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Posts Tagged ‘Art of Fiction’

There’s the Great Man

August 2, 2016 | by

Befriending George Plimpton.

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George Plimpton in his office.

George’s questions were like trampolines, a technology he admired. They bounced you higher—to the next question. This was particularly true when he was talking about writers and writing.

“Did you know that the great Camus played goal for the Oran Football Club?” he asked me when we were walking past an Algerian restaurant near his apartment on Seventy-Second Street. I was unaware but said that I did think Gabriel García Márquez had written a soccer column for a while in Bogota.

Alas,” George sighed, “Le colonisateur de bonne volonte was never moved to write about it. Imagine, the existential goalkeeper.”

Alas,” I said, and he gave me a look. Read More »

“The Work Is Full of Ghosts”: An Interview with Pat Barker

April 8, 2016 | by

At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Recently, 92Y and The Paris Review have made recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. Consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts, or surprisingly lifelike radio adaptations.

This week we’ve debuted four new recordings from the series. Today, the last of the bunch: Pat Barker, author of the Regeneration Trilogy, who spoke with Michael Gorra on April 16, 2001. This interview was never adapted for the Review’s Writers at Work series, so what you hear has been essentially buried for the past fifteen years. From the start, Barker discusses why she disdains being considered a “gritty, working-class” writer because of her hailing from Northern England, and how fiction can help readers face “the past that’s not even past”: Read More »

Mrs. Parker and the Pink Object

February 18, 2016 | by

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At the time of this interview, Mrs. Parker was living in a midtown New York hotel. She shared her small apartment with a youthful poodle that had the run of the place and had caused it to look, as Mrs. Parker said apologetically, somewhat “Hogarthian”: newspapers spread about the floor, picked lamb chops here and there, and a rubber doll—its throat torn from ear to ear—which Mrs. Parker lobbed left-handed from her chair into corners of the room for the poodle to retrieve—as it did, never tiring of the opportunity. The room was sparsely decorated, its one overpowering fixture being a large dog portrait, not of the poodle, but of a sheepdog owned by the author Philip Wylie, and painted by his wife. The portrait indicated a dog of such size that if it were real, would have dwarfed Mrs. Parker, who was a small woman, her voice gentle, her tone often apologetic, but occasionally, given the opportunity to comment on matters she felt strongly about, she spoke almost harshly, and her sentences were punctuated with observations phrased with lethal force. 

That description comes from the introduction to Dorothy Parker’s 1956 Paris Review Art of Fiction interview, a document of unusual (sometimes harsh) honesty, and great humor. I've always tried to envision that scene: the writer, battling depression and alcoholism, her career (to her eyes) in twilight—and so was fascinated to run across this snapshot in the New York Public Library’s digital archive. It pictures Parker—petite, with signature chignon and bangs—in a distinctly midcentury room, seated on a dun-colored sofa with two poodles. Before her on a marbled coffee table is a fairly hideous arrangement made up at least in part of dried eucalyptus stems, which puts the viewer in the unusual position of being able to imagine the smell of the scene: eucalyptus and dog, with hints of coffee. (I assume coffee, rather than tea, although feel free to disagree.) The only real mystery—besides where she is, and who took the picture—concerns the pink plush thing on the stack of magazines. Hat? Chew toy? Lamb Chop? But then, as Parker herself wrote in Esquire in 1959, “In all reverence I say Heaven bless the Whodunit, the soothing balm on the wound, the cooling hand on the brow, the opiate of the people.” Update: a colleague feels strongly that it is a bedroom slipper “filled with either dog food or gold coins,” possibly the chocolate Hanukah kind. 

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Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent. 

Labors of Love

March 30, 2015 | by

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Jessamyn West

To love classic children’s books is to love heroines with literary ambitions. Harriet the Spy, Betsy Ray, Anne Shirley, Jo March—so many beloved characters wanted to be writers at a time when their sex and circumstances made that hope seem remote and exciting. Not incidentally, many of these characters were based on their authors.

