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Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

This Sunday: Alexander Kluge in Conversation with Ben Lerner

October 21, 2016 | by

Alexander Kluge.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday, October 23, for a conversation between Alexander Kluge and Ben Lerner at Goethe-Institut New York.

Kluge is a German writer, theorist, and filmmaker; W. G. Sebald called him “that most enlightened of writers,” and Susan Sontag wrote that “more than a few of Kluge’s many books are essential, brilliant achievements.” He’ll discuss his latest book, The Great Hour of Kong (Kongs große Stunde, Suhrkamp) and share a selection of new writings prompted by Lerner’s poetry. (We have it on good authority that these pieces will appear in a forthcoming issue of a certain literary quarterly, maybe even the one whose website you’re currently reading.)

Kluge will also share a short film program and some live piano music, including Jacques Offenbach’s Bataclan and Giuseppe Verdi’s Attila.

The event begins at 5:30 Sunday evening. See you there!

The Uncanny I: An Interview with Kristin Dombek

October 11, 2016 | by

Photo: Amy Touchett.

Readers of The Paris Review will remember Kristin Dombek’s essay “Letter from Williamsburg,” one of our perennial favorites. In August, Dombek published her first book, The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism, a diagnosis of our attention-starved culture and its fixation on self-absorption. The book covers everything from Bram Stoker to My Super Sweet 16; the New York Times calls it “sharply argued, knottily intelligent, darkly funny cultural criticism.” Dombek spoke to Robert Polito, the poet, biographer, and critic, about “the mysteries of ethos, when and why we trust and distrust who we do, in life and in writing.” The Editors


When I talk to fellow nonfiction writers, I’m always interested in how they locate themselves along the prose or argument continuum. When you sit down to write an essay, are you primarily thinking prose—sentences, words, tone—or are you thinking argument, what you might wish to say about a subject? And are you the sort of nonfiction writer who plans, or even outlines, or is the writing more improvisatory and about discovery for you ?



Usually an essay begins with an argument, for me. Not a linear argument, in the sense of a line of reasoning, but an argument as in two people or groups shouting at each other, but in my head. The dumber the disagreement, the more I want to kind of explode it and discover what it covers up, find better language for what life is really like. In this case, the disagreement was narcissism is the opposite of human—i.e., a total lack of warmth, empathy, “human” feeling—versus narcissism is everybody. Usually, what’s next is scene, where the language of the essay gets discovered, and the idea. Often an editor helps to lay bare the structure that will let the idea happen, rather than being told to the reader.

But in this book, at least in its final version, I wasn’t working in scenes but rather channeling kinds of Internet and academic language that aren’t really my own, and kind of sculpting that language like material. So there is so much telling, summary, which is painful for me to read. There wasn’t a reasonable progression of ideas, but on one axis, a progression of kinds of language, and then on the other, a slow panning out from the trapped, limited perspective of fearful, solitary, listicle-fueled diagnosis to a broader view, and poetry. Read More »

Discovering Your Sonic Brand, and Other News

October 4, 2016 | by

That’s your own personal sound, man.

  • I’ve spent thirty painstaking years building my personal brand from the ground up: a signature blend of synthetic microfibers and dried-out pipe tobacco, shot through with the bashfulness of the Coppertone girl. But I forgot the sounds. Whether you’re a corporation, an individual, or just an abstraction, you’ve got to brand yourself aurally to stand out, Jack Hitt writes: “Sonic branding involves stand-alone sounds, like NBC’s three-note signature or United Airlines’ use of the most familiar measures of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ These distilled riffs are meant to build an aural association with a product to create a Pavlovian sense of loyalty and expectation … Fajitas, [Joel] Beckerman writes, were merely a decent-selling dish that went supernova as a middle-class entrée after Chili’s focused its presentation on the loud sizzle of the dish emerging from the kitchen, a sound that figured into all its key advertising. Spend enough time pondering the nuances of sonic branding, and you come to appreciate the pure genius of the letter z in the word Prozac.”
  • Hey, gang, there’s a new restaurant in London called Bronte! They left the umlaut off, but still, you’d be forgiven for assuming there’s something literary about it. No such luck, though. Tanya Gold paid the place a visit, and: “I hoped that Bronte would be filled with Victorian writers licking ink off their fingers and bitching about Mrs. Gaskell being a third-rate hack; but it is not to be … It is named for Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Bronte … So Bronte is named for a man no one calls Bronte. It could have been called Nelson, decorated with eye patches and plastic parrots, like a Padshow hell shack; or it could have been called Gaskell, an angry and flouncy tearoom that wrote bad novels and one marvelous, vicious and dishonest biography called The Life of Charlotte Brontë; or it could have been called—and this is my wish—Brunty: Pens, Sex and Potatoes.” 

