Posts Tagged ‘George Plimpton’
June 1, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- My father always said, Son, if you’re gonna play golf, you should only do it under the influence of a psychoactive Schedule I substance. I rebelled against him, so I’ve yet to try it—but of course someone has, and of course that someone is Hunter S. Thompson, who teed up with George Plimpton and Terry McDonell. Terry writes: “My plan was to get Hunter to write a piece for the premiere issue of Smart. George was there to interview him for what he planned to be the first interview for the Art of Journalism series for The Paris Review. Hunter said first we had to play golf … Hunter had a twelve-gauge shotgun in his golf bag and we had Heinekens in a cooler on the cart—also a fifth of Chivas, a fifth of Jose Cuervo, limes, a fifth of Dewar’s (for George), and an extra cooler of ice. ‘Here,’ Hunter said, holding out three white tabs of blotter paper with an unfamiliar red symbol on them. ‘Eat these.’ He put one on his tongue and stuck it out at us. I took my tab and did the same back at him. When George said he wanted to concentrate on his golf, Hunter licked the third tab. ‘Ho ho … last of the batch!’ ”
- Today in things that may or may not be professional wrestling: everything is professional wrestling. “With each passing year, more and more facets of popular culture become something like wrestling: a stage-managed ‘reality’ in which scripted stories bleed freely into real events, with the blurry line between truth and untruth seeming to heighten, not lessen, the audience’s addiction to the melodrama. The modern media landscape is littered with ‘reality’ shows that audiences happily accept aren’t actually real; that, in essence, is wrestling … When we feel ourselves becoming too consumed with mastering the language of whatever unreality is currently holding our gaze, it might not hurt to consider the overarching forces subtly directing our attention and prepare ourselves to step back if we’re not comfortable with benefiting less than they do.”
- You don’t even have to drop acid to enjoy walking on Carl Andre’s art. It’s a quiet pleasure even if you’re sober: “By positioning his artwork on the floor, Carl Andre put art in our path, and he put us in the art … His sculptures, like 144 Pieces of Zinc, are meant to be walked on. In a way, this act demeans the work. You cannot walk across a Carl Andre grid without feeling that you’re stepping on it, both literally and figuratively. Many people refuse to tread on it out of a general reverence and respect for art … I walk across it because I like how it generates a little current of guilt. No matter how many times my heels click on its gray metal surface, it feels disconcerting. Andre makes us question our museum behavior. He entreats us to look down and feel a sense of contact with the floor and materiality of the piece; he also gives us a small surround or enclosure in which to stand and take in the rest of the room. When we stand on an Andre piece, the art defines the self.”
- Colin Stokes looks back at the work of Arnold Lobel, whose children’s books offered a subtle celebration of same-sex love: “Lobel, who wrote and illustrated the Frog and Toad series, was born in 1933 and raised in Schenectady, New York … In 1974, four years after the first book in the series was published, Lobel came out to his family as gay. ‘I think Frog and Toad really was the beginning of him coming out,’ [his daughter] Adrianne told me … When reading children’s books as children, we get to experience an author’s fictional world removed from the very real one he or she inhabits. But knowing the strains of sadness in Lobel’s life story gives his simple and elegant stories new poignancies. On the final page of ‘Alone,’ Frog and Toad, having cleared up their misunderstanding, sit contently on the island looking into the distance, each with his arm around the other. Beneath the drawing, Lobel writes, ‘They were two close friends, sitting alone together.’ ”
- Jason Shulman takes long-, long-, long-exposure images of movies: he captures entire feature-length films in single photographs. “The images vary so wildly, that’s the remarkable thing about it,” he says: “and they’re also quite didactic. You can learn something about the director’s style from this kind of kooky translation: you can learn that Hitchcock deals with people, for example, Kubrick deals with composition, Bergman deals with … I mean lots of Bergman films are kind of moody and psychological, much more so than other films. So it’s odd that in one exposure all of these things, although very subjective, kind of come through.”
May 2, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
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.
April 28, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- 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.”
April 26, 2016 | by Steve Almond
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 »
April 26, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- 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.”
April 5, 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’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 »