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Posts Tagged ‘George Plimpton’

It’s Back: The Paris Review Commencement Gift Box

May 2, 2016 | by

Grad2016

Rumor has it that our founding editor George Plimpton was once called upon to give a commencement speech at Bennington College. Instead of bringing an armful of platitudes about inspiration and the future, he brought an armful of fireworks—maybe more like a truckload of fireworks, actually. There was one for each graduate, each carefully labeled. Rather than intoning from behind a podium, Plimpton set off the fireworks one by one, shouting each graduate’s name just before the rockets went screaming into the sky.

If you want a gift for your graduate that isn’t highly flammable and illegal in most states, try our Commencement Gift Box. It includes a one-year subscription to The Paris Review; a copy of The Unprofessionals, our new anthology, featuring the best young writers at work today; and two archival issues of the magazine—200 and 214—in which James Salter, Eileen Myles, Robert Caro, Jane Smiley, and Luc Sante share their memories of starting out as writers, with plenty of good advice for the graduate in your life.

The boxes are available from now through the end of June. You’ll find all the details here—order now. It’s the next best thing to lighting something on fire.

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Plimpton Worldwide, and Other News

April 28, 2016 | by

George Plimpton (left) with cat (right).

  • Jenny Diski has died at sixty-eight. Blake Morrison told the Guardian: “What I liked was her abrasiveness—she was tough, not least on herself. Whatever subject she took on—rape, depression, the sixties, Antarctica—she had something new and surprising to say … Some of the diaries and reviews she published in the London Review of Books were small masterpieces.” You can read those diaries here. “It’s as simple as pushing a button, and I’m lost in no man’s land,” she wrote in the last entry. “The insoluble grief. Not that there’s anything to be done about any of it.”
  • Prince’s early webmaster remembers helping him with the NPG Music Club, a crucial forerunner for social media, digital music, and artist-run distribution: “If he built his own online record label, his own online radio station, and his own online music store, he had just as much access to his audience as the traditional channels did. He finally had a way to skip all the barriers and go direct … This direct connection between the fans and an artist on Prince’s level didn’t exist before the NPG Music Club. There was no Twitter, Facebook, or even YouTube. At the time, he saw direct Internet distribution as a model for all artists. He would tell me, if you could build your own music club, why would you need to pay anyone else a share and give away all your fans’ information? Why not do it all yourself—downloads, concert tickets, streaming concert events, and even a hub for emerging artists? He was leading the way to a new artist-owned music business … For a moment in time, we had something special no one had ever seen before—and something prescient, that predicted some of the questions about online distribution and artist agency that would come later.”
  • Today in reality: Is it real? Do our sense perceptions offer anything more than impotent glimpses of the world outside our heads? “We’ve been shaped to have perceptions that keep us alive, so we have to take them seriously. If I see something that I think of as a snake, I don’t pick it up. If I see a train, I don’t step in front of it. I’ve evolved these symbols to keep me alive, so I have to take them seriously. But it’s a logical flaw to think that if we have to take it seriously, we also have to take it literally … I call it conscious realism: Objective reality is just conscious agents, just points of view. Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind.”
  • When George Plimpton wasn’t editing The Paris Review, he was doing … almost literally everything else. “Plimpton was an omnipresence for much of American cultural life—both high and low—in the last third of the twentieth century. He appeared in commercials for Oldsmobile and Intellivision, and appeared in the movies The Bonfire of the Vanities and Good Will Hunting and on TV’s Married with Children. He was present when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, helping to tackle Sirhan Sirhan. He turned up as a character on The Simpsons. In a New Yorker cartoon from 1967, a man about to undergo surgery looks up at the doctor wearing a mask and asks, ‘Wait a minute! How do I know you’re not George Plimpton?’ That Zelig-like identity rested largely on a series of seven books in which the New York–born, Harvard-educated Plimpton threw himself both physically and intellectually into the professional sporting life. Decades before the onset of reality TV and the Twittersphere, Plimpton starred in his own Everyman story.”
  • As I write this, Moscow is teeming with horrendous art. So what, you may say—so’s New York. At least in Moscow’s case there’s a festival to blame: the Moscow Spring Festival, with a three-million-dollar price tag. “By Friday, the entire center of the city was covered with sculptures and installations, most of them far larger than life size. These included a plastic reproduction of the classic Russian painting Bogatyrs (featuring three Russian-superhero horsemen), the size of a two-story house; the head of a woman—also roughly the size of a house—in faux topiary, with a twisted hand growing out of the ground next to it; and a cartoon Soviet policeman, which was the height of a small apartment building. It was as if the city had been invaded by a horde of aliens with flamboyantly bad taste. The Moscow intelligentsia recoiled in horror.”

Mad Ducks and Bears

April 26, 2016 | by

From an early paperback edition of Mad Ducks and Bears.

