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Posts Tagged ‘George Plimpton’

No Stranger to Excess

December 17, 2015 | by

Terry Southern, as pictured on the cover of Yours in Haste and Adoration.

A letter from Terry Southern to Fayette Hickox, dated June 29, 1978, and sent to the offices of The Paris Review. Southern, a novelist and screenplay writer, contributed often to the Review; he died in 1995, and our humor prize is named after him. Hickox—who is, as Southern was apparently unaware, a man—was George Plimpton’s assistant and a former managing editor of the magazine. Gene Andrewski, referred to below, was a former managing editor, too, and Maxine Groffsky ran the Review’s offices in Paris from 1966 until it moved to New York in 1973. (The letter’s original spelling and punctuation have been retained.)

This letter appears in Yours in Haste and Adoration: Selected Letters of Terry Southern, edited by Nile Southern and Brooke Allen, out now from Antibookclub. Read More »

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Premium Unleaded, and Other News

December 16, 2015 | by

Frank Lloyd’s gas station in Cloquet, Minnesota.

  • In November 1994, George Plimpton interviewed Garrison Keillor at 92Y as part of a collaboration with The Paris Review. You can listen to a recording of their interview here—and now the PBS series Blank on Blank has animated part of it. “I think that you’re only obliged to be a humorist from maybe the age of eighteen until you turn thirty,” Keillor tells Plimpton. “Past the age of thirty, I don’t think there’s any obligation to be clever at all. After that, you, I think, are supposed to settle down, be a good person, raise your children, and be good to your friends, which you may not have been when you were very clever, and try to atone for your cleverness. Humor has to surprise us. Otherwise it isn’t funny, and, it’s a death knell for a writer to be labeled humorous, because then, of course, it’s not a surprise anymore, it’s what expected of him. And when you come to expect humor of people, you will never get it.”
  • Last month, Oxford Dictionaries named the “tears of joy” emoji its Word of the Year; now Merriam-Webster has followed suit, choosing a suffix, -ism, as its Word of the Year. Now, before you get all exercised and sit down to write an indignant op-ed about all these nonword words the dictionaries insist on force-feeding us, be advised that “Merriam-Webster notes that the version of -ism without the hyphen actually is a word, specifically a noun meaning ‘a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory’ or ‘an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief’ … Last week, Dictionary.com bravely bucked this year’s trend by naming a word as their word of the year. They selected identity, citing increased conversation this year over gender and sexual identity, in large part because of former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to come out as a transgender woman.”
  • Fact: Frank Lloyd Wright designed a gas station. It was but one element in a vast, unrealized utopia he’d planned to erect in Buffalo, New York, which remains, alas, a largely dystopian place. But in 1958, when Wright was ninety, one part of his idyllic vision found its way to Cloquet, Minnesota, and an historic gas station was born: “Wright had designed a house for a resident of Cloquet named R. W. Lindholm, who happened to be in the petroleum business. Wright never gave up on his utopian city, and knowing what his client did for a living, he convinced Lindholm to build a gas station that was similar in design to the Buffalo station … Wright saw the car as a way to personal freedom for Americans, so he gave the drivers of Cloquet what he thought that future needed in a gas station, including an observation deck where the attendants could watch for cars in warmth and comfort.” Forget Fallingwater. This is Tricklinggasoline.
  • “I have in fact only once corresponded with anyone … who was as good at writing letters as I am,” Iris Murdoch once told the philosopher Philippa Foot. So this new book of her correspondence must be a veritable tour de force of jocularity and fluent intellect, yes? Well. John Mullan hates to break it to you, but “the brilliant thinker, witty conversationalist and powerfully idiosyncratic novelist are hardly here at all … Some have responded to the publication of these letters by depicting Murdoch as a rather shocking sexual adventuress, but this is not quite right. Really, she seems more interested in writing letters to people she found attractive than in having sex with them.”
  • What was the deal with Hawthorne and Melville? The heat that emanated from the hearth of their friendship was … well, hot. Melville once wrote, for example, that Hawthorne “shoots his strong New-England roots into the hot soil of my Southern soul.” But, as Jordan Alexander Stein notes, anyone wishing to prove some erotic intent on either writer’s part has a heavy burden: “Writers of the mid-nineteenth century did not have available to them the same expressive concision as those of us today who might speak glibly of topping and bottoming … Melville wrote of Hawthorne with undeniably sexy language. What proves more elusive are the feelings to which, with any precision, this language can be said to refer … The issue, then, is whether serious scholars writing about famous authors can reasonably deign to take dick jokes as evidence. And if we are indeed willing to take them as evidence, just how do we go about determining what kind of evidence they are?”

