Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’
November 5, 2013 | by John Freeman
Seven years ago I was walking up Fifth Avenue with David Foster Wallace. He wanted to know what I thought of The Names. That one’s the key, he said, speaking of Don DeLillo’s work like it was a safe which contained its own code. It was hat-and-glove weather. Wallace wore a purple sweatshirt. Where did I get my coat? he asked. That’s a great coat, he said. It was like something James Bond would wear. Had I been to this restaurant before?
We had just walked into Japonica, a sushi restaurant on University Place. Our interview was underway, and Wallace was already several questions ahead of nearly every writer I had ever profiled. Most writers, even the most curious one, don’t ask questions of a journalist. Nor should they, necessarily. They are the ones being interviewed, after all.
Wallace, however, seemed to think in the interrogative mode. He was tall and slightly sweaty, looking like he had just come from a run. But he seemed determined not to intimidate. He was like a big cat pulling out his claws, one question at a time. See, look, I’m not going to be difficult.
Once we got going, though—and there was a propulsive, caffeinated momentum to the way he talked—he returned, constantly, to questions. Had I ever written about my life? It’s hard, right? Are celebrities even the same species as us? Is it possible to show what someone was really like in a profile?
“These nonfiction pieces feel to me like the very hardest thing that I do,” he said, talking about Consider the Lobster, the book he had just published, “because reality is infinite.” And then. “God only knows what you are jotting.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this encounter lately. For the past fifteen years, I have interviewed a lot of writers. A few hundred—perhaps too many, but why not say yes? Shortly out of college a friend gave me a vintage set of The Paris Review Book of Interviews. They exhaled the flinty musk of a cigar smoker’s home, and were as snappy as the lining of a 1940s dinner jacket. Read More »
August 30, 2013 | by The Paris Review
Here, in no particular order, are things I hate about historical novels: exposition, walk-ons by famous people, anachronistic dialogue, imaginary letters from actual figures, physical comedy, the looming shadow of war/horrors of trench warfare/Nazi menace, “heated debates,” and Cambridge dons asking after one anothers’ small children—in the nineteen-teens—as if they taught Communications at Pomona. All of these things may be found in Bruce Duffy’s The World As I Found It, a fictionalized life of Ludwig Wittgenstein first published in 1987. Why on earth did I pick it up? Because at 558 pages, it was the longest New York Review Classic for sale at the Strand, and because if the New York Review decides to reprint an historical novel, I want to know why. Within three pages, I was addicted. Within three days, I was babbling about it to my friends. Here’s Bertrand Russell with his bad breath, phlegmatic G. E. Moore, and Wittgenstein—saintly, sympathetic, an angel of intellectual destruction—a hero so well written I kept forgetting he was real. —Lorin Stein
I haven’t been to see the show yet, but the catalogue for the Whitney’s exhibition of Edward Hopper drawings is itself pretty fantastic. The studies for his best-known paintings—Nighthawks and Early Sunday Morning among them—are fascinating windows into his process, and the spare sketches of, say, a man’s suited back are strangely riveting, but my favorite works in the book are his watercolor portraits from 1906–1907 of various “characters” from the Paris streets: La Pierreuse, Le Militaire, Fille de Joie, Le Terrassier. In the figures’ heavy brows and deep shading, they strike me as a strange combination of William Pène du Bois’s drawings of bears and of Eric Powell’s The Goon. Hopper’s rather fashiony pen-and-ink sketches—pages of Figures in Hats, Man with Moustache and Women in Dresses and Hats, Diver, Sailors, Male Figure, and Arm—are also wonderfully chaotic and occasionally bizarre. —Nicole Rudick Read More »
July 1, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- “Today I broke through the chains of oppression. No longer will page numbers tyrannize my life. I … have taken action,” declares one impassioned Infinite Jest reader. Would DFW approve?
- Meet Flaneur magazine, each issue of which is dedicated to a different street. In the words of the editors, “The magazine is aware of its subjectivity. It wants to say ‘This could be Kantstraße.’”
- Yeats, Austen, and Fitzgerald: all bad spellers. (Spellcheck will save contemporary authors from inclusion, presumably.)
- What do you read when trapped on a spacecraft? Garcia Márquez, of course.
- With audiobooks booming, actors start reading. Quoth the Times, “The field is so promising that drama schools, including prestigious institutions like Juilliard and Yale, have started offering audio narration workshops.”
June 14, 2013 | by Alexander Nazaryan
It is best to dispense at once with the salacious stuff of Charlie Newman’s life: he was a drunk, a bastard, and a boor. His marriages did not last. His books did not bring fame. When not poisoning his liver or relations with both family and fellow writers, he taught college, smoked a pipe, and trained dogs.
Only the very last of these facts is relevant when reading In Partial Disgrace, a fantastically odd posthumous novel for those who like their beauty strange, their plots unruly, their ideas ambitious. It has been patched together by his nephew Ben Ryder Howe—a former editor at The Paris Review–and released this spring by Dalkey Archive Press. The book is set in a fictional European land called Cannonia, its history based on that of Hungary but its name quite clearly derived from the Latin for dog, canis. The main character, Felix Aufidius Pzalmanazar, is a dog breeder, and there are roughly 0.7 references to the canine species on each page of this gorgeous mess of a novel, which is what Pale Fire (a novel Newman adored) might have read like if given a heavy-handed edit by Cesar “The Dog Whisperer” Millan. Read More »
May 30, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- This list of authors’ annotations to books in their personal libraries is truly fantastic. (The above is, obviously, David Foster Wallace’s.)
- In a letter, Rudyard Kipling admits that “it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously” to material from other writers while writing The Jungle Book. Probable, even!
- Now we’re all really self-conscious about how we pronounce pecan.
- The National Book Critics Circle is introducing a new awards category, for first books in any genre.
- “One hundred and eighteen miles north of London, in the town of Boston, England, there lives a retired newspaperman named John Richards who is experiencing an unusually rotten spring. Richards is the founder and chairman of something called the Apostrophe Protection Society. His world, at least as related to the tiny mark that denotes possessives and the omission of letters from certain words, appears to be crashing down around him.”
May 8, 2013 | by Sadie Stein