The Daily

My First Time

Introducing Our New Video Series, “My First Time”

May 21, 2015 | by

The Paris Review is known for its interviews. Our first issue, from Spring 1953, featured a conversation with E. M. Forster on the art of fiction, inaugurating a series that’s grown to include hundreds of poets, novelists, playwrights, translators, cartoonists, and screenwriters. These Writers at Work interviews have created a genre and canon of their own.

In the spirit of that tradition, we’re proud to present “My First Time,” a new video series where writers discuss the trials of writing and publishing that first novel, that first play, that first book of poems. This is a chance to see how successful authors got their start, in their own words—it’s the portrait of the artist as a beginner and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.

Next week, starting on Tuesday, we’ll launch the first four videos in the series, featuring Christine Schutt, J. Robert Lennon, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Gabrielle Bell. You can see a preview above, including writers from future installments of the series such as Donald Antrim, Akhil Sharma, Tao Lin, Ben Lerner, and Sheila Heti. And stay tuned—we’ll announce more writers in the months to come.

This series is made by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling; we’re delighted to collaborate with them.

On the Shelf

This Kid’s Got the Touch, and Other News

May 21, 2015 | by

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Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Anima dannata (Damned Soul), ca. 1619.

  • Among the titles on Osama bin Laden’s bookshelf: Bloodlines of the Illuminati, Secrets of the Federal Reserve, an Adobe Acrobat manual, Noam Chomsky.
  • Archivists at the University of Michigan have found fragments of Orson Welles’s unfinished autobiography; the working title was Confessions of a One-Man Band. This is a watershed moment not just historians of cinema, but for historians of amateur illusionism: “The unfinished memoir … was interspersed with other ‘weird stuff’ … including scripted patter for magic acts that Welles performed.”
  • Further proof that your ambitions are too modest and you’ll never amount to anything: “In 1619, at the ripe age of twenty, Gian Lorenzo Bernini set himself the seemingly impossible challenge of carving the human soul in marble … Bernini was precocious, authoritative, and versatile: he had the touch no matter what he put his hand to. He could make limp swags of drapery swirl and throb as if some sort of lifeblood ran through them.”
  • You know who else had the touch? Bob Seger, when he wrote “Night Moves,” which took him six months: “We drove over to the Palm restaurant, where Bruce Wendell [Seger’s label’s head of promotions] was having lunch with Paul Drew, who programmed all the RKO Top 40 radio stations in the country … He came out to the car and we played it for him. Two and a half minutes into it, he said, ‘That’s a smash.’ ”
  • Tired of visualizing history with the same old boring timelines? Of course you are! Sebastian C. Adams’s Synchronological Chart of Universal History will shift your paradigm. It “outlines the evolution of mankind from Adam and Eve to 1871, the year of its first edition. The original timeline … stretched to twenty-three feet in length and was designed for schoolhouses as a one-stop shop for all of history.”

Bulletin

New on the Masthead: Susannah Hunnewell and Adam Thirlwell

May 20, 2015 | by

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Susannah Hunnewell. Photo: Stephen Andrew Hiltner

Adam Thirlwell

Adam Thirlwell. Photo: Eamon McCabe

Starting with our Summer Issue, the novelist and critic Adam Thirlwell will join The Paris Review as London editor—our first in ten years. In that time, we’ve been admiring Adam’s fiction and criticism, as well as his editorial work for McSweeney’s. (In 2010, we sent him to interview Václav Havel, alas too late.) We’re not the only ones, of course. Granta chose him as one of its best young British novelists—twice—and he was recently chosen by Salman Rushdie and Colm Tóibín for the E. M. Forster Award, given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters to a young British writer. Despite his much-belaureled youth, Adam is the author of three novels and a study of cross-cultural influence in fiction, The Delighted States.* It seems particularly fitting, therefore, to launch his tenure with our special issue on the art of translation, featuring new work from half a dozen languages.