There is a fine late-night row to be had over which of George Plimpton’s sports books ranks as his most daring. Plenty would nominate Shadow Box, in which our slender hero gets his nose flattened by light heavyweight champion Archie Moore. Others would agitate for Open Net—a perilous venture into the world of pro hockey—and still more, Paper Lion, which culminates with Plimpton nearly becoming the first quarterback ever decapitated during a scrimmage.

Fine and rousing as these accounts may be, I am here to tell you that the distinction belongs to Mad Ducks and Bears. I assert this knowing full well that this is the author’s most obscure athletic odyssey, little known even to devout Plimptonians. Read More »

Don’t Worry, R. Crumb Is Still Weird, and Other News

April 26, 2016 | by

An R. Crumb illustration from Art & Beauty No. 2. Courtesy the artist, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York/London

  • To celebrate the reissue of George Plimpton’s sports oeuvre (Paper Lion, Out of My League, et cetera), you’ll probably want to see these pictures of him doing one of the things he did so well: getting in over his head with very athletic men.
  • Crumb has a new exhibition at a London gallery—a surprisingly reputable turn for an artist who prides himself on his ill repute. But don’t worry: he’s the same old glorious pervert. “I was always a contrarian. My wife says sometimes I’m too much so—born weird. I always felt there’s something odd and off about my nervous system. If everybody’s walking forward, I want to walk backwards. During adolescence I couldn’t fit in, and it was very, very painful. But it fired me to develop my own aesthetic. I was very much in pain about being this outcast, but it freed me to drop that Hollywood ideal and pursue the people that I thought attractive … My work is full of anger toward women. I was sent to Catholic school with scary nuns and I was rejected by girls at high school. I sort of got it out of my system, but anger is normal between the sexes. Okay, it can go to the top and men can harm women, but if anyone says they are not angry I don’t believe it, especially while your libido is still going. The men who are most charming are often the most contemptuous.”
  • In which Eileen Myles gets paid for—can you believe this?—writing poetry. “A poem is my money … My poem is my property. Like my lawn. I get a thousand dollars for a poem in Transparent … I think The New Yorker gave me something like $600 for the poem ‘Dissolution.’ It had been the most I had ever gotten for a poem I think. Sometimes now when I am asked to write a catalogue essay for an artist I realize I could do a poem and I propose that or simply send it. In those cases I have gotten $1500 for the poems which is the most. Yet it is low for an art catalogue so in a way writing a poem is a kind of complaint. Here take a fucking poem for that price. I mean it doesn’t literally feel that way but I’m always looking for the easiest way for language to pour. Especially in relationship to cash.”
  • Thirty years after the Chernobyl accident, the Zone remains a strange kind of literary center: “the Zone has spawned a literary genre of its own. Indeed, it seemed instantly to pass into myth, even possessing its own poetic language. The soldiers and firefighters who cleaned up the site—many of whom died from exposure—are referred to as the liquidators. Reactor Four remains encased in a concrete-and-steel shell known as the sarcophagus. In the Zone, there is a Red Forest; there was black rain … Through three decades of literary response, Chernobyl has undermined the sort of authoritative depiction that might bring closure. But something closed can be forgotten. The finest works express profound doubts about the power of language to absorb a disaster of this magnitude, and so continually reopen it to new ways of being remembered.”
  • Midcentury British boarding-school novels—sensible, stuffy, strict—wouldn’t seem to offer much in the way of contemporary ethical guidance. But Nakul Krishna, reading Edith Blyton’s school stories, begs to differ: “The schoolgirl’s hell is not, as a character in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (1944) memorably puts it, other people; her hell is the isolated self, incapable of getting outside itself. Time and again, the girls must be brought to their lowest ebb (ostracism, betrayal, near-fatal illness or, worse, near-expulsion) before they are offered a glimpse of self-knowledge and the chance to get back on their moral feet. Sometimes an apology will do it, or an acknowledgement, or some gesture of recompense to those harmed. But Blyton, like life, can be brutal: not every character is redeemed by the end of the series, and no character is straightforwardly rid of her vices. There is only the lifelong challenge of acknowledging the reality of other people.”

“Lies Don’t Last with Age”: An Interview with John le Carré

April 5, 2016 | by

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’re debuting four new recordings from the series, and first up is John le Carré, who spoke to our founding editor George Plimpton back in October 1996—their conversation formed the basis of Le Carré’s Art of Fiction interview in the magazine the next year. Here, he touches on his discovery of his character George Smiley, his experience with intelligence services, and how he chose his inimitable pseudonym: Read More »

Ahoy! All Aboard the Paris Review Cruise

April 1, 2016 | by

Join us for the inaugural Paris Review cruise!

We’re thrilled to announce a new chapter for The Paris Review’s subscribers—an exciting opportunity to meet your fellow readers, enhance your writing skills, and relax in the sun while you support your favorite literary magazine. This August, join us aboard the SS Plimpton for four days of fun, food, and fiction as we set sail for scenic Rehoboth Beach, Delaware! For only $375*, you can make memories and friendships you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.

Want to learn more? Read on! Read More »