May 6, 2014 | by John Jeremiah Sullivan
At our Spring Revel last month, John Jeremiah Sullivan presented the Hadada Award to Frederick Seidel. Sullivan’s remarks follow, along with three of Seidel’s poems, which were read aloud that night: “Downtown,” read by Zadie Smith; “Frederick Seidel,” read by Martin Amis; and “The Night Sky,” read by Uma Thurman.
As a kind of offsite, ersatz staff member at The Paris Review, I claim the pleasure both of thanking you all for your presence here, and of thanking everyone at the Review—Lorin, and the board, and my colleagues there—for giving me the honor of announcing this award. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word honor in a less glib manner.
When you are in your twenties and living in the city, or any city, or anywhere, and trying to write, there are poets whose work will come to mean something to you beyond pleasure, beyond even whatever we have in mind when we use the word inspiration, and into the arena of survival, into what the poet whose work we are celebrating tonight describes as the “what will save you factor.”
When I was in my twenties and living in New York, the poet who came to mean that for me and a lot of the other younger writers and editors I knew was one named Frederick Seidel, a poet who had come, like another we’d heard about, from St. Louis via Harvard, and from there, via everywhere. Read More »
April 11, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
We’re still recovering from Tuesday’s Revel, where some five hundred people gathered to honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award, presented by John Jeremiah Sullivan. Lydia Davis presented Emma Cline with the Plimpton Prize for Fiction; Roz Chast presented the Terry Southern Prize for Humor to Ben Lerner; and Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, and Uma Thurman all read from Seidel’s work. We could say a good time was had by all, but why not let the pictures tell the tale? It was a spectacular evening. You can read accounts of the fun from Page Six, Women’s Wear Daily, and Guest of a Guest. Be sure to take a look at all the photos here, too. See you next year!
Photos by Clint Spaulding / © Patrick McMullan / PatrickMcMullan.com
April 16, 2013 | by Jeffrey Eugenides
Every year, at our Spring Revel, we give three honors: the Hadada Prize, the Plimpton Prize, and the Terry Southern Prize. This year, Jeffrey Eugenides presented the Plimpton Prize to Ottessa Moshfegh.
The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 prize awarded to an author who made his or her debut in our pages in the previous year. Moshfegh had two stories in the Review: “Disgust” (issue 202) and “Bettering Myself” (issue 204).
Nothing is harder for a writer than getting published for the first time. The road from the bypass to the byline is paved with misery. In fact, it’s not even paved—that’s the problem: you’re stuck knee-deep in a bog, and no one cares if you ever get out.
Of equal difficulty, on the other side of the equation, is the task of finding an unknown writer. Reading through the slush pile is like looking for tigers in the jungle: they’re camouflaged not only by their stripes but their surroundings. An editor has to be unflaggingly alert and discerning, alive to any perceptible movement in the shadows. Read More »
April 15, 2013 | by John Hodgman
Every year, at our Spring Revel, we give three honors: the Hadada Prize, the Plimpton Prize, and the Terry Southern Prize. This year, John Hodgman of the New York Times Magazine, the Daily Show, and those Mac ads presented the Southern Prize to J. D. Daniels.
Like the other two honors, the Southern Prize is chosen by our board. Unlike those, it recognizes writing in both The Paris Review and The Paris Review Daily. Click here to see Daniels’s latest piece from the magazine and here for his Web archive.
My name is John Hodgman. It’s my pleasure tonight to hand over this B-52 model airplane, which represents the Terry Southern Prize, awarded each year along with $5,000 to honor work from The Paris Review that embodies the qualities of humor, wit, and sprezzatura, which sounds like a word Lorin Stein made up and put into the Wikipedia to describe himself—an artful nonchalant, carrying himself with a a cared-for carelessness.
They’re dispatches, and they feel that way, dashed off travelogues from corners of globe and memory, full of crafty rambling and quick jumps from his current home in the fancy eastern edge of Massachusetts to his first home in Kentucky, where J. D. counts out the strip malls and storefront churches and ghosts of bars lovingly like animals climbing aboard a blighted ark, to the vomit-slicked deck of an actual boat at sea, a pilgrimage he takes to leave both homes behind to fight it out while he watches Ibiza burn up in a wildfire.
