which meant I’d grown up as well. Instead of fixating romantically on Raees, I should have accepted and cultivated my friendship with Jake—that’s really all it was. Raees was no longer tall and he was an art dealer, having left behind dreams of working in cinema.

“If you’d have asked me then what you’d end up, I thought you’d be a hippie, a free spirit poet,” Jake said as he picked apart a piece of bread. “You were like a flower child obsessed with butterflies1—you had this really funny handwriting and drew insects on everything. You had a very beautiful spirit. You were strange, but it didn’t really bother me. I thought it was endearing. You weren’t like the other girls, and they definitely didn’t like you.” He laughed. “Sorry. You know what I mean. It seems as though you’re doing well now.”

“Thank you.”

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Annotations

  1. Just as Egyptian tombs and medieval catacombs were ravaged for treasure, butterflies are also victims of contemporary black market smugglers like Hisayoshi Kojima, the Japanese-born king of a vast multimillion-dollar ring of insect poachers. They were two Queen Alexandra’s Bird-wing butterflies ordered by an undercover agent that led to Kojima’s eventual capture. The species is the largest in the world, with a yellow body and mint-and-black-colored wings sometimes reaching almost a foot in width.

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The Making of Plimpton!

June 21, 2012 | by

Luke Poling and Tom Bean have been hard at work at their documentary Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself. The film makes its world premiere tonight, at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Washington, D.C. We asked Tom and Luke to share their favorite photographs of our founding editor as well as their own memories of creating the documentary.

The Parties

This photo perfectly captures the vibe of the infamous parties at George’s apartment. Hanging out in this one room are George’s fellow Paris Review cofounders Peter Matthiessen and Doc Humes, longtime friends William Styron and Terry Southern, and an impressive list of writers and filmmakers, including Ralph Ellison, Gore Vidal, Sydney Lumet, Mario Puzo, and, in the center of it all, Truman Capote.

Every time we went by the apartment to update Sarah Plimpton on our progress, we couldn’t help but look up from the sofa and chairs we were sitting on and think, The people this room has seen …

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Happy Birthday R. Crumb

August 30, 2010 | by

In honor of R. Crumb's birthday today, here are a few of my favorite outtakes from his interview, the first Art of Comics, which appears in our summer issue, still on newsstands. Interviewer Ted Widmer asks Crumb how he feels about publishing hardcover books:

INTERVIEWER

You’ve taken what was a medium of thirty pages of flimsy, low quality paper with a paper cover and now you’ve conquered the hardcover book format.

CRUMB

Reluctantly. I love the old, cheap comic book format so much because the format itself is a statement. It keeps you from becoming too pretentious. I like that about it. Keep it cheap and low-grade, the format, keep it cheap and accessible and then you’re not required to be overly artistic or have overly deep, profound meaning or whatever, you know, all that stuff that can make you very self-conscious. I got reluctantly dragged into hardcover books.

INTERVIEWER

But I think your fans are happy that those hardcover books exist because you would have to be a maniacal collector to get all of your stuff otherwise. It’s basically impossible to find back issues of The East Village Other, but for hardly any money you can buy The R. Crumb Handbook and see your greatest hits.

CRUMB

Yeah, that’s true. And also, the whole context of cheaply produced comic books is gone, basically. All those newsstands, that kind of distribution is gone.

In June we posted a slideshow of Crumb self-portraits. My favorite is the one where he's squinching up his nose to keep his glasses on his face.

I love Crumb's answer to Widmer about his next projects:

INTERVIEWER

Do you see a sequence of more literary stories coming out? You’ve done some Samuel Johnson, Philip K. Dick.

CRUMB

The classics illustrated. I did a sequence from Nausea by Sartre a couple of years ago. I did a couple of other things like that. I have lots of ideas about stuff like that but there’s always so much work in it, it’s so time consuming. I’m getting old, you know.

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