Posts Tagged ‘FSG’
July 11, 2011 | by Misha Glouberman
As told to Sheila Heti.
I grew up in Montreal and went to an upper-middle-class Jewish day school where kids had parents who maybe owned a carpet store or maybe were dentists. And then I went to Harvard for college. And it was pretty weird.
When I applied, I thought it would be great because I would get to meet lots of smart people. Those were the kinds of people I liked to be friends with, and I thought there would be more of them there. That was the main reason I thought it would be a fun place to be. I don’t think I was super ambitious or professional minded or even a very good student.
The thing I figured out soon after I applied was that, on Gilligan’s Island, it wasn’t the Professor who went to Harvard, it was Mr. Howell, the rich man. That was something of a revelation.
It’s funny, because what a lot of people talk about when they talk about going to Harvard is being really intimidated by the place when they arrive. I wasn’t at all intimidated by the place when I arrived—but I was really intimidated after graduating.
I arrived at Harvard from Montreal, which is a pretty fucking hip place to be an eighteen-year-old. I’d been going to bars for a while, and I was in a political theater company that did shows in lofts with homeless people and South American activists. And we went to pubs and got old gay men to buy us drinks. It was a pretty cool, fun, and exciting life for a kid in Montreal. It was a very vibrant place, and young people were really part of the life of the city.
Then when I went to Harvard, the place was full of these nominally smart, interesting people, all of whom at the age of eighteen seemed perfectly happy to live in dormitories and be on a meal plan and live a fully institutional life. And that was completely maddening! This was the opposite of everything I’d hoped for from the environment I’d be in.
May 17, 2011 | by Sam MacLaughlin
This new book is a modern retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What’s your relationship to the play? How does the book stand against it?
My relationship is one of abject admiration. I had it in the back of my head to do a story or a novel that’s a retelling of a Shakespeare, and I thought I’d probably like to retell A Midsummer’s Night Dream but could never figure out what the actual story would be. What could I possibly come up with that would add anything to something that was already perfect, or at least make the retold story urgent and compelling? So it took a while. I figured it out in part from walking back and forth to work through Buena Vista Park at dawn and dusk, when it’s a fairly creepy and magical place, and in part from having a relationship fall apart in just the right way to generate an obsessive need to tell a story about love.
You’ve called this a less ambitious novel compared to your other work. How so? Is that even something you should be admitting?
In some ways it felt less ambitious, though it didn’t turn out to be any less work. The story, at least when it started out, was about love, something of a lark as a topic compared to untimely death or the end of the world. Untimely death and the end of the world crept into the novel anyway, so it became just as ambitious as any of the others.
April 5, 2011 | by Irina Aleksander
Set in Rome in 1978, David Bezmozgis’s first novel, The Free World, tells the story of the Krasnansky family, three generations of Latvian Jews, who leave their lives in Riga, and, like many Soviet immigrants bound for the West in the late seventies, must spend six months in the Italian metropolis to secure their visas. Contrary to the book’s title, the Krasnanskys find themselves confined to this Roman waiting room, weighed down by the rubble of their communist past, the uncertainty of their future, and their allegiances to one another. Born in Riga in 1973, Bezmozgis immigrated to Canada with his family in 1980 and told the immigrant assimilation story with his tender, restrained collection of short fiction, Natasha and Other Stories (2004). The Free World is a sort of prologue to Natasha, the taxing journey his resilient characters—Jews in Transit, as the émigré newspaper offered in Rome is called—made before settling in the North American suburb. I recently spoke with Bezmozgis at a café not far from the New York Public Library, where he is currently a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.
The Krasnanskys’ story begins on a train platform in Vienna and concludes before they ever reach the North American free world. Had you always intended to contain the narrative in this strange way station?
Yes, one thing I knew very clearly is that the book begins when they get to Italy and it ends when they’re about to leave. That in-between period, that purgatory, is the balancing point between the past, the unknowable future, and the present, which is intriguing and exotic. It’s full of dramatic possibility. It was always fascinating to me that these people had given up their lives without really knowing where they were going. I feel like I leave my apartment in Brooklyn to go to the Bronx with more information than my parents had leaving the Soviet Union to go to Canada.
January 13, 2011 | by Jonathan Lippincott
This is the second installment of Lippincott’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
This is the second installment of Lippincott’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
11:30 A.M. Start reading the manuscript of Amy Waldman’s The Submission, a novel we are publishing this summer, and get pulled right in. This is still the most exciting part of the job, even after all these years—being one of the first readers of something that is really good. The story takes place a couple of years after the September 11 attacks, and is about a committee chosen to select a memorial for ground zero. In the opening chapter the committee is having its final meeting, there is a lot of arguing back and forth, a decision is finally reached, the anonymous entry opened, and it turns out the artist is Muslim. Chaos ensues. Read through lunch, and then have to get on to other projects.
