The Daily

Windows on the World

Simon Rowe, Himeji City, Japan

January 16, 2015 | by

Windows on the World is a series on what writers from around the world see from their windows. This is the final entry in the series, which we began in January 2012: it’s Matteo’s sketch for last November’s contest winner, Simon Rowe. Many thanks to Matteo for illustrating so many views over the years. Some of these drawings are now available in his new book, Windows on the World: Fifty Writers, Fifty Views.Simon_RoweTime has gathered Japan’s villages into towns and cities, even turned some into metropolises, but the cho, or neighborhood, remains the heart and soul of the nation.

Mine resembles an overcrowded circuit board with its dense clusters of houses spanning a century in design and its winding pathways, which deliver children to school, businessmen to bus stops, and elderly to their kitchen gardens. This is Kamiono-cho, in Himeji city—where the westward sprawl that begins in Osaka finally runs out of steam.

Bamboo grows as thick as a man’s leg in the forests beyond the neighborhood, lofty and mesmerizing when the valley winds blow. In Autumn, the smell of burning rice chaff reaches through the window, signaling the end of the harvest season and the start of the festivals that celebrate its bounty. Taiko-drum volleys rattle my window, just as the earthquakes do.

Snow dusts the rooftops in winter. Through the opened window, knife-edged winds carry a whiff of Siberia—chilling, yet invigorating. Spring sees cherry blossoms garnish the neighborhood and family picnics mushroom beneath them. Then the blossoms fall, like the brief and beautiful life of a samurai, with the first spring rains. Summer arrives and the window is shut to the whining insects and the suffocating humidity, which descend on the city. The pane rattles once more with the typhoons of late summer; TV antennas waggle on tiled roofs, momentarily lost to the rain.

The old neighborhood, once famous for strawberry growers, is vanishing. Where fruit grew, model houses now stand. Outside them, housewives gather on dusk to chew over the day’s proceedings and await their children’s return from school. Long after dark, the buses will disgorge their tired husbands, who will drift heavy-hearted back to their homes and sleeping families. —Simon Rowe

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Points of View, Points of Origin

November 10, 2014 | by

This essay prefaces Matteo Pericoli’s Windows on the World: Fifty Writers, Fifty Views, out this week. We’ve featured Matteo’s work for years on the Daily, and his sketch of the view from our old office graced the cover of our Summer 2011 issue. To celebrate his new book, we’re offering that issue for only eight dollars, and only until Thanksgiving. We’re also holding a Windows on the World contest—submit a photo of your view and you could win a sketch by Matteo.

Pericoli’s drawing of The Paris Review’s view from our former office on White Street, as seen on the cover of Issue 197.

Can you picture John Kennedy Toole, the author of A Confederacy of Dunces? I can’t. Say his name and I see his hero, Ignatius Reilly. How about Willa Cather? What comes to mind isn’t a person at all—it’s raindrops in New Mexico “exploding with a splash, as if they were hollow and full of air.” What did Barbara Pym look like, or Rex Stout, or Boris Pasternak, or the other writers whose paperbacks filled our parents’ bedside tables? In most cases we have no idea, because until recently, the author photo was relatively rare. You could sell a million copies and still, to those million readers, you’d be a name without a face.

Things are different now. Nearly every first novel comes with a glamour shot, not to mention a publicity campaign on Facebook. The very tweeters have their selfies. We still talk about a writer’s “vision,” but in practice we have turned the lens around, and turned the seer into something seen. Read More »

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Nastia Denisova, St. Petersburg, Russia

February 14, 2014 | by

Nastya_Denisova

I’ve been living here for four months. The center of the city. Fifth floor. I usually look out the window at night, but it’s not exactly a window—it’s the door of a balcony. I can see all the windows of the building opposite mine.

I see how, from a window on the right, they regularly throw out plastic bags of trash onto the roof of the one-story building in the courtyard. But I don’t know from which window, exactly—I follow the bags, and when I shift my gaze to the windows they’re all closed, identical, except for the one that has a piece of green plywood instead of glass.

From a window on the left side of the building, people throw garbage without bags. Brown plastic beer bottles and, for some reason, heaps of metal tops from jars of homemade preserves. I see the man who throws all this from the window of his kitchen, leaning out the window and looking down. He looks down and spits. His cigarette butt has set some dead grass on fire. He spits for a very long time. He goes out and comes back with a bottle of water. He pours down the water. He throws the bottle out.

