The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Chee’

Writing the Lake Shore Limited

February 19, 2014 | by

Trains as writers’ garrets.

train

A postwar ad for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

I am in a little sleeper cabin on a train to Chicago. Framing the window are two plush seats; between them is a small table that you can slide up and out. Its top is a chessboard. Next to one of the chairs is a seat whose top flips up to reveal a toilet, and above that is a “Folding Sink”—something like a Murphy bed with a spigot. There are little cups, little towels, a tiny bar of soap. A sliding door pulls closed and locks with a latch; you can draw the curtains, as I have done, over the two windows pointing out to the corridor. The room is 3’6” by 6’8”. It is efficient and quaint. I am ensconced.

I’m only here for the journey. Soon after I get to Chicago, I’ll board a train and come right back to New York: thirty-nine hours in transit—forty-four, with delays. And I’m here to write: I owe this trip to Alexander Chee, who said in his PEN Ten interview that his favorite place to work was on the train. “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers,” he said. I did, too, so I tweeted as much, as did a number of other writers; Amtrak got involved and ended up offering me a writers’ residency “test run.” (Disclaimer disclaimed: the trip was free.)

So here I am. Read More »

160 COMMENTS

Hemingway as Peer Reviewer, and Other News

May 16, 2013 | by

HemingwayFitzlarge

  • In a note to Fitzgerald, Hemingway shows he was better at being aggressive than passive-aggressive. 
  • The Nation has launched eBookNation, which will feature digital versions of both new work and items from the archive (dating back to 1865!).
  • Notting Hill Editions has announced  the William Hazlitt Essay Prize for nonfiction writing. 
  • “Leipzigers read so much, the city’s nickname was ‘Leserland,’ or Readerland. And it does feel, immediately, like a city of bookish cyclists.” Alexander Chee on culture clash. 

 

NO COMMENTS

Sex and Salter

December 28, 2011 | by

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

Photograph by Guillaume Flandre.

When I try to write about sex, I think back to when I was just out of college and, handy with a makeup brush, took a job to make some extra money doing makeup on a gay-porn film set. On the second day, we filmed a three-way that took up most of the day. The actors struggled: one was hard, the others weren’t, then the others were and the first was not, and so on. After a few hours, the director sent us all out of the room and turned out the lights so the actors could work it out. This was before Viagra—you had to have an honest hard-on to shoot. We waited outside the dark room, the lights out, even the cameramen outside, waiting, until finally we heard the signal, and then the crew rushed back in to film. We turned on the lights.

The actors were made to pause, immediately. I had to touch them up.

They were panting, sweating like athletes. They’d rubbed off most of what I’d put on them. As they held their positions, I touched them up. I thought about how something had happened in the dark that we couldn’t see, an excitement that couldn’t be in the film. It was probably better than what we would film, more interesting.

It seems to me I am always in pursuit of that.

Read More »

12 COMMENTS

Staff Picks: Robert Walser, Katherine Larson

May 13, 2011 | by

I’ve been poring over Robert Walser’s Microscripts, a selection from the cache of papers covered in demonically miniaturized handwriting he left at his death. The stories are wonderfully odd, and the book itself is a beautiful object. It includes color reproductions of the manuscripts—often written on the backs of business cards—as well as the deciphered German originals. Walter Benjamin’s afterword praises Walser’s “artful clumsiness,” and I would do the same for Susan Bernofsky’s translation. —Robyn Creswell

I’ve been stealing moments all week to read Katherine Larson’s book of poems, Radial Symmetry. The synthesis of experience and curiosity that Larson no doubt uses in her work as a field ecologist and research scientist is here applied to verse. The natural world has never felt more physical, more alive with tiny movements and infinite textures—and so titillating, as when she writes, “We hear the cactus whisper / pollinate me furry moth.” —Nicole Rudick

Alexander Chee shared an old essay of his on Twitter this morning about being a student of Annie Dillard’s: “You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.” —Thessaly La Force

After seeing a spectacular production of the play on Broadway, I’ve rediscovered Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. It’s a play about love, sex, transcendence (if there is any), and whatever it is that defines the human experience across time and space. But it also reminds us of the beauty and sustaining force of wonder; “it’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” because when all is said and done, “when we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” —Elianna Kan

In Anthony Burgess’s The Pianoplayers, a retired prostitute tells the story of her father, a man who “called himself not a pianist but a pianoplayer.” (No space between piano and player—that was how close he and the piano were.) The entirely fictional yet perfectly matter-of-fact recollection of a difficult father takes the narrative form of a memoir and turns it on its head. Given my absorption in Burgess’s novel, it was an especially interesting week to experience Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron’s memoir of her father, the literary icon (and friend of The Paris Review) William Styron. —Rosalind Parry

Military dogs jumping out of helicopters. Sick. —Natalie Jacoby

3 COMMENTS