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Posts Tagged ‘dating’

Love and Poetry

August 2, 2012 | by

My first date with Luke started at four in the afternoon—and at midnight, we were still going. Sitting on stools at Frank’s Cocktail Lounge (a bar that feels like a holdover from the seventies, right down to the occasional fedora-wearing patron), we were bent over the carefully folded piece of paper Luke had just taken out of his wallet. As he smoothed it out on the bar, I saw the seven poems, in tiny font, that he carried with him at all times—and I braced myself.

This guy wasn’t just so charming and handsome that I’d already trembled once or twice, near him. He was also “haunted by verse.” That was a description an English professor had once applied to me, after I’d run into her while crossing campus one night; drunkenly, I’d begged her to remind me which poet had written, “Let us roll all our strength and all our sweetness up into one ball.” (Andrew Marvell, for the record.)Read More »

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L.A. Advice: Writers Dating, Fear of the Blank Page

October 7, 2011 | by

Last night, seventy-five or so Angelenos gathered at the Standard, Hollywood to listen to Ann Louise Bardach, David Kipen, Jonathan Lethem, Tom Lutz, and Michael Tolkin answer audience questions on life, love, and books. Subjects ranged from The Onion (everyone’s favorite contemporary humor publication) to Dickens (in whom “the archetypes for all modern fiction can be found”) to the possibility of making a living as a poet (consensus: other sources of income help). What follows are a few of the questions the panel addressed.

Should writers date each other?

Tolkin: No.
Bardach: Sure, but not in the same genre. That’s the important thing.
A guest: A writer and a reader?
Bardach: Well, yes, every writer should have one.

How does one get over the fear of the blank page?

Tolkin: First of all, it’s more a blank screen now. Don’t leave it blank. Put something on it, anything. If it’s bad, you can improve it, tear it apart. If it’s good, even better. The important thing is getting something down, taking that step.

How does it feel when your book is adapted [into a movie] but you’re not asked to be involved? Is it hard?

Tolkin: I take the money and run.
Lethem: I’d actually prefer not to be involved. I mean, I wrote the book: I’ve spent all that time with it already. And it’s a very different medium. Better to work on someone else’s story.
Lutz: Screw up someone else’s book, you mean.
Kipen: Thus far, no one has tried to adapt any of my book reviews. But I’m open to it.

What are your goals for a new novel? What’s your hope for it?

Tolkin: Kill every other book on the shelf.
Lethem: It’s a great line, but I actually feel the opposite: it’s those other books on the shelf that inspire me, and I want to join their company, add to that conversation. And, you know, looking around this room—I’m going to get very sincere, here—it’s affirming. This is not what we are made for, what I am made for. We sit and we write words, and for whatever reason, you’re all out here to listen, and see us. We’re in this strange, solitary profession, hoping to connect with a few people and, look—we packed a room.

Have a question for the editors of The Paris Review? E-mail us.

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Fiction v. Reporting; Blind Dates

July 8, 2011 | by

Having been a reader of the Review for some time now, I’ve seen your publication evolve and change over the years. I’m curious about the reasoning behind one of these changes: the disappearance of political reporting and socially minded nonfiction from your pages. Such writing not only, I thought, was very valuable in and of itself, but also gave important temporal and situational context to the contemporary fiction and poetry that a reader would often find on the next page. —Mona Stewart

Part of the change is simply a matter of who’s around. My predecessor, Philip Gourevitch, was and is a brilliant reporter, one of the best at work today. (For proof look no further than this week’s New Yorker.) He has a feel for these things. My background as an editor is in fiction, poetry, and literary essays. Of course I have nothing against political nonfiction. Like you, maybe, I read The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, New York, The Atlantic, and n+1, all of which publish excellent political reporting—plus the paper every day (two of them, since the beginning of the DSK affair). But being a fan and being an editor are two separate things.

Furthermore, those other magazines exist. And yet there is no magazine—none with the reputation and reach of The Paris Review—that is devoted entirely to literature as such. This was true when the magazine was founded in 1953, and it’s still true today. That’s what we do best. (And if you’re going to run a magazine, why not stick to what it does best?)

Dear Lorin,
I went on my first blind date last week. The date went well and I thought we were into the same things, but when I went back to his house his walls were filled with paintings of Mount Vesuvius (dormant and erupting, ancient and new). The bookshelves are empty, save for books on the subject. How much can one really read into somebody’s cultural collection? Have you ever met someone whose attraction ran toward the bizarre? I want to get to know him, but every time I look at him all I see is Mount Vesuvius!
Isabelle

Fascinating. I think you should ask him about Vesuvius! People with a passion are people worth getting to know. (And as far as pictures go, it could be worse. Remember A-Rod and the centaurs?)

Have a question for The Paris Review? E-mail us.

