Video & Multimedia
May 27, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
It’s John Cheever’s birthday, and courtesy of 92Y, you can listen to a recording of the author reading his most famous story, “The Swimmer,” in December 1977. It’s easy to shrug off such a canonical piece of fiction, especially when its hero is named Neddy. But if you, like me, haven’t glanced at it since it appeared on one syllabus or another, “The Swimmer” is worth rereading; though its more surreal elements feel contrived to me, the prose still glitters and the dark humor survives:
It would storm. The stand of cumulus cloud—that city—had risen and darkened, and while he sat there he heard the percussiveness of thunder again. The de Haviland trainer was still circling overhead and it seemed to Ned that he could almost hear the pilot laugh with pleasure in the afternoon; but when there was another peal of thunder he took off for home. A train whistle blew and he wondered what time it had gotten to be. Four? Five? He thought of the provincial station at that hour, where a waiter, his tuxedo concealed by a raincoat, a dwarf with some ﬂowers wrapped in newspaper, and a woman who had been crying would be waiting for the local.
I hadn’t known, though Google suggests it’s common knowledge, that “The Swimmer” was adapted into a feature-length film, released in 1968, starring Burt Lancaster as Neddy. According to a thorough assessment at Turner Classic Movies, The Swimmer succeeds in adapting the unadaptable:
It succeeds brilliantly as a fascinating, enigmatic drama that ponders middle-age disillusionment and failure. It’s one of those lucky accidents that occurred in the sixties when Hollywood was still open to experimentation because most studio executives were completely insecure in predicting commercial hits. After all, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate (both 1967) had blindsided the industry with their unexpected box-office grosses. So maybe audiences were ready for more challenging films like The Swimmer? Unfortunately, the film was a box-office flop, but part of its commercial failure was due to poor marketing by Columbia.
May 8, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Today is Thomas Pynchon’s birthday. His fans have also declared it Pynchon in Public Day, a social-media tribute with a modest concept: take to the streets with your camera and post photos of “horns, W.A.S.T.E. insignia, [and] the novels of Thomas Pynchon read unashamedly on trains, while still sub-rosa. It is simple, it is inevitable, it has begun.”
And so it has: Twitter teems with shadowy portraits of those Awaiting Silent Trystero’s Empire. If you’re not about to draw a muted post-horn in a public restroom, you can celebrate Pynchon in Public Day by revisiting this CNN report from 1997, when, upon the release of Mason & Dixon, the cable-news pooh-bahs determined to track him down—his privacy was simply too inscrutable to ignore. Being CNN, they found him, but he prevailed upon them to refrain from identifying him on camera; he appeared as one among the crowds of New York. Read More »
February 6, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Many thanks to Ed Summers, who writes code for libraries—the Library of Congress among them—and who has generated this impressive visualization of authors, their Paris Review interviews, and their links to one another. More specifically, this charts the way our interviews interact with Wikipedia—that is, which Wikipedia articles cite our interviews. As you can see, it’s … complicated.
Ed has written about his methods here. Apparently all but forty of our interviews are linked to Wikipedia in some capacity. From this I can only infer that we’re headed inexorably toward a state of total Internet domination, and that anyone who stands in our way will be crushed under the weight of our burgeoning link-connection-web-computer-sphere-thing.
January 29, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
While we’re on the subject of the Florida Keys, here’s Annie Dillard, Laurent de Brunhoff, Robert D. Richardson Jr., and Phyllis Rose singing the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” in Key West, circa 1995. If the sheer infectiousness of Dillard’s dancing doesn’t get you, maybe the nineties-era video effects will. This is Rising Star Video Karaoke, after all—not amateur hour.
December 23, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Herewith, Benedict Cumberbatch reads John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.”