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Posts Tagged ‘Gustave Flaubert’

Insurrection: An Interview with Rachel Kushner

April 3, 2013 | by

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I filled up half a notebook preparing for my interview with Rachel Kushner, whose second novel, The Flamethrowers, arrives this week. [It was excerpted and served as the inspiration for the portfolio in our last issue.] The notes are wide-ranging and imprecise, a record of the experience of reading this intellectually voracious book and trying to keep up with it. There are descriptions of American land art, scraps of World War I history, digressions on Italian counterculture in the late seventies. There are facts about those same years in New York, sometimes appreciating a particularly lovely observation, sometimes just noting what has changed (“on the Manhattan side, the Williamsburg Bridge had steps”). There are names, so many names: Aldo Moro, Virginia Tusi, Grifi and Sarchielli, Robert Smithson, and a hundred more. There are isolated flashes of pop-culture ephemera, like an otherwise blank page with “Jane Fonda wins an Oscar” written in the middle. That these elements, incoherent in my notebook, not only connect in Flamethrowers but create a dense and beautiful and polyphonic Bolaño-esque harmony meant that Ms. Kushner, by the time our interview rolled around, had started to seem somewhat miraculous.

Perhaps appropriately for an author concerned with the self-conscious production of ideas and images, Ms. Kushner spoke to me on Skype from LA, where she lives, as she put it, “incognito.” Her disguise on this particular day consisted of a black sweater and a few auburn highlights in her brown hair. When she answers questions, she has a habit of looking down past the camera, and her elaborate, delicate responses—complete with qualifications and footnotes—make it seem that she must be consulting a notebook propped open in the corner of the room. She isn’t.

The Flamethrowers spans a hundred years and follows multiple sets of characters across two countries, but I think it can be separated into three strands. Reno moves from Nevada to New York in the late seventies to be an artist, Italy is upended during the Years of Lead, Italian motorcyclists form a gang in World War I. Did you start out looking for a large and polyphonic book?

I like the way you divide up the three strands.

Is that not how you would divide them?

Well, at first there were two spheres—New York in the seventies and Italy in the seventies. And I knew they may have had some kind of en-tissuing or overlap, but I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t want to reduce it by linking them in forced or artificial ways. The only viable manner of figuring out how they were connected—and weren’t—was to write the novel. Read More »

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Blue Eyes in Watertown

March 14, 2013 | by

61lxyA2cN6L._SY300_No one under the age of fifty really listens to Frank Sinatra anymore. Like anything else, there may be exceptions to this fact, but overall it’s true. Frank Sinatra is a legendary artist whose work will always be enjoyed and referred to. However, his era of direct relevancy is obviously long gone, and his era of anecdotal relevancy is starting to fade.

We associate Frank Sinatra with a bygone era of America, a time of guys and dolls, a time when people would swing and dance and when the lounge singer was king. Sinatra’s unique talent was maintaining this vision even as it eroded away over time—to make you feel old-fashioned feelings in a modern era. Sinatra’s heyday was from the late forties to the late fifties, yet he recorded “New York, New York” in 1977.  And “My Way” makes you feel like a proud man looking over the skyline of post–World War II Manhattan, even in 2013.

Still, Sinatra’s most overlooked achievement is perhaps the one album he made that did not feel as though it was evoking the era he loved or knew the most. In 1969, the same year that Frank Sinatra recorded “My Way,” he released an album called Watertown. Chances are, even some of the biggest Sinatra fans—like my grandparents and great aunts and uncles—have forgotten about Watertown. But Watertown is Frank Sinatra’s best album and his most enduring contribution to American culture. Read More »

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Bovary and the City

February 4, 2013 | by

The controversial new Faber cover of The Bell Jar has inspired the Internet to update other classics! This is one of our favorites.

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On Cataloguing Flaubert

August 27, 2012 | by

Joanna Neborsky is a book lover’s illustrator. She may be as passionate and romantic about books and bookmaking as anyone I’ve met. She also draws the kind of pictures I’ve always wanted to make. They are deceptively simple due to the naive charm of each wobbly line, and they owe a great deal to the inspiration of mid-twentieth-century illustration—an obsession she and I both share. A few years ago Joanna and I collaborated on the cover of John Bowe’s Americans Talk About Love. A recent art school grad, she was willing to endlessly modify caricatures of the people interviewed for the book. The final package made for a witty and accessible take on social history. I always urge the artists I work with to keep me apprised of new projects, and so a few weeks ago I was tickled to discover a jpeg of Joanna’s poster “A Partial Inventory of Gustave Flaubert’s Personal Effects, As Catalogued by M. Lemoel on May 20, 1880, Twelve Days after the Writer’s Death” in my inbox. We had to share it with readers of The Paris Review, and now I wanted to share a little about how it came to be.

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Browning at 200, Publishers at 83

May 10, 2012 | by

  • Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Lethem are among the seven hundred writers and cultural marchers who signed a letter protesting the planned revamp of the New York Public Library.
  • Dickens isn’t the only one turning two hundred! Wishing a happy bicentenary to Robert Browning.
  • Madame Bovary, the pie chart.
  • The James Joyce papers go digital.
  • Maurice Sendak’s books thrilled children and terrified adults.
  • And speaking of Sendak, more memories and tributes.
  • Rock 27 is publishing eighty-three.
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    On the Shelf

    September 21, 2011 | by

    Gustave Flaubert. Photograph by Nadar.

    A cultural news roundup.

  • Michel Houellebecq has been found.
  • So has a James M. Cain manuscript.
  • Neil Young is writing an autobiography.
  • So is Jermaine Jackson.
  • So is Julian Assange. But without his consent.
  • “If I say ‘David Bellos has to be one of the smartest people now on the planet,’ what language am I using? English of a kind; but scarcely the Queen’s, which—to judge from her public utterances—retains a careful insularity; mid-Atlantic schtick is not Her Majesty’s bag.”
  • Nor Shakespeare’s.
  • The Sondheim-crossword mother lode.
  • Shakeups at DC Comics ...
  • But peace at the Poetry Society.
  • “The general editorial posture of the magazine leaned away from the conventions of the establishment and toward the eccentricities of bohemians everywhere.”
  • Salman Rushdie joins Twitter.
  • Flaubert once bet some friends that he could make love to a woman, smoke a cigar, and write a letter at the same time. He won, as they looked on in admiration.”
  • These are beautiful, if we do say so ourselves.
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