Posts Tagged ‘fiction’
May 24, 2016 | by Jonathan Lee
The first sentence of Stephanie Danler’s riveting debut novel is perhaps more an injunction than an imperative: “You will develop a palate.” Over the 355 pages of Sweetbitter, the narrator, twenty-two-year-old Tess, encounters a number of appetites. She arrives in New York City during the heat wave of 2006 and applies for a job at a prestigious Manhattan restaurant. The manager, a man, stares at her just a little too long—the black sundress, the pilled cardigan wet with sweat—and we sense that her education will soon begin. Oysters, Pinot Noir, lines of coke at the bar. “The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter.” Read More »
May 3, 2016 | by Ane Farsethås
Édouard Louis, born in 1992, grew up in Hallencourt, a village in the north of France where many live below the poverty line. Now his account of life in that village, written when he was nineteen, has ignited a debate on class and inequality, foisting Louis into the center of French literary life.
En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (Finishing off Eddy Bellegueule) is unsparing in its descriptions of the homophobia, alcoholism, and racism that animated Louis’s youth in Hallencourt. “We thought the book would be as invisible as the people it describes,” said Louis, who rejects any romantic views of the “authenticity” of working-class life. His publisher thought the first edition, two thousand copies, would last years. But hundreds of thousands of copies have sold in France, and the book is being translated into more than twenty languages. The novel, which has earned Louis comparisons to Zola, Genet, and de Beauvoir, is set to appear in English later this year.
Eddy Bellegueule can be read as a straightforward coming-of-age story, but beneath its narrative is an almost systematic examination of the norms and habits of the villagers—inspired, Louis has said, by the theories of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. It’s as if he’s taken the whole place and put it behind glass—like observing the inner workings of an anthill.
Who is Eddy Bellegueule, and why do you want to finish him off?
Eddy Bellegueule is the name my parents gave me when I was born. It sounds dramatic, but yes, I wanted to kill him—he wasn’t me, he was the name of a childhood I hated. The book shows how—before I revolted against my childhood, my social class, my family, and, finally, my name—it was my milieu that revolted against me. My father and my brothers wanted to finish off Eddy Bellegueule long before, at a time when I was still trying to save him. Read More »
April 29, 2016 | by Robert Cohen
Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me turns fifty.
I am gazing, as I write, at a black-and-white photograph of Richard Fariña with his wife, Mimi (née Baez) Fariña, taken backstage at the Newport Folk Festival nine months before his death—fifty years ago this week—at the age of twenty-nine. To call the photo romantic would be an understatement. Mimi, her face a dark flower offered to an invisible sun, appears to be literally bursting out of her flip-flops as she executes some twirling, Isadora Duncan-y ballet step; while Richard, swarthy and black-haired, his eyes fondly delta’d (the Ray-Bans in his hand having apparently proven useless against all this brightness), looks like he can’t quite believe his luck, to have aligned his future with this lovely, exuberant sprite, a princess in folk’s royal family. He’s having a pretty good run of it for a guy who plays the dulcimer. And technically he doesn’t even play it that well. Read More »
April 27, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Deaccessioning: it’s one of the cruel realities of our time. But how do libraries determine which books turn to pulp and which remain to yellow on shelves? According to Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner, who’ve created a blog called Awful Library Books, it’s easier than you think: “Kelly and Hibner created the site in 2009. Each week, they highlight books that seem to them so self-evidently ridiculous that weeding is the only possible recourse. They often feature books with outlandish titles, like Little Corpuscle, a children’s book starring a dancing red blood cell; Enlarging Is Thrilling, a how-to about—you guessed it—film photography; and God, the Rod, and Your Child’s Bod: The Art of Loving Correction for Christian Parents … ‘I pull one or two books a week. Nobody’s going to even question that,’ Hibner said. She also keeps a bag of her favorite weeded books under her desk—Vans: The Personality Vehicle, Be Bold with Bananas—in case any inquisitive patrons want examples.”
