- [Beep.] Is it rolling, Bob? Ha, get it, that’s from Nashville Skyline … which all of us here at the Academy just adore, by the way—your voice sounds so beautiful without all those cigarettes chewing it up. But anyway, I’m calling because … well, you know why. Okay, Bob? Bob, are you there? Hey, Bob? … Bob? We’ve got this prize to give you. Bob. It’s the big one, ha-ha! It’s the highest honor! … C’mon, Bob, pick up the phone. I know you’re there. Don’t let me just blather on like this—again—Bob? Come on, man. We’ve been trying to get you on the horn for days now. Maybe it’s—you know you can e-mail us, right? I get it, the phone numbers get pretty long when you’re calling international, maybe you’re just sick of trying to dial … plus the time difference … I mean … just have your manager e-mail a little whatever, He accepts, he thinks you’re great … okay, Bob! Look, we’re not saying you have to get in touch. It would just be nice. We’re all big fans and we have—arrangements—to be made. For the banquet. In Stockholm? For the fucking Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob, which, frankly, we went out on a limb, giving this thing to you, I don’t know if you’ve seen the hot takes, and if you could just show a little decency—I mean not decency-decency, we’re all big fans—but it’s, it’s not like we haven’t taken some heat on this one, right, and now with the prolonged silence and all it sort of looks—just … call us back. Please, please call us back, Bob.
Inspired by our famous Writers at Work interviews, “My First Time” is a series of short videos about how writers got their start. Created by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling, each video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.
Today’s featured writer is Jeffrey Eugenides, who discusses his debut novel, The Virgin Suicides, published in 1993. (An early installment appeared in the Review’s Winter 1990 issue.) “I wrote two hours every night, and on the weekends I would spend four hours,” he says. “Each book that you write, you swim a long way from the piers at a certain point—you just don’t know what’s going to happen. If I learned anything with The Virgin Suicides, I just learned if you keep going, you’ll figure out how to shape the thing.”
Be sure to watch the previous interviews in the series:
- Ben Lerner on The Lichtenberg Figures, his first collection
- Katori Hall on Hoodoo Love, her first play
- Donald Antrim on Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, his first novel
- Sheila Heti on The Middle Stories, her first collection
- Tao Lin on Bed, his first collection
- Christine Schutt on Nightwork, her first collection
- Branden Jacobs-Jenkins on his play Neighbors
- Gabrielle Bell on The Book of … series, her early cartoons
- J. Robert Lennon on his debut novel, The Light of Falling Stars
Fact: nearly every one of the 214 back issues in our archive, going all the back to 1953, is available for purchase—and they make great last-minute gifts. We’re recommending few of our favorites: the undisputed classics, the oddities, the sleeper hits.
A Writers at Work interview with Rebecca West (Q: “Are there any advantages at all in being a woman and a writer?” A: “None whatsoever.”); fiction by Faulker and Gass; an epistolary squabble between Laura (Riding) Jackson, Martha Gellhorn, Stephen Spender, and the ghost of Yeats; work by thirty-eight poets, including Brainard, Sexton, Creeley, Schuyler, Baraka, and Swenson, and much more—there’s nothing not to love in the double-size twenty-fifth-anniversary issue from Spring 1981. And, perhaps best of all (which is saying a lot), issue 79 contains “The Paris Review Sketchbook,” a hundred-plus-page, mischievous oral history of the Review’s first quarter century: “Literary magazine people never work. They spend hours on end playing pinball machines in cafés.” —Nicole Rudick Read More
Every year, at our Spring Revel, we give three honors: the Hadada Prize, the Plimpton Prize, and the Terry Southern Prize. This year, Jeffrey Eugenides presented the Plimpton Prize to Ottessa Moshfegh.
The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 prize awarded to an author who made his or her debut in our pages in the previous year. Moshfegh had two stories in the Review: “Disgust” (issue 202) and “Bettering Myself” (issue 204).
Nothing is harder for a writer than getting published for the first time. The road from the bypass to the byline is paved with misery. In fact, it’s not even paved—that’s the problem: you’re stuck knee-deep in a bog, and no one cares if you ever get out.
Of equal difficulty, on the other side of the equation, is the task of finding an unknown writer. Reading through the slush pile is like looking for tigers in the jungle: they’re camouflaged not only by their stripes but their surroundings. An editor has to be unflaggingly alert and discerning, alive to any perceptible movement in the shadows. Read More
“The sky was darker than the water
—it was the color of mutton-fat jade.”
—Elizabeth Bishop, “The End of March”
On more Saturday afternoons than not this month, I’ve watched swirls of snow blow past the blue door of our bookshop. The parking lots in town have small mountains of mud-encrusted snow piled in their corners, monuments to the length of this winter. At home, the firewood is running low, our freezer is nearly empty of the lamb we split with our neighbors back in the fall, and the local farmer’s market offerings have dwindled down to the last rutabagas from the root cellars. This has been a long winter, and everyone who comes into the bookshop looks a bit tired, drawn, impatient for spring and the promises that come with it.
My favorite customer came in three weeks ago with his pregnant wife, her hair and eyes glowing, everything about her bursting with her own impending spring. Her husband is my favorite customer because he is my good luck charm—on the bookshop’s first Saturday he walked in and poked around until he found our poetry section. He gaped, not believing our little cache of modern poets. He revealed he was also a poet, had written his graduate thesis on Franz Wright. He’d grown up in town and I thought the presence of a local poet on one of our first days open was an auspicious sign. Read More
Sitting alone in my tiny bookshop on a cold February morning, I have the sensation that I’ve conjured a dream into reality. The light is crisp and blue through the door. A flight of red paper swallows—a Valentine homage to Chaucer’s poem “The Parliament of Fowls”—hangs from the ceiling, fluttering quietly from the heat whooshing out of the floor grate. The room is small, just shy of two hundred fifty square feet, and an old pickled farm table sits squarely in the middle. The top of the table is covered with books, and the shelves lining two of the room’s walls also contain a patchwork of brightly colored spines.
Valentine-themed woodblock prints handmade by my husband line the farm table and a grid of nature-inspired prints hold a wall. We live on an old dairy farm up in northeast Pennsylvania, and instead of cows in our three-bay English barn, we have two etching presses. Mark carves the images into blocks of clear pine, inks them up, and sends them through the press, cranking the smooth silver wheel like a captain on a ship. This is our store together, a kind of celebration of works on paper. We live on Moody Road, and so we call the shop Moody Road Studios.
An artist and a writer, respectively, my husband and I had both been teaching and working in the city for more than a decade, until a little over a year ago. The idea of running a bookshop never entered our consciousness while in New York, mostly because it never could have happened. Space and funding were impossibilities—as one might guess, a writer and an artist in business together don’t quite make for a crack commerce force. But here, on Main Street in the small town of Honesdale, everything clicked into place. Read More