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Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Philippe Toussaint’

Adaptation; Fall Reading

August 12, 2011 | by

You may have heard by now that there’s a Paradise Lost movie in the works, starring Bradley Cooper as the Devil—WTF?! Do you think film adaptation is a good or bad thing for books, particularly ones with wide recognition to begin with? —Liesel

WTF indeed. The two most famous complaints about Paradise Lost are that it’s really, really long (Edgar Allan Poe) and that it’s weak on visuals (T. S. Eliot). If ever a blind poet needed the magic touch of Ridley Scott, that poet was John Milton. But I’m the wrong person to ask—I’ve been holding out for the movie version ever since tenth grade.

Are there any books coming out this fall that you’re particularly excited about? —Leo

Lots—and the stack keeps growing. Two days ago, for example, my sister gave me the galleys of a first novel, Various Positions, by the young Canadian writer Martha Schabas, all about the sexual awakening of a ballerina. Anna tells me I’m going to love it (no matter that I skipped Black Swan) ... But sticking just to novels that I’ve actually read: in these pages I’ve already mentioned Chad Harbach’s debut, The Art of Fielding, Nicholson Baker’s sweet-natured book of smut, House of Holes, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s novella The Truth About Marie. Readers of The Paris Review proper know Ben Lerner as a poet; his first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is about ... well, it’s about a young poet on a fellowship in Madrid, but I enjoyed it so much I read it twice (and laughed out loud both times). I keep going back to Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon, which is fascinating and only sort of a novel; it veers from fiction into biographical essay, into essay on the art of fiction. Last night I stayed up late—much later than I meant to—reading Spring, an addictively earnest novel about English yuppies in love, by David Szalay. Finally, Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel The Marriage Plot has what must be the most seductive first sentences of the season (seductive, anyway, to a certain micro-demo, which I suspect may include certain readers of the Daily):

To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but by date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition of Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeline had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-sized but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeline had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn’t trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for “Artistic,” or “Passionate,” thinking you could live with “Sensitive,” secretly fearing “Narcissistic” and “Domestic,” but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: “Incurably Romantic.”

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Staff Picks: Lucian Freud, Beryl Bainbridge

August 5, 2011 | by

Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, 1952, oil on metal.

Let America wonder about Untitled by Anonymous—I got my Madoff fix in Paris, from a profile in XXI magazine. A quarterly devoted to long-form journalism, with generous helpings of fact-based bandes dessinées and photo essays reminiscent of the old National Geographic, XXI has been a somewhat unlikely hit with readers and bookstores. The magazine runs no ads, has no publicity department, conducts no market research, has minimal Web presence, and offers no discount to subscribers. As cofounder Patrick de Saint-Exupéry explains, “The magazine’s worth what it’s worth.” —Lorin Stein

I’ve been reading Beryl Bainbridge’s last novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, which was published posthumously this year. It’s strange and bleak and interesting, a little disturbing. It’s apparently based on Bainbridge herself, as well as the mysterious woman rumored to have been involved in Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. —Sadie Stein

This weekend I plan to check out the Lucian Freud show at the Met. Freud, who died in July, once said, “I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.” He’s not for everyone, and that’s a good thing. —Cody Wiewandt

I’m currently working my way through this little audio treasure: forty years of Polish experimental radio. —Natalie Jacoby

I’ve been flipping through Nabokov’s annotated copy of Madame Bovary at the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library. If Flaubert’s prose doesn’t astound, then Nabokov’s illustrations of Emma Bovary’s chignon, his passing jibes at less than adequate translators, and the chronological maps of the author’s life will. —Mackenzie Beer

The relaunch of Take the Handle—an “online hub of rascalism, repartee & recreation”—includes short pieces by former Review editor Nathaniel Rich as well as an interview with the makers of Plimpton!, the forthcoming documentary of the Review’s first editor. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

In Paris I found myself reading several postbreakup novels: After Claude (thanks, Sadie!), plus two books by Jean-Philippe Toussaint about a recurring ex-girlfriend named Marie. (My favorite, The Truth About Marie, comes out next month.) Toussaint has been described as a writer of nouveaux nouveaux romans, but he is dreamy and funny and haunted in a way all his own. —L. S.

The New York Post outdid itself with this piece of reportage.S. S.

