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Posts Tagged ‘awards’

How to Win the Nobel Prize

October 9, 2014 | by

A close reading of the Swedish Academy’s citations.

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Reading the news about Patrick Modiano today, I was struck by the insipidness of the Nobel Foundation’s citation: “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” It bears all the hallmarks of an overblown blurb, one of those in which a bold, gimlet-eyed novelist is elucidating the now, or a limpid, singular poet is saying the unsayable. (Very few poets are saying the sayable these days, if our blurbs are to be believed.)

Let’s unpack this citation, beginning with this business about “the art of memory,” which doesn’t seem like much of an art to me. (To conceive of it as such invites a corny geriatric punch line: “Just wait till you start forgetting so much!”) Granting that it is art, is it really the art through which Modiano “evokes”? That would have to be his writing. If he’d simply sat at his desk lost in memories, he wouldn’t evoke much more than his own sighs. For that matter—can one really “evoke” a destiny, and, having been evoked, is that destiny still “ungraspable,” let alone the most ungraspable? Who’s to say that one destiny can be grasped more easily than another? (“He was destined to be a pediatric podiatrist—he saw it plain as day.”) Then there’s this murky concept of the “life-world,” which sounds like something out of Heidegger—wouldn’t one word or the other have sufficed? To speak of a life-world implies its negative, the death-world, which, despite our best efforts, has never been uncovered.

Drafting these citations must be painstaking, fairly joyless work. This one, at least, reads like an act of circumlocution by committee; the choice to append “the most” to “ungraspable” may have occasioned hours of debate. And for what? The final result could apply to anyone; in the broadest terms, not just every writer but every person in history has practiced the art of memory, evoking destinies and uncovering life-worlds. Read More »

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The Words Are Everything

September 9, 2014 | by

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Our congratulations to Ursula K. Le Guin, who will receive the National Book Foundation’s 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters:

“Ursula Le Guin has had an extraordinary impact on several generations of readers and, particularly, writers in the United States and around the world,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “She has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art. Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”

And additional congratulations are in order for Louise Erdrich, who has won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, a “lifetime achievement honor for American writers” judged this year by E. L. Doctorow, Zadie Smith, and Edwidge Danticat, “who praised the ‘awesome’ breadth of Erdrich’s work.”

The Paris Review has interviewed both Le Guin and Erdrich for our Art of Fiction series, the former in 2013 and the latter in 2010. Erdrich advised aspiring writers,

Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.

And Le Guin said,

Fiction is something that only human beings do, and only in certain circumstances. We don’t know exactly for what purposes. But one of the things it does is lead you to recognize what you did not know before … A very good book tells me news, tells me things I didn’t know, or didn’t know I knew, yet I recognize them—yes, I see, yes, this is how the world is. Fiction—and poetry and drama—cleanse the doors of perception. All the arts do this. Music, painting, dance say for us what can’t be said in words. But the mystery of literature is that it does say it in words, often straightforward ones.

We offer both of them our best wishes.

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John Jeremiah Sullivan Wins James Beard Foundation Award

May 5, 2014 | by

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Photo: PatríciaR, via Wikimedia Commons

Congratulations to our Southern editor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, who’s been honored with the James Beard Foundation’s MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award for his essay “I Placed a Jar in Tennessee.”

The James Beard Foundation awards are presented “for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education.” “I Placed a Jar in Tennessee” appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Lucky Peach; it tells the story of Kevin West, who has recently discovered, or perhaps rekindled, a family passion for home-preserving and pickling. If the title strikes you as familiar but unplaceable, fear not, for I have done your googling for you—it refers to Wallace Stevens’s famous poem “Anecdote of the Jar,” first published in 1919:

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

 

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Vote for the Daily (or Else)

April 23, 2014 | by

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A still from Lyndon Johnson’s notorious “Daisy” attack ad, 1964.

You may not have known it, but The Paris Review is nominated for two Webby Awards: one for best cultural blog and one for best “social content and marketing” in arts and culture. The winner of the People’s Voice award is determined by popular vote; the deadline is tomorrow at 11:59 P.M.

We’re honored by the nomination and we hope we can count on your support, but we’re not one to beg for votes—we’ve run a clean, dignified, gentlemanly campaign, free of pandering, slandering, smears, and slurs. But what has that gotten us? Four percent of the popular vote.

Fuck the high road: we’re going negative. Read More »

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Prized

April 2, 2014 | by

BASS-CoverWe’re pleased to announce that two of our stories have been selected by Jennifer Egan for this year’s Best American Short Stories collection: Benjamin Nugent’s “God,” which appeared in issue 206; and “Hover,” by Nell Freudenberger, from issue 207. Their stories will appear in an anthology to be published in October.

We also have nine nominees for this year’s Pushcart Prize:

  • Kate Levin, “Dirty Parts,” from the Daily, July 2013

Congratulations to all!

 

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Smut

December 5, 2013 | by

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By now, you will have heard that Manil Suri has won the coveted twenty-first Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, for a passage from his novel The City of Devi. The award-winning purple prose includes:

Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands—only Karun’s body, locked with mine, remains. We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.

Our vote may have been for The Victoria System, but hearty congratulations all around!

 

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