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Like Minds

June 29, 2011 | by

Photograph by Ruth Fremson.

Life of Pi, Yann Martel (F, 20s, long hair, worn black T-shirt, skinny jeans, brown purse, L train)

Any Man of Mine, Rachel Gibson (F, 40s, stripey tote, black pants, F train)

For those of us prone to paranoia, the tumblr CoverSpy has made the New York commute infinitely more harrowing. The site (which also has a Twitter arm) enlists a “team of publishing nerds [who hit] the subways, streets, parks & bars to find out what New Yorkers are reading now.” It makes for addictively voyeuristic reading. And it’s enough to make you long for the soulless inscrutability of a Kindle. Do they know this is for work? you think, and Why are so many people on the L reading Ayn Rand?, and How old would they think I am?

Judging others by their books—or, more charitably, forming relationships based on shared literary tastes—is also the guiding principle behind the online dating site Alikewise.com, which was conceived when one of the founders voiced his wish for a woman who liked The Black Swan. (One friend described it as “actually, a very convenient way to expedite the weeding process.”) As always in such situations, the question quickly becomes not whether people are lying but why and how well. In its way, it is every bit as harrowing as the roving judgments of CoverSpy. So it is perhaps natural that the two organizations should join forces and produce an event that’s either a bibliophile’s dream or a neurotic’s nightmare, depending on how you look at it.

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Delivering Gatsby

August 18, 2010 | by

How effective is it to use literature to seduce men?

So maybe it wasn’t fair to invite him to the lecture I was giving on The Great Gatsby and then use it as a chance to get back at him. After all, I’m a writing teacher and a student of literature—soon to be a professor of literature—and I should have respect for Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, even if it flopped when it came out. Was I really going to use it to show him—in the most petty and humiliating way—how hurt and pissed off I was that he had told me he just wanted to be friends?

Yes, I was. I sat on a bench on the “literary walk” in Iowa City—the UNESCO City of Literature—and made notes so that my lecture had less to do with how anecdotes hinge together within chapters and more to do with what a philandering ass Tom Buchanan is. My plan was to focus on chapter one, specifically the moment when Nick goes over to Tom and Daisy’s for dinner and glimpses East Egg for the first time. I’d talk about how each anecdote—each seemingly random incident—sets up what a snake Tom is. After all, he’s the one who shuts the windows and brings Daisy and Jordan Baker—whose dresses are “rippling and fluttering” as if they’ve just taken “a short flight around the house”—to the floor. Tom’s a bummer, the kind of man who uses his “gruff” voice and “cruel” body to beat the spirit and life out of women.

He would get the message.

As I got up from the bench, the better part of my thin soul tried to remind me that Gatsby is the kind of book that proves writing is an art, even if Fitzgerald did write it for money. It’s a novel I love, one I teach to literature students twice a year.

And really, what had this guy done? I wasn’t Daisy and he wasn’t Tom Buchanan. He was just a guy who liked to flirt and send lots and lots of text messages laden with sexual innuendos late at night, just one of the many Americans who thought about writing a memoir and wanted to talk to “a real writer” about it. Was I really going to break his newly found literary spirit? Wouldn’t I be better off delving into Fitzgerald’s rich text for the right reasons?

No, I would not. I walked into the lecture hall packed with aspiring writers wanting to know how novels work. The guy was in the fifth row innocently reading the newspaper. I was the one who had convinced him to read Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street and then meet me “for strawberries” to discuss it. I was the one who told him he should read Hemingway and then invited him to go for a walk because I really wanted to know what he thought of Papa.

And he wasn’t the first. There was the filmmaker who wanted to read more poetry, the luthier who was curious about novellas. I don’t know when I started using literature to seduce men, but my bookish attempts to entice were starting to make me feel desperate and unclean.

I delivered my vengeful Gatsby lecture. But every time I caught the guy’s eye, I started to feel a lot like Tom with his $300,000 pearls. Wasn’t I just trying to bribe men hungry for something to read? And what would happen when and if the guy reciprocated? How could I deliver book recommendations for an entire marriage? Wouldn’t he, eventually, see right through me—just as Daisy had with Tom? And wouldn’t I, like Tom, eventually stray to fill my need to entrance someone who had never read a personal essay?

When I finished my lecture, the writers in the audience applauded. They seemed genuinely pleased. They came up and asked lots of questions about structure and scene-versus-summary. The guy stood up and left. I assumed he was irrevocably pissed off. I had achieved my goal. I’d won. Hadn’t I?

The writers filed out, and I erased the blackboard. As packed up my things, I felt my phone vibrate. A text from the guy: Great lecture. Meet for lunch?

At the end of the first chapter, Nick sees Gatsby looking out across the Sound. He assumes he’s staring at the green light at the edge of Daisy’s dock. But how can Nick be sure what Gatsby’s really looking at? How can he really know?

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