The Daily

This Week’s Reading

Staff Picks: Buses, Basements, Boots, Bed-and-Breakfasts

July 24, 2015 | by

Spacesuits

Space suits.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Spacesuits, an illustrated history of the protective clothing worn by space explorers, from the earliest designs in the 1930s to the universally recognizable suits worn during the Apollo missions. The book, with its clinically detailed photographs and methodical descriptions of suits, helmets, gloves, and boots, is surprisingly enthralling; one doesn’t expect vacant clothing to so easily assert its own cultural significance. What’s also surprising are the immense efforts required to preserve these suits—which, it turns out, are among the most fragile items in the Smithsonian’s collection. For some rather timely evidence, look no further than the Kickstarter campaign launched this week by the Smithsonian—with a $500,000 goal—to better document, display, and preserve the space suit worn by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11. —Stephen Andrew Hiltner

I have copies of most of Dubravka Ugresic’s books, and all of them are heavily dog-eared; flip to any page, and it’s more likely than not that several sentences are underlined. I suspect my various notations are due to the fact that Ugresic pulls no punches, and so reading her work—especially her nonfiction—is like having it all laid out for you. And by “it,” I mean, to borrow from Douglas Adams, “life, the universe and everything.” The editors of Music & Literature have given over a third of their latest issue to Ugresic, and my copy of the magazine is already thoroughly dog-eared and underlined. Ugresic’s writing is radical, accessible, aggressive, pungent, and funny, and she is one of the most unique writers in exile at work today—and one of the best writers, period. In an interview in the issue with Daniel Medin, she explains that “as an outsider I was free to shape my own literary taste, to pick my own literary traditions, to build my own system of literary values.” She is quick to add, however, that “going against the mainstream is not an aesthetic category. Risk is moral category, which shapes our attitude toward our vocation as well as our ideological, political, aesthetical, and ethical choices.” —Nicole Rudick

nextnextlevelHaving just returned from a two-week tour in which my band played for many a small crowd in many a dank basement—see photo below—I approached Leon Neyfakh’s The Next Next Level with some trepidation. It, too, concerns musicians, small crowds, and dank basements: that is, it concerns “the problem of making art in the twenty-first century.” Neyfakh tells the story of his friend Juiceboxxx, a white rapper who’s pursued his craft on the fringes of DIY culture for more than a decade. Juiceboxxx, whose name belies his creative energy, tours constantly, publishes ceaselessly, and self-promotes relentlessly. But what’s the point, really? As he tells an interviewer, “When you fucking kind of have this identity based on this totally absurd premise—like, where do you go if you want to stop doing it, man? Like, where do you go?” As someone who’s poured time and energy into a band called Vulture Shit, I ask myself these questions a lot. Neyfakh’s perceptive, thoughtful book may not make them easier to answer, but it’s a much-needed balm: a funny, broad-minded, enchanting reflection on the intersection of art and commerce. You’ll find no better account of what it’s like to make music outside the mainstream in 2015. —Dan Piepenbring
Read More »

First Person

California Street

July 24, 2015 | by

Learning to surf in the sixties.

Grajagan, Java, 1979. Courtesy of Mark Cordesius

For my eleventh birthday, my father took me to the Dave Sweet Surfboards shop on Olympic Boulevard, in Santa Monica. From the rack of used boards, I chose a solid, sunbrowned 9'0" with blue-green paneled rails and a fin built with at least eight different types of wood. It cost seventy dollars. I was five feet tall, weighed eighty pounds, and could not reach my arm around it. I carried it to the street on my head, feeling self-conscious and scared of dropping the board, but as happy as I had ever been.

It wasn’t an easy winter, trying to learn to surf. Even though the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” (“Let’s go surfin’ now / everybody’s learning how”) was on the radio, I was the only kid at my backwater school who had a board. We spent most weekends in Ventura, so I got in the water regularly, but California Street was rocky and the water was painfully cold. I got a wet suit, but it had short legs and no sleeves, and neoprene technology was still in its infancy. At best, the little wet suit took some of the sharpest chill off the afternoon wind. My father liked to tell a story about a day when I got discouraged. From the warmth of the car, he had been watching me flounder—I imagine him smoking his pipe, wearing a big fluffy fisherman’s sweater. I came in, my feet and knees bleeding, stumbling across the rocks, dropping my board, humiliated and exhausted. He told me to go back out and catch three more waves. I refused. He insisted. I could ride them on my knees if necessary, he said. I was furious. But I went back out and caught the waves, and in his version of the story, that was when I became a surfer. If he hadn’t made me go back out that day, I would have quit. He was sure of that. Read More »