In the same issue, careful readers will notice another change to our masthead. Susannah Hunnewell, our longtime Paris editor, has been named publisher of the Review. As Paris editor, Susannah interviewed Kazuo Ishiguro, Harry Mathews, Michel Houellebecq, and Emmanuel Carrère; in our new issue, she interviews the translating duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. A former editor at George and Marie Claire, Susannah began her career as a Paris Review intern, a fact she shares in common with our departing publisher, her husband, Antonio Weiss, who left the Review earlier this year to become Counselor to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. (We won’t think of it as losing a beloved publisher or a brilliant foreign correspondent, but as gaining one of each.)

We congratulate Adam and Susannah—and wish them joy in their new hats!

*Full subtitle: A Book of Novels, Romances, & Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents, & Accompanied by Maps, Illustrations, & a Variety of Helpful Indexes

Listen

Saul Bellow at the 92nd St Y

May 20, 2015 | by

Saul Bellow backstage -- October 1988

Saul Bellow backstage at the Poetry Center, 1988. Photo: Nancy Crampton, courtesy of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center

75 at 75,” a special project from the 92nd Street Y in celebration of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary, invites contemporary authors to listen to a recording from the Poetry Center’s archive and write a personal response. Here, Norman Rush reflects on Saul Bellow, who read from Humboldt’s Gift and Henderson the Rain King on October 10, 1988.

92Y will celebrate Bellow’s centenary tomorrow evening. Martin Amis, Janis Bellow, Jeffrey Eugenides, Nicole Krauss, Zachary Leader, and Ian McEwan will read from The Adventures of Augie March, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, “Something to Remember Me By,” Humboldt’s Gift, and The Dean’s December.
Read More »

Our Daily Correspondent

Get Your Kicks

May 20, 2015 | by

I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity—all I hope for in my clothes. ―Yves Saint Laurent

This late seventies Levi’s commercial is no “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Let’s just get that out there right now—because after Sunday’s Mad Men finale, watercoolers across the nation have had that iconic Coke jingle sung around them. The Levi’s campaign may suffer by comparison, though it is, like the Coke jingle, a classic McCann Erickson Me-Decade production, designed to make iconic American brands appeal to happening youth. The anniversary of Levi Strauss’s patent grant seems like a good excuse to celebrate it. Read More »

On the Shelf

When Nacre Was Lucre, and Other News

May 20, 2015 | by

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An undated book from the mother-of-pearl craze.

  • On the cover of a 1598 book, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, a historian claims to have found “the only demonstrably authentic portrait of Shakespeare made in his lifetime”; the editor of Country Life magazine is calling this “the literary discovery of the century.” The century, thankfully, is young.
  • Pause to remember the garish bookbinding trends of yesteryear: “For a few years in the nineteenth century … papier-mâché books adorned with mother-of-pearl were part of a gift book fad, wherein a decorative tome of sentimental or religious poetry was bestowed upon a loved one, often around the winter holidays. The text was usually secondary to the gaudy cover, which was decorated to the extreme.”
  • Is photography merely a matter of chance? “By the end of the nineteenth century, after Kodak has arrived … much of the role of chance migrates from the processing phase to the moment of exposure. That moment was always prone to chance—in the long exposures of early photography, a dog might wander in a street scene, or a young portrait subject might sneeze and blur the image. But with fast shutters and films, the so-called instantaneous photograph arrives, and chance takes on a new prominence in composition—to the point that even the word composition seems questionable.”
  • Everett Fox is translating the Hebrew Bible—a tricky effort, given that the original is rooted in a deeply aural tradition. “I heard it, too. Short vowels twinkled and long vowels streamed by with showy tails. Consonants held crisp and true. The overall effect was of a simultaneously dense and sprawling thing, layered and alive and capable of surprising you. Fox has dedicated his life to giving the Anglophone ear a hint of that Hebrew drama … [He] uses every poetic means at his disposal: phrase length, line break, puns.”
  • The glam SAHMs (stay-at-home moms, if you’re new to this) of the Upper East Side await wife bonuses from their husbands: “A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance—how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a ‘good’ school—the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks.”