In the windows of the second floor are the kitchen and the back rooms of a restaurant. They’re always throwing cardboard boxes out the windows. When the boxes start to block the little back courtyard, someone piles them up and they disappear. In the winter, covered in snow, the boxes become monolithic, angular snow architecture. And if you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t be able to say what they are.

From the window opposite me, cheerful teenagers fling DVDs. Maybe it’s a dorm room. Are they using them like throwing stars, or just tossing DVDs out the window? Have they noticed me? Two discs land on the balcony, through the door that I’ve been watching. Someone has drawn large, colorful butterflies on their surface. —Nastia Denisova

Translated from the Russian by Sophie Pinkham.

 

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Lysley Tenorio, New York, New York

January 17, 2014 | by

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

Lysley Tenorio (the Standard)

From room 1006 at the Standard, East Village, you see a white-faced clock overlooking a small triangular park. A sea-green dome ringed with small arched windows is partly blocked by a boxy rectangular building, faded and plain except for the cross on its south-facing wall. On the rooftop hangs a single line of laundry. Straight ahead is a building, wide and blank as a wall, that nobody seems to enter or exit.

If you don’t live in New York, you might not know the names of these buildings or their significance, how they function in the city, what they mean to its people. But this is the gift of being somewhere new, in a place that will never be home. Everything is defined by your first impressions. That sea-green dome, so out of place and time, might house things both ancient and futuristic—rusted astrolabes on the shelves, side by side with next generation iPads. The crucifix could be the final remnant of a failed church, the original cathedral demolished decades ago, replaced by a building full of a thousand cubicles. That white-faced clock, the brightest thing at night, may very well be the front of a crime-fighter’s headquarters or a supervillain’s lair. That line of laundry, winter-damp and flapping—those are the clothes of a dead man who had no loved ones left behind to gather them. And directly across, that building is lifeless as ever, but someone is inside, waiting to be glimpsed, you’re sure of it. All you need to do is wait. —Lysley Tenorio

Lysley Tenorio is currently the Paris Review Writer-in-Residence at the Standard, East Village.

 

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Taiye Selasi, Rome, Italy

October 4, 2013 | by

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

Taiye_Selasi

This summer I wrote my first ever article in Italian, considering why the Eternal City lures so many expat authors. In my limited Italian, I proposed three reasons—the beauty, the warmth, the un-ambitiousness—all of which come to mind when gazing at this view. When the sun begins to slip behind the gilded greens of the Janiculum, I’ll stare at the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, breathless every time. The sheer beauty of this ancient city—the scale of its churches, the density of its trees, the pastels of its facades, the voluptuousness of its clouds—is on full display from here.

My watch is the clock atop the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, adding its chimes to the cheerful din of chatter, car horns, laughter. There’s never a dull moment in the Piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere; one can sense as much as hear the joy of social gathering. But it is Rome’s imperfection that I find so beguiling, an invitation to play: seagulls squawking, nonne bickering, paint chipping from the walls. —Taiye Selasi

 

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Lidija Dimkovska, Skopje, Macedonia

September 6, 2013 | by

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

Lidija_Dimkovska

My late childhood and entire youth window. I began to write in front of this view, and while I am here, I still do, at a low, small table. On a typewriter then, on a laptop now, but preferably in a small notebook with lines.

I look outside often; the pictures have become very familiar. Two brothers used to live in the building with their families and their old mother, a small, tiny woman in black who always was screaming at her grandchildren, often beating them or running after them. They also were screaming, and that noise was present in the air until the parents would come home from work. Later, I found out that they moved the grandma from the first floor to the cellar, where she died. One of her daughter-in-laws was Serbian; once, the Serbian woman sent me and my friends to the shop to buy her a special orange juice, Fructal. She opened it, and for the first time in my life I tried this juice that my family could not afford.

The roof of the building was always in my view. In the mornings a stork would come to the chimney on the roof and look through my window. We looked each other in the eyes, and we understood each other. He was my sky, I was his earth’s friend. It was impossible not to write. —Lidija Dimkovska

 

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