Read More »

Questions About Questionnaires

October 3, 2016 | by

All images from A Proust Questionnaire by Joanna Neborsky, TarcherPerigee, 2016.

Evan Kindley and Joanna Neborsky both happen to have new books dealing with questionnaires. Kindley’s Questionnaire, part of the Object Lessons series, charts the history of “the form as form” from its inception in the late nineteenth century to its current apotheosis in our data-crazy present. Neborsky’s A Proust Questionnaire, meanwhile, revives one of the earliest examples of quiz mania—the questionnaire filled out by a teenaged Marcel Proust in the 1880s—for a new generation of confessors.

Neborsky is an illustrator and animator who has contributed to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review Daily, and has illustrated books by Félix Fénéon and Daniil Kharms; Kindley is a writer and editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books. Both live in Los Angeles. Earlier this month the two corresponded about questionnaires, using the Proust Questionnaire’s famous prompts as a basic framework.



I’ve long wondered—since we met that one time, at that party, next to the pretzel mix in a dark office courtyard—what do you consider the lowest form of misery? And why did you write this book? Read More »

Introducing the NYRB Classics + Paris Review Book Club

October 3, 2016 | by

Get twelve books and four issues for $140.

It’s no secret that we at The Paris Review admire New York Review Books, the imprint known for “rescuing and reviving all kinds of ignored or forgotten works … by writers renowned and obscure” (the New York Times). We’ve interviewed their founder, Edwin Frank. We’ve published their insightful introductions and raved about their translations. We’ve offered to wash their cars, pick up their dry cleaning, and house-sit for them.

Now we’ve decided to formalize the arrangement with a new book club. Sign up and you’ll get a one-year subscription to The Paris Review plus one new book from NYRB Classics every month. That’s four issues of the best new fiction, poetry, and interviews, plus twelve books, bringing you the best new and rediscovered classics: a $260 value, for just $140.

The book club kicks off this month with Ge Fei’s The Invisibility Cloak, a Chinese novel about a fortysomething loser in contemporary Beijing:

He’s divorced (and still doting on his ex), childless, and living with his sister (her husband wants him out) in an apartment at the edge of town with a crack in the wall the wind from the north blows through while he gets by, just, by making customized old-fashioned amplifiers for the occasional rich audio-obsessive. He has contempt for his clients and contempt for himself. The only things he really likes are Beethoven and vintage speakers. Then an old friend tips him off about a special job—a little risky but just don’t ask too many questions—and can it really be that this hopeless loser wins?

We’ll be discussing these titles and more here on the Daily in the months to come. We hope you’ll join us in reading along. Subscribe now!

Edward Albee, 1928–2016

September 18, 2016 | by

A manuscript page from A Delicate Balance. Click to enlarge.


If one can talk at all about a general reaction to your plays, it is that, as convincing and brilliant as their beginnings and middles might be, the plays tend to let down, change course, or simply puzzle at the end. To one degree or another this complaint has been registered against most of them.


Perhaps because my sense of reality and logic is different from most people’s. The answer could be as simple as that. Some things that make sense to me don’t make the same degree of sense to other people. Analytically, there might be other reasons—that the plays don’t hold together intellectually; that’s possible. But then it mustn’t be forgotten that when people don’t like the way a play ends, they’re likely to blame the play. That’s a possibility too. For example, I don’t feel that catharsis in a play necessarily takes place during the course of a play. Often it should take place afterward. If I’ve been accused a number of times of writing plays where the endings are ambivalent, indeed, that’s the way I find life.

Edward Albee, The Art of Theater No. 4