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Posts Tagged ‘Donald Antrim’

What We’re Loving: Antrim, Glynn, a Massive Sugar-Woman

May 16, 2014 | by

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Kara Walker, A Subtlety

In the last few years one of my favorite novelists, Donald Antrim, has devoted himself to short stories—not as finger exercises, but with a combined intensity, delicacy, and feeling for tradition that set him apart from any writer of his generation. This morning I finished the galleys of his long-awaited collection, The Emerald Light in the Air, and immediately started reading them again. What is it about Antrim? He writes as if prose were his native language: his sentences have the matter-of-fact pathos and absurdity of dreams. Also, they are often very funny: “An Actor Prepares” remains, after fifteen years, one of the funniest short stories I have ever read. Nowadays the comedy is quieter and darker, with protagonists who struggle to remain within the ranks of the worried well. It’s all up-to-the-minute (you could write a paper about the evolution of cell phones in Antrim’s work), but his themes are the Chekhovian classics—ambivalence toward the life at hand; yearning for the life that might have been—and he evokes unhappy love with a sensuousness and a subtle, plausible magic that recall Cheever at his best. —Lorin Stein

Go see Kara Walker’s massive installation, “A Subtlety,” at the doomed Domino Sugar Factory. The space was once a warehouse for unrefined sugar that arrived from the Caribbean. Now, the air is sticky with molasses; it drips from the ceiling, staining the floor and the factory’s newest resident, a thirty-five-foot sugar-woman in sphinx form, naked but for a headscarf and some earrings. She presides over thirteen boys of molasses and resin who labor on the concrete. And she watches, and whatever she’s watching seems not in this room, seems elsewhere, ahead and behind and beside us. —Zack Newick

Since the death of Thomas Glynn earlier this month, I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of sorts: I’ve tried to locate many of the author’s obscure works, including an 1,800-page unpublished manuscript on the first 150 years of the Dannemora prison, a much shorter history of New York State, an array of short stories, and the occasional essay (don’t miss this great 1975 profile of Frank Zappa from Modern Hi-Fi & Music). Glynn self-published A Child’s Christmas in Chicago in 2002, and while the title may come across as more sentimental than most of Glynn’s oeuvre, think twice after reading the novel’s opening line: “Hey, it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake.” With a touch of the raconteur Jean Shepherd and the voice of a young Gulley Jimson, the story is a mix of oddball characters, whimsy, and the kind of heartbreak that only the Christmas season can bring. —Justin Alvarez

It can be a real relief to read something that isn’t stylized, or even something badly written, after reading Proust, which I have been doing on and off this week. In his excellent essay on volume three of Knausgaard’s My Struggle series, Ben Lerner celebrates Knausgaard’s unquotability and his sloppiness. Moreover, Lerner provides the best answer I’ve yet read on what Knausgaard’s writing does to us, and why we’re so obsessed with it, why “we can read it compulsively while being uncertain if it’s good.” —Anna Heyward Read More »

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Youth, Eternal Life, and Other News

March 19, 2014 | by

CIS:IM.421-1923

Garuda, the “vahana” of Vishnu, returning with a vase of Amrita, a nectar thought to bestow immortality. A drawing by an unknown artist, ca. 1825.

  • Some writers—the white male ones, mostly—expect to attain immortality through their work. Others simply write about eternal life.
  • And others still must wait for the afterlife for their work to get the attention it deserves. Walter Benjamin, for instance, was “all but forgotten in the years leading up to his death … his name had been kept alive by a small number of friends and colleagues, the kind of trickle of a readership that hardly suggested he would one day be counted among the most significant and far-ranging critics, essayists, and thinkers of the past 100 years.”
  • But the ebb and flow of critical reputation is almost a given these days, when we’re always developing provocative new rubrics with which to classify our writers. E.g.: “As novelists spend much of their day watching the grass grow, it is only logical that they can be defined according to their landscaping technique. Thus Donald Antrim is a push-mower novelist, while Rachel Kushner is a ride-mower novelist.”
  • There were not always “teenagers.” A new documentary examines the peculiar history of the concept, which was “the result and invention of adolescent girls … There is a kind of sexist quality to it as well, a crucifixion of the young female figure.”
  • As Ukraine becomes the nexus of geopolitics, pickup artists worry about the implications for getting laid. Would EU membership make Ukrainian women more independent, and thus more difficult to seduce? “Kiev’s pussy paradise potential has been permanently damaged … It’s very sad.”

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Donald Antrim Wins Genius Grant

September 25, 2013 | by

Donald Antrim, 2013 MacArthur Fellow

Here on Twenty-Seventh Street, we are kvelling: we just learned that our advisory editor, longtime contributor, and friend Donald Antrim is a 2013 MacArthur fellow.

In an interview published in issue 203, Antrim said of his fiction,

It took me a while to understand that in building another world through the fantastic I was making a set of rules that had to be observed, a logic that had to be carried through—that I was in some ways obeying the premise of the very opening line, and that each book would make itself out of itself as time went on.

The committee described his work as “at once absurd but relatable, free but structured, romantic but realistic, funny but sad.” He is in terrific company: among the other twenty-three honorees are Karen Russell, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, and the musician and writer Jeremy Denk. (See a full list of 2013 fellows here.) Hearty congratulations to all!

