The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘At Work’

Gchatting with George Saunders

December 23, 2013 | by

All this week, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from 2013. Happy holidays!

On Valentine’s Day, George Saunders agreed to Gchat with The Paris Review Daily to discuss his use of the modern vernacular in fiction; his new book, Tenth of December; as well as Nicki Minaj and what is, according to Saunders, one of the great undernarrrated pleasures of living.


George: Hi Katherine - ready on this end when you are

me: Hi George!
I am prepared

George: Well, I’m not sure I am. But I am willing. :)

me: we could just do the whole thing as emoticons

:/ :l :?

George: Man, you are a virtuosiii of emoticons.

me: A symptom of my generation...

George: I only know that one.

me: You only know happiness, then.

George: No - I only know the SYMBOL for happiness. Like, I can’t do ENNUI. Read More »


See a Paris Review Interview: Live!

February 20, 2013 | by

phillips-adam-c-jerry-bauer_vert-8c1df6605407e3f89f50d7e68c97340b40f3458b-s6-c10Called “one of the finest prose stylists at work in the language, an Emerson of our time,” the psychoanalyst and essayist Adam Phillips joins Paul Holdengräber for a live Writers-at-Work interview on Monday, February 25, at the New York Public Library. In the tradition of Paris Review interviews, Phillips will discuss writing, life, and his most recent work, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life.

See program details here.

To receive a $10 discount off general admission, click here and enter code FRUSTRATION at checkout.



Tender Spirits: A Conversation with Marie-Helene Bertino

January 16, 2013 | by

In October, Marie-Helene Bertino published her debut collection of short stories, Safe as Houses. Her writing often involves fantastical elements—an embodied idea of an ex-boyfriend, an alien who faxes observations about human beings to her home planet, a woman who brings Bob Dylan home for Thanksgiving dinner—that advance painful story lines. Her language is spare, direct, and hilarious, which makes the characters’ losses that much more deeply felt. Bertino is now at work on a novel centering on a jazz club in Philadelphia called the Cat’s Pajamas.

We spoke for two hours in a Brooklyn coffee shop, which was flooded with girls on their lunch break from school.

Reading Safe as Houses, I was struck by the number of characters who aren’t really seen by others. By the last few stories, the characters start to become more visible. Does that theme ring true to you?

I would totally agree with that, though I was not conscious of it. I was aware that a lot of characters were on the outskirts of something—of their towns, their groups of friends, their families, their societies. And at the risk of sounding cliché, I think that’s a metaphor for being a writer. I mean literally and figuratively—you have to stand on the outside to watch a group of people and then be able to write about them, but in practice, it’s also a solitary art, as they say. And I think that those characters definitely are a reflection of that kind of observer quality in me.

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“I Always Start on 8 January”

January 8, 2013 | by

On January 8, 1981, Isabel Allende wrote a letter to her dying grandfather that later turned into her first novel, The House of the Spirits. Ever since, this has been the date on which Allende starts a new work. Having started, she writes from Monday through Saturday, from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. We wish her happy writing and hope to profit by her industrious example.







Will Oldham on Bonnie “Prince” Billy

September 24, 2012 | by

Will Oldham has been singing and composing for twenty-five years. In a new book, he discusses his highly individualistic approach to music making and the music industry (under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy), one that cherishes intimacy, community, mystery, and spontaneity.

Do you think a song is ever really finished?

I feel like a song is completed when the writing is done and I present it to a friend, partner, or group of musicians. Then it’s completed when we record together and finish mixing. Then it’s completed each and every time someone listens. I think that a song, for the most part, is completed by the listening experience. It enters into people’s brains and mutates and then might get completed again—in their dreams, in mix tapes that they make, or in new listening experiences that they have. So it isn’t ever finished because there’s never going to be a definitive listening experience. I guess the idea is that I listen to certain favorite songs over and over because for some reason I just haven’t finished listening to them. But in terms of concentrating on the bones of the song, that ends with the recording; in rare cases there will be arrangement modifications, but from that point on the skeleton is always going to stay the same. From then on, playing live, for me, is more like an exercise to stay in shape for writing and recording.

There’s the way a song can sound when you’re just playing it in a room to somebody that’s going to perform it with you, and then the way it sounds in the rehearsal room when you’re playing it with a band, and then there’s the way it sounds when you go into a studio and the engineer is listening to it; there’s an evolution of the song’s identity from when it’s something that you’re creating on your own to where it ultimately ends up.

Yes. Anybody who’s a big music fan and plays music for people experiences this, but if you work with recorded music you can point to the differences in instrumentation or preparedness or arrangement. And you can play the same recording of the same song and have vastly different feelings about it. You could be listening to a song in your car and not enjoying it, and then someone could get in the car and all of a sudden the song becomes good, or the reverse. It seems to me that the ears that are listening make more difference than the way the music sounds. ‘Cause you can also tell when you see people who are absolutely 100 percent enthralled and enjoying inarguably terrible music, and they’re smart human beings; you see it happening and you realize it doesn’t have anything, or far less, to do with the music itself than the listening done by the listener and the situation.

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