6:30 P.M. Opening for a show of new work by Sarah Brenneman at the Jeff Bailey Gallery. This is the third show of her paintings that I have seen, and it is interesting to see how an artist’s work evolves over time. The paintings are done in watercolor, sometimes also with pencil and gouache. I was always struck by her beautiful sense of color and pattern, and now elements of the paintings are cut out and collaged elements are added, making an even more animated image. A very strong show. Catch up with a few friends, and then head out to dinner.
7:45 P.M. Dinner with our friend Peter, whom we haven’t seen in quite a while. We have a great time catching up, talking about recent books and less recent movies. Duck Soup, Pennies from Heaven and Bay of Angels need to be added to the Netflix queue.
January 12, 2011 | by Jonathan Lippincott
I have decided to resurrect my “walking to work” photo project. I was a reluctant New Yorker when I first moved to the city in the early 1990s, but immediately loved being able to walk everywhere. I would take long walks on the weekends, in part to learn my way around the city, and in part to get out of my squalid apartment. There was so much to see! One of the things that always struck me was the sheer quantity of stone carving on so many of the buildings. The combination of great craftsmanship and brute strength required to carve all these ornaments is remarkable, and all around Manhattan there are gargoyles and goddesses to rival any in Paris or Rome. And while all these cities have remarkable troves of artwork in their museums, walking down the street provides endless sights of beauties as well—these architectural details are another facet of the city’s public art. The photos this week are all taken between 34th and 14th, on Madison or Fifth Avenue. You have to look up (and watch your step when you do). Most street-level spaces on these avenues are stores or restaurants with little detail. For the most part, the detailing becomes more elaborate further up. I should probably remember why this is the case from my art history classes; maybe it was simply to celebrate the colossal height of these buildings. (Click the images to enlarge.)
9:30 A.M. Arrive at the office to find a sample of the box set of Elizabeth Bishop’s Poems and Prose, which I designed (it's coming out in February). To my delight and great relief, it looks marvelous. The color is an excellent match to the jacket of Bishop’s The Complete Poems, from 1969, which was the inspiration for the design of the new box and books. Nice way to start the new year. Spend the morning going through endless e-mail and other post-vacation office tidying. Finish work on the interior design for the Vargas Llosa Nobel lecture, due out ASAP.
October 21, 2010 | by Miranda Popkey
Paul Murray’s second novel, Skippy Dies—recently longlisted for the Booker Prize—is more than six hundred pages long and tackles subjects ranging from string theory to World War I. Set at an Irish boarding school, the darkly comic tale (Skippy actually does die in the first chapter) is populated by a sharply drawn cast of confused, self-destructive teens and self-involved, irresponsible adults. Recently, Murray spoke to me from his home in Dublin.
Did you draw any of the characters and themes from your own experiences? Were you bullied at school?
I went to quite an illustrious school in Ireland called Blackrock College, and Seabrook College, the school in the book, physically resembles the school that I went to. But other than that, it wasn’t hugely autobiographical. I wasn’t bullied or anything; I wasn’t brutalized in any way. There were much nerdier kids in my school, and they would draw more of the fire, but I could see it going on around me. It wasn’t an evil place. But there was such a limited view of the world. It was a big rugby school, and I was incredibly bad at rugby. They would make you play it until you were about fifteen, no matter how incredibly pointless that was. So if you weren’t any good at rugby, then you sort of didn’t really have any kind of standing in the school.
I think being a teenager is really, really hard. You’re caught in this double bind: You’re struggling to establish your own identity, and at the same time you have absolutely zero of the tools that you need. You’re completely dependent on your parents, you have no money, and your day is mapped out for you from beginning to end. My school was a boys’ school; there were no girls, so life really felt kind of pointless in that regard. You’ve got these huge sexual transformations happening, but if there are no girls, obviously all the energy is just going to be turned into brutalizing whoever is smaller than you.
There was also a real emphasis on grades. The school would push students to perform well on exams and get a lot of points and get into good universities and so forth. The education system in Ireland is a real sausage factory. You go into class and you learn as many facts as you can and you regurgitate them in your exams, and there’s not a huge amount of respect for learning or a huge amount of respect for education. And because a lot of the kids were quite wealthy, some of them looked down on teachers. And the combination of a might-makes-right brutality and also getting a glimpse of the economic hierarchy that held sway in the country—all those things were really disappointing lessons to learn as a kid. It felt like my life began as soon as I left school.