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Staff Picks: Harriet the Spy, Happy Fourth of July!

July 1, 2011 | by

In the embarrassing oversights department, I had been meaning and meaning to read the novelist Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Why did it take me so long? His latest work to be translated into English, The Truth About Marie, is haunting, clever, funny. I can’t wait to read more ... as soon as I finish Harriet the Spy. Where was she all my life? —Lorin Stein

I saw a really interesting film recently: The Target, which was cowritten by Vladimir Sorokin. It's a strange mix of Anna Karenina, sci-fi, and social commentary, but it works. Light viewing it's not, but if you're in the mood to stomach a dystopia in which love is a soulless illusion, it's worth seeking out! —Sadie Stein

Also, I’m going to see Le Rayon Vert—back at Film Forum by popular demand. —L. S.

This weekend, I’m reading Rebecca Wolff's The Beginners, a debut novel about a fifteen-year-old girl who befriends a new couple in town, the Motherwells. The Motherwells say they’ve moved to Wick, Massachusetts, to study the town’s history of witchcraft, but from the reviews, it sounds like spookier things start to happen. —Thessaly La Force

Even though Monday is Independence Day, today is the ninetieth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Check out one of my favorite contemporary Chinese short-story collections, the irreverent and absurd I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen. —Ali Pechman

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A Week in Culture: Nelly Kaprielian, Part 2

September 16, 2010 | by

This is the second installment of Kaprielian's culture diary. Click here to read part 1.


DAY FOUR

11:00 A.M. Trying to write my column. I got an e-mail from Michel H. asking me not to put the photos of him bare-chested on the cover for September 8. It’s too bad, those photos are the best by far.

11:15 A.M. Still trying to write my column (nothing to say, really). Get a phone call from the French publisher of Bret Easton Ellis's new novel, Imperial Bedrooms. (It’s such a great novel. I know American critics don’t like him. As we say in French, “nul n’est prophète en son pays.”) They’re very cool about it, but they just want to let me know how badly we've screwed up their plans. We put Ellis on the cover of our rentrée issue, which came out August 18, and ran the interview he gave me in Los Angeles, but it was a month before the book came out. Usually we don’t do stuff like that. Nobody does. But this year the publishers decided to publish some very famous and interesting writers late in the season—no doubt to get coverage early on for authors who are less well known.

But the rentrée needs one or two locomotives if the books are going to get read—ditto the magazines. If you put a star on the cover, people are curious to read the article, then they read the other reviews, even of first novels. (That’s how each book finds its readers.) Also, I have to say, we’re the only magazine that puts writers on the cover at all. Everyone knows a writer doesn’t sell copies. That’s the sad reality. And it’s why I like working for Les Inrocks—we can still do it anyway.

2:00 P.M. Reading the new (to us) Philip Roth, Indignation. I interviewed Roth last year in New York. He’s one of the sexiest minds I’ve ever met. Les Inrocks are putting together a series on the greatest American writers. I wonder if an American magazine would ever do the same for French writers!

5:00 P.M. High heels? Not serious enough. An expensive bag? Too bling. Black trousers and black jacket? Too executive… Finally I opt for a black minidress and black ballerina slippers for our annual rentrée cocktail party. It takes place in a restaurant in the Panthéon cinema, decorated by Catherine Deneuve. Cozy, cool, lounge-y. Unless you're as tense as I am. It’s nice but always difficult to have all those people around. And will they even show up? If they do, what to say? How to behave? But I’m relaxing as the years go by. Now I know all you have to do is smile. And kiss. So I spend my evening smiling and kissing. And everyone is happy—me included.

10:00 P.M. Over. All the publishers came, lots of writers I like, and of course, my friends. How easy it all was. I no longer feel the need to look serious when a writer tells me his new book is about vibrators. And when a writer comes up to shake your hand, now I know that “Bravo!” is all you have to say about the book. They’ll understand. What I’ve learned over the years is that everybody needs to be loved. Absolutely everybody! And the love people need is endless. By ten, the Inrocks team seems satisfied with the party, so I can leave with my friends for Le Rostand, a café across from the Luxembourg Gardens. (Yes, Rostand is a café now. Le Balzac is a cinema. And Colette is a trendy boutique.) Read More »

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