In her 1977 Art of Fiction interview, Jessamyn West—who would go on to write Cress Delahanty, featuring a young woman who dreams of writing—recalls that her parents did not support her career choice: Read More »

Now in Bloom: Our Spring Issue

March 2, 2015 | by

212The cherry blossoms on the cover of our new Spring issue augur the end of winter—even if they’re made of paper. They’re part of a portfolio by Thomas Demand, accompanied by poems from Ben Lerner.

We also have the first-ever in-person interview with Elena Ferrante, on the art of fiction:

As a girl—twelve, thirteen years old—I was absolutely certain that a good book had to have a man as its hero, and that depressed me … At fifteen I began to write stories about brave girls who were in serious trouble. But the idea remained—indeed, it grew stronger—that the greatest narrators were men and that one had to learn to narrate like them … Even when I wrote stories about girls, I wanted to give the heroine a wealth of experiences, a freedom, a determination that I tried to imitate from the great novels written by men.

And Lydia Davis, on her approach to the short story, to translation, and to naming:

I’ve always felt that naming was artificial. I’ve done it. I wrote about one woman and called her Mrs. Orlando, because the woman I based her on lived in Florida. Recently I wrote a story called “The Two Davises and the Rug” because I have a neighbor named Davis and he and I were trying to decide which one should end up with a certain rug, and I was very fond of using that name, even though it wouldn’t make much difference to anybody if I called it “The Two Harrises and the Rug.”

Plus, Hilary Mantel discusses her Cromwell books and the difference between historians and novelists:

Nobody seems to share my approach to historical fiction. I suppose if I have a maxim, it is that there isn’t any necessary conflict between good history and good drama. I know that history is not shapely, and I know the truth is often inconvenient and incoherent. It contains all sorts of superfluities. You could cut a much better shape if you were God, but as it is, I think the whole fascination and the skill is in working with those incoherencies.

There’s new fiction by Angela Flournoy, Ken Kalfus, and Mark Leyner, the winner of this year’s Terry Southern Prize; a novella by James Lasdun; and poems from Charles Simic, Peter Gizzi, Major Jackson, Stephen Dunn, Susan Stewart, Shuzo Takiguchi, Craig Morgan Teicher, and Sarah Trudgeon.

Mel Bochner, who designed a cover for the magazine back in 1973, is back with a portfolio of thesaurus paintings. And last, there’s “Letter from the Primal Horde,” an essay by J. D. Daniels about a fateful experience at a group-relations conference.

Subscribe now!

“Good hearted Naiveté”

January 14, 2015 | by

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DOS PASSOS

Ernest and I used to read the Bible to each other. He began it. We read separate little scenes. From Kings, Chronicles. We didn't make anything out of it—the reading—but Ernest at that time talked a lot about style. He was crazy about Stephen Crane's “The Blue Hotel.” It affected him very much. I was very much taken with him. He took me around to Gertrude Stein's. I wasn't quite at home there. A Buddha sitting up there, surveying us. Ernest was much less noisy then than he was in later life. He felt such people were instructive.

INTERVIEWER

Was Hemingway as occupied with the four-letter word problem as he was later?

DOS PASSOS

He was always concerned with four-letter words. It never bothered me particularly. Sex can be indicated with asterisks. I've always felt that was as good a way as any.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think Hemingway's descriptions of those times were accurate in A Moveable Feast?

DOS PASSOS

Well, it’s a little sour, that book. His treatment of people like Scott Fitzgerald—the great man talking down about his contemporaries. He was always competitive and critical, overly so, but in the early days you could kid him out of it. He had a bad heredity. His father was very overbearing apparently. His mother was a very odd woman. I remember once when we were in Key West Ernest received a large unwieldy package from her. It had a big, rather crushed cake in it. She had put in a number of things with it, including the pistol with which his father had killed himself. Ernest was terribly upset.

—John Dos Passos, the Art of Fiction No. 44, Spring 1969

When Hemingway and Dos Passos—who was born on this day in 1896—went to Spain during the civil war, they were close friends, though it was an odd, uneasy match. They’d met in Paris, but their personalities couldn’t have been more opposed: reticent Dos Passos didn’t go in for the Hemingway model of chest-thumping virility. Read More »

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