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Posts Tagged ‘Issue 207’

How Much Could Be Left Unsaid: An Interview with Jenny Offill

March 31, 2014 | by

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Issue 207 of The Paris Review included Jenny Offill’s story “Magic and Dread,” an excerpt from her new novel, Dept. of Speculation, published earlier this year. James Wood called it “a novel that’s wonderfully hard to encapsulate, because it faces in many directions at the same time, and glitters with different emotional colors.” Offill is the author of the novel Last Things, and the coeditor, with Elissa Schappell, of two anthologies of essays. She has also written several children’s books, including 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore, 11 Experiments That Failed, and Sparky! She teaches writing at Queens University, Brooklyn College, and Columbia University.

For the narrator of your novel, the wife, there’s a lot of conjecture going on—guessing how to write a book, how to be in a marriage, how to raise a child, how to bear the time of writing a book. Do you consider writing to be a fundamentally speculative act?

One of the odd things about being a writer is that you never reach a point of certainty, a point of mastery where you can say, Right. Now I understand how this is done. That is why so many talented people stop writing. It’s hard to tolerate this not-knowing. It’s hard to tolerate feeling like an idiot or an imposter, and it gets harder as the years tick by. 

But I would argue that this feeling of uncertainty is actually the best practice you could have for the other important things you will do in your life. No one ever masters falling in love or being a parent or losing someone close to him. And who would want to master such things, really? Wandering through the woods, looking for a sudden sunlit clearing, that’s the most interesting part of it. Read More »

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The Expression of Not-Knowing: An Interview with Kevin Prufer

March 7, 2014 | by

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Detail from the cover of Kevin Prufer’s Churches.

The Winter issue of The Paris Review includes Kevin Prufer’s poem “How He Loved Them.” Prufer is the author of six books of poetry and the editor of several anthologies. His latest collection, Churches, was published this week. He teaches at the University of Houston.

The poem stages a scene of terrible yet familiar violence—a car bomb explodes in front of a courthouse, killing a colonel and his two granddaughters. But the poem is less about the event than the aftermath. The explosion becomes a spectacle for bystanders, who record it on their smartphones. In what ways are poems like our devices—in thrall to spectacle, turning moments into eternities?

Turning moments into eternities was truly at the center of the poem for me—the idea of the afterlife, of divine translation. I imagined that the colonel, who acknowledges he has done terrible things, dies in a moment of inarticulable love for his granddaughters. Of course, he becomes spectacle for us, his death recorded and uploaded to the Internet, where we watch it over and over again. But, in another way, perhaps he has been redeemed, has been, himself, uploaded to a kind of heaven where his love is played out eternally. At least, that’s how I like to think about him and the poem—about the moral, spiritual, digital complexities that can be packed into a single moment … a moment we, unknowing, watch play out on our computer screens.

The way this bomb works as “a divine translation” reminds me of another poem of yours, “A Minor Politician,” from National Anthem. That poem is a posthumous monologue, delivered from the crypt. The speaker is an honorable pol, though he has served questionable goals. At the end of the poem, he sees God’s hand, “like a bomb,” reaching through the catacombs to “take my body from the tatters / and lift me through the shadows / to the trees.” Are these cases of redemption through violence?

I think the same question is at play, yes. But the poems have very different contexts. When I wrote National Anthem, I was caught in a vortex during which all I could think about was classical—mostly Roman—history. I read about that to the exclusion of most other things. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were new and I was living in a small Missouri town very near an Air Force base, and heard echoes of Roman history everywhere. That ancient politician thinks he has been redeemed by God, by God’s hand breaking through the ceiling. But really, it was time and forgetfulness that redeemed him—and one of our bombs breaking through his crypt two thousand years later, shedding light on him. Read More »

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Fasten Your Seatbelts, It’s Our Winter Issue

December 3, 2013 | by

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The flight attendant on the cover of 207 does not deceive you: this issue is a ride and a half. For your reading enjoyment we offer:

Geoff Dyer on the art of nonfiction—and why he hates that rubric:

I don’t think a reasonable assessment of what I’ve been up to in the last however many years is possible if one accepts segregation. That refusal is part of what the books are about. I think of all them as, um, what’s the word? … Ah, yes, books! I haven’t subjected it to scientific analysis, but if you look at the proportion of made-up stuff in the so-called novels versus the proportion of made-up stuff in the others I would expect they’re pretty much the same

Edward P. Jones on the art of fiction:

People say, Did you grow up thinking of yourself as this or that, blah blah blah. These middle-class or upper-class kids, maybe three or four times a week they’d have a doctor over, they’d have an engineer over, they’d have a writer over, and they’d get into a conversation with the writer and all of a sudden realize, Oh, I think I want to be a writer. That didn’t happen to me. That doesn’t happen to the rest of us.

Plus! The first installment of a novel by Rachel Cusk. New fiction from J. D. Daniels, Jenny Offill, Nell Freudenberger, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Lydia Davis, and the winner of the NPR Three-Minute Fiction Contest.

Plus, poems by Kevin Prufer, Susan Stewart, Hilda Hilst, Charlie Smith, Monica Youn, Sylvie Baumgartel, Emily Moore, and Linda Pastan.

And did we mention a portfolio of nudes by Chuck Close?

We realize you have choices when it comes to quarterly reading, and we thank you for choosing The Paris Review.

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