Bulletin

Next Tuesday: James Salter’s Memorial

July 24, 2015 | by

Photo: Lan Rys

A memorial service for James Salter will be held at five P.M. on Tuesday, July 28, at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

Salter, who died last month, was a longtime member of the Paris Review family. His first published short story, “Sundays,” appeared in The Paris Review no. 38, and he followed with four others (“Am Strande von Tanger,” “Via Negativa,” “The Cinema,” and “Bangkok”); his third novel, A Sport and a Pastime, was published by Paris Review Editions in 1967; his Art of Fiction interview appeared in the magazine in 1993; and he won the Hadada Prize, The Paris Review’s lifetime-achievement award, in 2011—where he announced to the admiring crowd, “This is my Stockholm.”

Jim will be missed by all of us at the Review and by his many Paris Review colleagues from years past. We hope you’ll join us—and his family and many friends—in celebrating his life at his memorial on Tuesday.

On the Shelf

A, B, C, and Other News

July 24, 2015 | by

A few of the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise’s front pages.

  • In its delicacy and volatility, the art of writing is rivaled only by the art of not writing: “There are years, days, hours, minutes, weeks, moments, and other measures of time spent in the production of ‘not writing.’ Not writing is working, and when not working at paid work working at unpaid work like caring for others, and when not at unpaid work like caring, caring also for a human body … It is easy to imagine not writing, both accidentally and intentionally. It is easy because there have been years and months and days I have thought the way to live was not writing have known what writing consisted of and have thought ‘I do not want to do that’ and ‘writing steals from my loved ones’ and ‘writing steals from my life and gives me nothing but pain and worry and what I can’t have’ or ‘writing steals from my already empty bank account’ or ‘writing gives me ideas I do not need or want’ or ‘writing is the manufacture of impossible desire.’ ”
  • This is your annual reminder that in Key West there’s a Hemingway look-alike contest at a bar called Sloppy Joe’s. A hundred heavy-set men with vigorous white beards vie for the title of Papa: “Some wear safari outfits, khakis, and even the excruciatingly hot fisherman’s woolen turtleneck sweater. Some bring their own cheering squad. Most contestants admit (confidentially) that they may never win, but return year after year for the fellowship.”
  • In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, the Sentinel & Enterprise, a newspaper with some 140 years of history behind it, has dedicated twenty-six of its front pages this month to what’s arguably (emphasis on arguably) the most urgent story of our time: the alphabet. Twenty-six typographers from around the world have designed letters to stretch across page A1 from July 13 through August 11. All your favorites are there: g, f, even k. “Print media has declined across the United States … The local newspaper, however, has the potential to thrive beyond the nationals, as it represents a tangible opportunity for community engagement along with local news that doesn’t get covered elsewhere. The Alphabet is going a step further and demonstrating how creative design and artist collaboration can invigorate the format, even if its nature as newsprint makes the work somewhat disposable.”
  • Julian Barnes weighs in on museum selfies (oh, and the life and times of Van Gogh): “It has become harder over the last 130 years or so to see Van Gogh plain. It is practically harder in that our approach to his paintings in museums is often blocked by an urgent, excitable crescent of worldwide fans, iPhones aloft for the necessary selfie with Sunflowers. They are to be welcomed: the international reach of art should be a matter not of snobbish disapproval but rather of crowd management and pious wonder—as I found when a birthday present of a Van Gogh mug hit the mark with my thirteen-year-old goddaughter in Mumbai.”
  • “Writing on a computer can be terribly distracting, so sometimes I like to use a pencil and paper to jot down ideas. I always end up drawing a cartoon duck. Inevitably, the duck is holding a notepad, and I can read the ideas that he wrote down.” Deeply practical ways to invoke the muse.

Our Daily Correspondent

Steins

July 23, 2015 | by

steinsHere are the things you hear most often when you announce plans to marry someone who happens to have the same last name:

  • That’s convenient!
  • Guess you won’t have to change your name!
  • Are you changing your name?
  • Is he taking your name?
  • Are you hyphenating?
  • Are you related?
  • I bet you’re sick of everyone joking about your having the same name!

Not remarking on this seems to be completely out of the question. Read More »

From the Archive

Mannerism

July 23, 2015 | by

ricardginsburg

René Ricard in a photo by Allen Ginsberg.

“Mannerism,” a poem by René Ricard from our Summer 1970 issue. Ricard was born on this day in 1946; he died last year. An obituary in the New York Times calls him “a notorious aesthete who roamed Manhattan’s contemporary art scene with a capacious, autodidactic erudition and a Wildean flamboyance.” In the eighties, his essay “The Radiant Child” helped to burnish the reputation of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Read More »