And it may seem that in all this sprezzatura that his work is a little nonchalant; you don’t know what all these little flash narratives add up to, but then you’ll get one moment: a memory, say, of Daniels being strangled by his own father, whom he still loves, and the running from and returning to that moment, which he’s done ever since; you see a narrative flash like lightning, spreading quick blue light for a moment over the whole shadowy, tortured territory.
It doesn’t sound very funny, and it’s not very funny. Unless you count the part where J. D. Daniels gets strangled by his own father, which is hilarious; we know this from The Simpsons. And if you’re wondering why he’s getting the Terry Southern Prize for Humor it is because, like Southern, his work is sly, and wicked, and playful, and, most of all, it’s true.
People ask me why is the Daily Show funny and I usually say it’s because of the jokes. Because explaining humor is neither funny, fun, nor possible. But some jokes always work because they break taboos. That’s why dirty jokes work, as Albert Brooks discovered opening for Richie Havens; there’s one word you can say into a microphone that will always win over one thousand drunk Texan Richie Havens fans who hate you, and that word is a miracle word, and that word is shit. But when it comes to the Daily Show, and J. D. Daniels too, the greatest taboo-breaking is simply to say what is true, plainly, and without apology. That joke always works, even when it’s no joke. J. D. Daniels’s letters know intimately that space between the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves when we’re sitting on a bar, and the queasy, daylit truth that awaits us once we are kicked outside into the afternoon sun.
In a recent posting to The Paris Review Daily he wrote, “We know what comedy is: life is increased. Think of Rodney Dangerfield addressing the crowd at the end of Caddyshack: ‘Hey, everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!’” [Dirty joke.] And we know what tragedy is: isolation increases. I used to think that life was about winning everything, Mike Tyson once said, but now I know that life is about losing everything.”
So J. D. Daniels is a plain good writer, but not like every good writer, he is clear, he is also a very funny guy. And when he doesn’t make you laugh, it’s on purpose, and when he does, that’s on purpose, too. What better definition of humor is there?
So it’s my pleasure to offer the Terry Southern Prize to J. D. Daniels of Kentucky, Massachusetts, and the world. Congratulations, to him and to us all.
We’re all going to get laid.
April 8, 2013 | by Clare Fentress
It’s a busy time here at The Paris Review. Tomorrow is our annual gala, the Spring Revel, and in two weeks, we move our little office from the Tribeca loft that has been our home for the past eight years to a new space in Chelsea. Boxes are piled high; loose books and papers are strewn about; scissors and tape will not stay in the same place.
Last week, we were clearing a bookshelf of its contents and came across a batch of small, white booklets. The Paris Review: Twenty Year Index, Issues 1–56, they were titled; they appeared to be lists of everything that had been published during the magazine’s first twenty-three years, and were put aside for recycling. Flipping through them later, we realized that the booklets also contained an introduction by George Plimpton, a founder of the magazine and its editor for the first fifty years of its history.
A minihistory of the Review, full of forgotten anecdotes and remembrances, the introduction is particularly poignant as we prepare for these two (for us) significant events. George recalls early offices of the magazine, angering Ernest Hemingway with brash interview questions, the many volunteers who flocked to the Review and gave a fledgling publication a boost. He writes of raucous Revels past: “The Revels were memorable affairs, with so much effort spent by staff members in entertaining the guests that very often the fund-raising aspects of the events were forgotten. The extravaganza on Welfare Island (although 750 people turned up) actually lost money—and primarily because a piano was left out in a glade and was ruined in a post-party rain squall.”
Here’s to a Revel that’s just as fun, but minus the rain.
An Index is simply a statistical compilation which does not suggest the quality of the material listed, or the critical standards that guided its selection. It can only record the appearance, not the gist, of William Styron’s introductory “letter” which set forth the magazine’s principles in the first pages of the first issue—a letter addressed to John P. C. Train, the managing editor, who in questioning Styron’s manifesto elicited a reply which turned out to be lively and pertinent and a considerable improvement on the original document.
An Index can list the people who have worked for the magazine, but it cannot acknowledge their individual contributions. Their number has been vast. The Paris Review has traditionally published a masthead longer by far than Fortune magazine’s. Indeed, so many volunteers turned up to help in the early days that the managing editor referred to the females by the collective name of “Apotheker” (Joan Apotheker … Mary Apo …)—from the German for “druggist,” which he apparently thought appropriate. Their male counterparts were referred to as “Musinskys”—named after the first of their breed who came to work for a Paris summer. Read More »