- It’s not always easy to muster one’s enthusiasm for railways—even train buffs get the blues. But James Meek has been reading The Railways: Nation, Network and People, and so can offer a vital refresher for a world suffering from rail fatigue: “The shock of the speed of the first trains, three times faster than a stagecoach, wasn’t only physical, embodied in the sensations of acceleration and travel, but conceptual: the old measures of distance, how far town X was from town Y, were rendered irrelevant, leading to what commentators as early as 1833 were calling ‘the annihilation of space by time’, twenty-five years before Karl Marx used the phrase in the Grundrisse. Along with the speed of the trains was the shock of the speed with which the railways spread, gouging cuttings out of hills, flinging embankments across bowls of land, boring and blasting tunnels through solid rock, hurling viaducts over valleys and gorges … Writing in the 1960s, Michael Robbins said: ‘The Victorians who created the railway look like a race imbued with some demonic energy.’ ”
- David Means discusses his new novel, Hystopia, and the way he manipulates time in his fiction: “For me, grace lies in a paradox: the moment you are fully in existence while also fully aware of the vastness of time itself; so you’re sitting there in a hospital hallway holding a baby and the baby is looking up at you and you’re in the moment but also aware of the hugeness of the moment, the inexplicable forgiveness in the tactile feeling of this newborn life in your hands and the absolute innocent need inside the baby’s gaze. The writer’s job is to be as true as possible, not only in the drafting but the revision process, to the words and the reality that they are representing and creating. That requires an attempt at humility before the material, somehow. Humor and grace, for me, are entwined.”
- It’s great that Harriet Tubman will soon grace our twenties, but isn’t it time to spice up the ol’ government oil-portrait collection, too? “Looking through the House and Senate portrait collections, you’ll find a wealth of white legislators in ill-fitting suits posing awkwardly among symbolic objects: dogs, children, clocks, gavels, and flags—lots of flags … But if you’re not a white man, gay or straight, good luck getting a portrait painted before you die. The first Asian American in Congress, Dalip Singh Saund (D-CA), served as a representative for four years until a stroke ended his political career in 1962 … Saund died in 1973, but his portrait wasn’t commissioned until 2007, over forty years later, and it shows him standing in the Capitol rotunda, bordered by the places and people that influenced his career: India, California, Gandhi, and Lincoln.”
- Today in new exhibitions: “Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi.” “Ever wish that visiting a museum was more like watching reality TV and simultaneously browsing TMZ, all while a few wine coolers deep? You’re in luck … [the artist Laura Collins] had a series of paintings depicting the Olsen twins hiding from the paparazzi … Collins’s artwork lines the hallway, which is operating under a ‘jungle’ theme, complete with large green-paper leaves. Mary-Kate and Ashley are not identified in each painting, which Collins says is intentional. ‘I have no idea who’s who. I wanted it to be like, they’re kinda interchangeable. We almost don’t care who’s who.’ ”
April 8, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Recently, 92Y and The Paris Review have made recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. Consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts, or surprisingly lifelike radio adaptations.
This week we’ve debuted four new recordings from the series. Today, the last of the bunch: Pat Barker, author of the Regeneration Trilogy, who spoke with Michael Gorra on April 16, 2001. This interview was never adapted for the Review’s Writers at Work series, so what you hear has been essentially buried for the past fifteen years. From the start, Barker discusses why she disdains being considered a “gritty, working-class” writer because of her hailing from Northern England, and how fiction can help readers face “the past that’s not even past”: Read More »
April 5, 2016 | by Roman Muradov
Our Spring Revel is tonight. In anticipation of the event, the Daily is featuring a series of posts celebrating Lydia Davis, who is being honored this year with The Paris Review’s Hadada Award. Here, the illustrator Roman Muradov has adapted into comics Davis’s story “In a House Besieged,” which was originally published in the collection Break It Down (1986).