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Posts Tagged ‘Elif Batuman’

What We’re Loving: Comfort Reads, Evil Santas

January 4, 2013 | by

On the train down to Washington I read “Stage Mothers,” Elif Batuman’s article about a women’s theater troupe in rural Turkey, and kept pretending to have a cold so the guy sitting next to me wouldn’t think I was crying over the international issue of The New Yorker. Even by Batuman standards, it’s a knockout. If you missed it, go fish it out of the recycling. (Then read her conversation with J. J. Sullivan in the current issue of the Review.) —Lorin Stein

In her introduction to Monica Dickens’s Mariana, recently rereleased by the unimpeachable Persephone Press, Harriet Lane describes it as a “‘hot-water bottle’ novel, one to curl up with on the sofa on a wet Sunday afternoon.” And this story of a young girl growing up in England in the 1930s is certainly comfort-reading at its finest. While dated at points (the moments of casual anti-Semitism are certainly jarring), it’s a fun read, breezy and funny and often touching, with beautifully observed bits of everyday life throughout. Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles, was a prolific and popular author; for anyone with multiple winter Sundays to fill, I’d also recommend her 1939 memoir One Pair Of Hands, which details her stint, much to her family’s chagrin, as a cook-general in some of London’s wealthiest households. —Sadie O. Stein

Before the holiday break, I had some time to explore my Netflix account and found, to my excitement, a hidden gem entitled Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. “This unusual Christmas story is set in the frozen beauty of Finland,” the description reads, “where local reindeer herders race to capture an ancient evil: Santa Claus.” What more could you ask for, to prepare yourself for holiday travel and awkward family soirees, than an R-rated horror film that has more in common with Die Hard than It’s A Wonderful Life? Filled with dry Scandinavian wit and reindeer slaughter, while this isn’t a film for the whole family, it’s one that’ll be playing in the Alvarez household for many Christmases to come. —Justin Alvarez

In a bout of plain old mean-spiritedness, I’ve been relishing the bad reviews of the film Les Misérables. Hugo’s book is among my all-time favorites—there’s just something about those sweeping nineteenth-century social novels—so much so that I wanted to change my name to Jean Valjean after reading it (a confession that brought ridicule from my colleagues here; I stand by my dream). The casting of the film is so absurd, as is the excessive emotion. Oh, the drama! Oddly enough, I inadvertently took David Denby’s advice to those who liked the film to watch Singin’ in the Rain as an example of what good musical theater can be. And he’s right: I loved it. —Nicole Rudick

Holidays are certainly the best time to try out new recipes; most people are pleasantly surprised by an unfamiliar dish amongst the old family standards. My sisters and I have a Twelve Days of Christmas party each December and always aim to have a few things on the buffet that weren’t there the year before. This time around, my older sister’s wassail was the hit of the night, not in the least because it comes with a great history that necessarily involves the host singing one (or more) of the many carols about drink. Seeing as it’s Christmas until Sunday, I’m planning on enjoying another batch of wassail before the season ends. —Clare Fentress

Perhaps few will share my excitement about the following: there is an audiobook of The Golden Bough, and it is free, and you can download it here. —S.O.S.


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:

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.

Thank you. Thank you, editor.

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

Neither are we. Subscribe now.



Hatchet Job: When Bad Reviewers Go Good

November 19, 2012 | by

In February of this year, Adam Mars-Jones, an English writer not much known in this country, won the inaugural Hatchet Job of the Year award for his review of Michael Cunningham’s Nightfall: “And a two-person epiphany has to outrank the single kind. Two comely young people standing in the lake shallows, ‘looking out at the milky haze of the horizon’—that’s not an epiphany, that’s a postcard.”

Geoff Dyer, another English writer, much better known since 2008’s Death in Venice, Jeff in Varanisi brought most of his strange work back into print, was nominated for his attack on Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending:

Later, after Tony has broken up with his girlfriend, Adrian commits suicide. This would be my first objection. Obviously people commit suicide, for a variety of reasons, but in fiction they tend to do so primarily in the service of authorial convenience. And convenience invariably becomes a near-anagram of contrivance.

The impulse behind good bad reviews is not much understood, and whether understood or not, is usually disliked or dismissed. It’s considered ungenerous, as though generosity could never be misplaced. Read More »


Lunch Poems, Mixtapes, Beats

May 30, 2012 | by

  • Spend your lunch at MoMA with Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, written while O’Hara worked at the museum.
  • The name says it all: Gladwell title generator.
  • Elif Batuman visits Orhan Pamuk’s Musuem of Innocence, with eye-opening results.
  • Ask Maira Kalman. She’ll answer questions live!
  • Watch the trailer for On the Road.
  • A literary mixtape for … the brain? Eyes?

    Last Chance for Tickets to the Revel!

    April 8, 2011 | by

    On Tuesday, The Paris Review will be hosting its Spring Revel, a fund-raiser held each year at Cipriani’s 42nd Street. As readers of The Daily may already know, Robert Redford will be presenting James Salter with The Paris Review Hadada; Fran Lebowitz will be awarding Elif Batuman the Terry Southern Humor Prize for her piece in The Daily called “My 12-Hour Blind Date with Dostoevsky”; and Ann Beattie will be giving April Ayers Lawson the Plimpton Prize for her short story “Virgin.” It’s a very fun affair. To quote Mary Karr: the Revel is “prom for New York intellectuals.”

    We are excited for those of you who are already coming. A few tickets are left, and it goes without saying that they are available for purchase to all of our readers.


    April Ayers Lawson Wins Plimpton Prize; Elif Batuman Wins Inaugural Terry Southern Prize for Humor

    March 23, 2011 | by

    Left, April Lawson; Right, Elif Batuman.

    On Tuesday, April 12, The Paris Review will single out two young writers at its Spring Revel.

    April Ayers Lawson will receive the Review’s Plimpton Prize for “Virgin,” which appeared in our fall issue and marked Lawson's national debut.

    Elif Batuman will receive the first-ever Terry Southern Prize for Humor for “My Twelve-Hour Blind Date, with Dostoevsky,” her five-part account of a marathon theatrical performance on Governor’s Island. The series appeared last July on The Paris Review Daily.

    The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 award given to a new voice published in The Paris Review. The prize is named for the Review’s longtime editor George Plimpton and reflects his commitment to discovering new writers of exceptional merit. The winner is chosen by the Board of the Review. This year's prize will be presented by Ann Beattie.

    The Terry Southern Prize for Humor is a $5,000 award recognizing wit, panache, and sprezzatura in work published by The Paris Review or online by the Daily. Perhaps best known as the screenwriter behind Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider, Terry Southern was also a satirical novelist, a pioneering New Journalist, and a driving force behind the early Paris Review.

    This year’s winner of the Terry Southern Prize was chosen by a panel of three judges: critic Sam Anderson of The New York Times, editor Chris Jackson of Spiegel & Grau, and writer Fran Lebowitz. Lebowitz will present the prize.

    And, of course, the honoree of this year’s Revel is James Salter. Robert Redford will present Salter with the 2011 Hadada, the Review’s lifetime achievement award recognizing a “strong and unique contribution to literature.” Previous recipients of the Hadada include John Ashbery, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton (posthumously), Barney Rosset, Philip Roth, and William Styron.

    Come help us celebrate—and support your favorite literary magazine (and arts gazette!). Buy your ticket now!