The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Hamlet’

Secret Erotica, Jane Austen, and Other News

August 13, 2013 | by

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Photo Credit Sean Malone

  • A tribute to the Blackwing 602, the favored pencil of many a writer, including Nabokov.
  • The saga of the Jane Austen ring continues! Now, an anonymous donor has given £100,000 to prevent Kelly Clarkson from spiriting the gold and topaz bauble off to America.
  • “All had a little twinkle in their eye that suggested a colorful, lively imagination!” The secret lives of erotica writers
  • The British Library’s Wi-Fi blocks Hamlet on grounds of “violent content,” fixes it.
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    To Be or Not To Be? And Other News

    August 8, 2013 | by

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  • “I don’t want to kill you”: a summer camp based on The Hunger Games
  • To Be Or Not To Be: That Is the Adventure is, yes, a choose-your-own-adventure take on Hamlet.
  • George Saunders’s much-lauded Syracuse graduation speech is being turned into a book.
  • “What this does is that it immediately puts my writing into the category as a hobby. As in, are you still taking piano lessons, doing macrame, have a parrot? I don’t have a huge ego about my work, but let’s face it, for me it is a job. Yes, for heaven’s sake, I am still writing.” Danielle Steel sounds off
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    The Tournament of Literary Friends

    July 29, 2013 | by

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    We’re tournament people, my husband and I. The way some people climb rocks or brew beer (I don’t know: What do other people do?), we draw sloppy 64-berth brackets in coffee-stained spiral-bound notebooks then set to vigorous, regimented discussion, rationally whittling down the field until an undisputed champion emerges. Notable competitions past include Most Intriguing City (Helsinki def. Buenos Aires) and Favorite Animal (Polar Bear def. House Cat). Most times, Matt is the tournament master, the committee of one who conceives and presents the field to me, which I then imperiously adjudicate, usually while reclining on a couch or airplane seat and eating something packed with butterfat. It’s a good arrangement, because he is a historian who likes categories and I am a writer who likes making things up.

    For tournament people, the next bracket is always a gift. Matt’s mom visited last month, and she brought with her a 32-person field of literary characters for each of us to complete. Our champions were to be not the greatest or most iconic or most influential figures, but the characters we’d most like to have as friends.

    “Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert?” Claire Messud had recently demanded of Publishers Weekly.

    She had a point. We took Alexander Portnoy instead. Read More »

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    Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America

    December 28, 2012 | by

    We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

    I was dragging my five-year-old daughter through the musty stacks of my favorite used bookstore last spring when a middle-aged man, squatting in the Sci-Fi section next to a brimming cardboard box, caught my eye and reminded me of someone.

    “Excuse me,” I asked, “are you a writer?”

    “I am,” he said, standing up and straightening his glasses. His eyes were deep set and hard to read. He was bashful.

    “Are you Michael Dirda?” I asked.

    “I am.”

    It was him: the book critic and author, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, known apocryphally as the best-read man in America, whose essays had enticed me to read everything from Little, Big to Three Men in a Boat—and here he was, squinting his way through the lowest shelves in the same crusty bargain dungeon I came to all the time.

    “Amazing. Nina, this is the man who wrote that little letter that we have in your George and Martha,” I told my daughter. Nina was nonplussed.

    “When I was eight, in 1992,” I explained, “I wrote a letter to the Washington Post when James Marshall died and you printed it in the Book World section and even wrote a sweet little response. And her grandpa put a photocopy of that letter in The Complete George and Martha for her.”

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    To Be or Not to Be? And Other News

    November 28, 2012 | by

  • Hamlet, as a choose-your-own adventure.
  • Writer Andrei Codrescu will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” live Q&A on December 6.
  • Small Business Saturday proved a boon for independent bookstores.
  • Literary drinks to get you through NaNoWriMo.
  • C. S. Lewis is getting his own plaque in Westminster Abbey’s famed Poet’s Corner.
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    What Bloggers Owe Montaigne

    November 12, 2010 | by

    The weekend newspapers are full of them. Our computer screens are full of them. They go by different names—columns, opinion pieces, diaries, blogs—but personal essays are alive and well in the twenty-first century. They flourish just as they did in James Thurber’s and E. B. White’s twentieth-century New York, or in the nineteenth-century London of William Hazlitt and Charles Lamb. There seems no end to the appeal of the essayist’s basic idea: that you can write spontaneously and ramblingly about yourself and your interests, and that the world will love you for it.

    No end—but there was a beginning. The essay tradition blossomed in English-speaking countries only after being invented by a sixteenth-century Frenchman, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne. His contemporary, the English writer Francis Bacon, also used the title Essays, but his were well-organized intellectual inquiries. While Bacon was assembling his thoughts neatly, the self-avowedly lazy nobleman and winegrower Montaigne was letting his run riot on the other side of the Channel. In his Essais (“Attempts”), published in 1580 and later expanded into larger editions, he wrote as if he were chatting to his readers: just two friends, whiling away an afternoon in conversation.

    Montaigne raised questions rather than giving answers. He wrote about whatever caught his eye: war, psychology, animals, sex, magic, diplomacy, vanity, glory, violence, hermaphroditism, self-doubt. Most of all, he wrote about himself and was amazed at the variety he found within. “I cannot keep my subject still,” he said. “It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness.” His writing followed the same wayward path.

    In doing this, he rejected almost every literary virtue the French were to hold dear for the next few hundred years: clarity, rigour, beauty, and elegance. Yet his rebellious style gave him immense appeal to British, Irish and American authors. For more than 450 years, they took inspiration from Montaigne and his meandering charms.

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