 

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Just Like Christmas …

November 29, 2012 | by

Our Winter issue takes you north, to an unusual conference in Oslo with John Jeremiah Sullivan, Elif Batuman, Donald Antrim, and filmmaker Joachim Trier. In addition to the proceedings of the first Norwegian-American Literary Festival, this December we bring you new fiction from James Salter, Tim Parks, and Rachel Kushner, poems by Linda Pastan, Ben Lerner, and Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), an interview with Susan Howe, and much more.

Here’s Joachim Trier on literature and film:

In Norway we have a great tradition of writing literature, whereas cinema … historically this is not our strength. A Norwegian friend of mine interviewed Don DeLillo and asked him, “What do American writers talk about, when they hang out casually?” DeLillo said, “We talk about movies.” I felt so proud!

... and Donald Antrim on the fantastical:

When I began writing in earnest, I wrote stories that were modeled on the stories I thought I should write. The stories were about my family, mainly, about my alcoholic mother and about being her son, but they weren't successful. They were dutifully written and they failed ... I went into a depression over this. I didn't know what to do. I got out of the funk eventually, through the fantastic, through making up other worlds.

... and Elif Batuman and John Jeremiah Sullivan on false starts:

BATUMAN
My editor at The New Yorker was like, Why don’t you just skip the whole part where you do all the wrong things and just do the right thing.

SULLIVAN
Thank you. Thank you, editor.

BATUMAN
And then he was like, Of course I’m just joking. He wasn’t joking!

Neither are we. Subscribe now.

 

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Love Stories

October 20, 2011 | by

Photograph courtesy of Elisabeth Moore.

F. and I were introduced by a mutual friend while I was on a visit to L.A. I was living in D.C., newly single and working at a political magazine. I had given myself a firm dating rule: no journalists. In a sleepy company town, where ethics precluded romantic liaisons with my sources, it had begun to feel as if I’d doomed myself to celibacy. F. was a writer who’d just finished his first film and was passing time as a listings editor. He was my best friend’s occasional tennis partner. “You’ll love him,” she promised, sending him a text as I shoved my bag in the backseat of her car at LAX. “I’ll have him meet us for drinks at this outdoor German place.” We hit it off instantly.

It started with a challenge. I told him that first night that I’d found Donald Antrim’s The Verificationist overly self-conscious, so he slid The Hundred Brothers into my carry-on for the red-eye back east. Antrim’s endlessly multiplying brothers and claustrophobic prose were right at home in the repetitious concourses of LAX. My perfume leaked in my suitcase during the flight, but I returned his copy anyway, with a handwritten note, reeking of the nape of my neck. Read More »

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Advice to Our Scottish Readers

August 19, 2011 | by

Late last Tuesday night, a crowd gathered in an antique circus tent, in Edinburghs Charlotte Square, to shelter from the rain, drink whiskey, and hear readings by Paris Review contributor Donald Antrim and Southern editor John Jeremiah Sullivan, both introduced by editor Lorin Stein. The program—The Paris Review Presents New American Writing at the Edinburgh Book Fair—received mixed reviews. One tweeter called itbloomin superb. A blogger asked, Why cant there be events like this in Edinburgh all the time? One young festival volunteer, less enthusiastically, described it as wordy. What did she expect? Last year when McSweeneys came, the editor got up on stage and shaved his head.

For some, head shaving is not an option. Instead, at the end of the night, the Paris Review delegates opened the floor to requests for advice, which were submitted on scraps of paper. Most were answered on the spot; others were tucked into a notebook and reviewed on the road, as editors Sullivan and Stein recuperated from the book fair triumph/fiasco.

Could you recommend a travel book about either Japan or Spain?
—Anon.

We are composing this response under deadline in the West Highlands—specifically, in the self-proclaimed “oldest pub in Scotland,” the Lachlann Inn, on the banks of Loch Lomond. As everyone knows, they didn’t have WiFi in 1734 (although they do appear to have had video poker). For this reason, we can’t answer your question in the kind of depth that American readers have come to expect from The Paris Review. We can only recommend, in Lorin’s case, Robert Hughes’s Barcelona and, in John’s case, Journey of a Thousand Miles, the famous series of travel haiku by Basho. (John would also like to recommend the Laura Veirs song “Rapture,” which is not strictly speaking a travelogue, but does include a tribute to “lovely Basho / his plunking ponds and toads.”)

Please recommend a good book for our book club. We are currently reading Jennifer Egans novel A Visit From the Goon Squad and have recently read such books as So Much for That, The Dice Man, Middlesex, Half of a Yellow Sun, Oryx and Crake, and Rebecca.
—Marion & Co.

When we see the title The Dice Man, we both think of the scandal-plagued comedian of our youth, the “Dice Man,” Andrew Dice Clay—and that can’t possibly be what you have in mind. Still, we are struck by the breadth of your reading. Your question has been on our minds. Yesterday we wandered into a small used bookstore at the foot of the Castle mound and both ogled a complete 1910 Robert Louis Stevenson in twenty volumes. John proposed that we donate it to your book club; Lorin found it “too rich” for The Paris Review’s “blood.” As a backup, John recommends Ghost Light, Joseph O’Connor’s fictional re-creation of John Millington Synge’s hopeless love affair with the Abbey Theatre actress Molly Allgood. And we both recommend—in the strongest possible terms—our colleague Donald Antrim’s short novel The Verficationist, about an academic meeting gone horribly wrong amid the hustle and bustle of an International House of Pancakes.

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