I Have Gone to Bed Early: Translating Proust

October 13, 2015 | by

Proust, looking saucy.

Richard Howard, who turns eighty-six today, first appeared in The Paris Review in our thirteenth issue—from the summer of 1956. Since then, several of his poems and translations have found their way to these pages, and in 2004, J. D. McClatchy interviewed him for our Art of Poetry series. In our Summer 1989 issue, George Plimpton spoke with Howard about translating Proust.

GP

The first line of Remembrance of Things Past is one of the most famous in literature. How does your version differ from the others?

RH

Three versions of Proust’s first sentence—“Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.”—have been published. The Scott Moncrieff-Kilmartin: “For a long time I used to go to bed early.” James Grieve (an Australian professor): “Time was, when I always went to bed early.” And mine: “Time and again, I have gone to bed early.”

GP

And what is the thinking behind your version?

RH

To begin with, “time and again” seems one of those cell-like phrases which sums up a meaning of the whole book, as long-temps does in French. I admire Professor Grieve’s “time was”, but it doesn’t have the notion of recurrence that I wanted. It seemed to me that what was needed was not only an opening phrase which would reveal the book’s meaning, but one that would begin with the word “time”, which would be the last word in the book as well, as it is in French. Read More »

Bill Becker, 1927–2015

September 14, 2015 | by

BillBecker

Becker in 1995.

We were saddened to learn that Bill Becker, a longtime friend of The Paris Review, died this weekend at eighty-eight. As today’s obituary in the New York Times explains, Bill was “a theater critic and financier who acquired Janus Films with a partner in 1965, expanded its catalog of art-house and Hollywood classics and broadened their distribution to university audiences and home viewers.” A cineaste and a shrewd businessman, he was instrumental in bringing works by Renoir, Fellini, Bergman, Antonioni, Truffaut, and dozens of other filmmakers to new American audiences, a legacy his son Peter carries on as president of the Criterion Collection.

We knew Bill as a familiar face at our annual Spring Revel, and a generous, loyal benefactor. A close friend of George Plimpton’s, he was quick to champion the writers he admired—James Salter credited him with bringing A Sport and a Pastime to Plimpton’s attention. After George died, Mr. Becker continued to support the Review under each of its new editors. We join his colleagues at Janus Films and the Criterion Collection in offering our condolences and our gratitude.

How to Name Your Baby

September 3, 2015 | by

Illustration: Elmar Ersch

Whenever anyone frowns upon the Daily for publishing work they find obscene, frivolous, or otherwise undeserving of the prestigious Paris Review name, I want to direct their attention to our seventies issues. Readers who think we’ve published sixty-two years of Hemingway interviews and gentle sestinas will be surprised by the magazine’s irreverence. The Review of the seventies was, if the archive is any indication, a relaxed, profligate, and singularly fun place to work. It published some great literature. It also published, in the Summer 1976 issue, fourteen pages of silly names.

John Train’s “How to Name Your Baby,” republished in full below, is one of my all-time favorite finds from the archive. Referring to the work of a certain Office of Nomenclature Stabilization—an office that has since lapsed into obsolescence, I regret to learn from Google—it’s gloriously inessential, though I guess you could argue that it predicted the rise of the listicle. Train, who is eighty-seven now, cofounded the magazine and was its first managing editor; this piece only burnishes his legacy, and in the eighties he turned it into a line of books, including John Train’s Remarkable Names, Even More Remarkable Names, and Remarkable Names of Real People. Read More »

Silly Love Songs, and Other News

July 6, 2015 | by

Frans Hals, Buffoon playing a lute (detail), 1623.