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Posts Tagged ‘letters’

Pursued by H

February 9, 2016 | by

Finding a letter in a burrito.

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Femme au Burrito, an 1875 painting by Auguste Renoir modified by Chili’s for a 2015 ad campaign with Buzzfeed. Image via Buzzfeed

I was somewhat delirious when I found the letter H in my burrito. I had two weeks to finish translating a difficult novel, and I was teaching at two different universities, one so far away it took three trains and two hours to get there. I was also writing a novel at night instead of sleeping.

And now, here, in the burrito I’d bought for lunch, there appeared to be an uppercase H in nine-point font stuck to a piece of tomato. I brought the burrito closer to make sure I wasn’t simply reading too much into a pepper flake. But no, this was definitely a piece of paper with a tiny letter on it, part of a typewritten word. I unrolled the tortilla to see if there were more letters inside; maybe a piece of newspaper had gotten sautéed with the onions. But I found only salsa, beans, tomatoes, and that solitary HRead More »

Ornery Little Critters

February 1, 2016 | by

S. J. Perelman, ca. 1957.

From a letter sent by S. J. Perelman to Betsy Drake, dated May 12, 1952. Perelman, one of the most popular humorists of his time, was born on this day in 1904; he died in 1979. Donald Barthelme called him “the first true American surrealist.”I classify myself as a writer of what the French call feuilletons—that is, a writer of little leaves. They’re comic essays of a particular type,” Perelman told The Paris Review in 1963. Here he advises Drake on the miseries of screenwriting. “The mere mention of Hollywood induces a condition in me like breakbone fever. It was a hideous and untenable place when I dwelt there, populated with few exceptions by Yahoos, and now that it has become the chief citadel of television, it’s unspeakable,” he told the ReviewRead More »

Truth in Advertising

January 29, 2016 | by

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Martha Jane Burke (“Calamity Jane”), on horseback in 1901. Photo: C. D. Arnold. Via United States Library of Congress

Another person is the best way to learn about a book. At least, it’s my favorite; good reviews are an art form, Web sites a modern marvel, but somehow my best-loved books have come directly from someone else’s recommendation, and the enthusiasm of those conversations is a pleasure in itself. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this particular chain of connection. When you think about it, most of the world’s great religions are based on book recommendation. 

I recently learned about the book I want to recommend to you today via someone whom I met while reporting a story. He, in turn, had been recommended the title by a horse trainer on a film set. Where that guy heard of it, I can’t say, but the chain is doubtless long—dating back, at any rate, to 1976, when Shameless Hussy Press published Calamity Jane’s Letters to Her Daughter

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The Invention of Serendipity

January 28, 2016 | by

The Three Princes of Serendip.

Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in a letter to another Horace—Mann—dated January 28, 1754. The occasion was pretty unremarkable—it was a happy accident, after all—and almost archetypally British: Walpole had used a talisman to discover a link between two families by investigating their coats of arms in an old book. At least Walpole was aware of the dullness of his eureka moment: “I have nothing better to tell you,” he writes, before launching into the fascinating etymology of his new word. It would take nearly two centuries for the adjective form, serendipitous, to come on the scene—its first recorded usage was in 1943. —D. P. Read More »

Idle Bird

December 31, 2015 | by

We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!

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Vincent van Gogh, Coalmine in the Borinage, 1879.

Van Gogh finds art in the Borinage.

In October of 1879, Theo van Gogh went to visit his brother, Vincent, in the Borinage coal-mining district of Belgium. Theo was en route to Paris, where he had business to conduct as an art dealer; Vincent was doing self-appointed missionary work. The pair walked along an abandoned quarry that reminded them of a canal they’d frequented as children in Holland, but now there was an undeniable rift between them. Theo, upset by Vincent’s appearance—he had given away nearly all of his clothes to the miners, and had ceased bathing—told him, “You are not the same any longer.” He felt that Vincent was wasting his time in this squalid place, and suggested that he leave to take up a different trade.

Angry at his brother’s inability to understand him, Vincent wrote a letter to Theo on October 15 that would be the last for ten months. The brothers had been writing letters to each other almost unceasingly since 1872, when Vincent was nineteen and Theo fifteen. This would be the first and deepest rupture between them, a silence that would never repeat itself. Referring to Theo’s accusation of “idleness,” Vincent wrote with bitterness, Read More >>

Letter from Our Paris Editor

December 28, 2015 | by

We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!

Over the half century since The Paris Review moved its headquarters to New York, we have often relied on a Paris editor to bring us the literary news from France. These Paris editors have included, at different times, Robert Silvers, Nelson Aldrich, Maxine Groffsky, and Susannah Hunnewell. Our new Paris editor, Antonin Baudry, served the French government as cultural counselor in New York and Madrid, as president of the Institut Français, and as an aide and speechwriter to foreign minister Dominique de Villepin during the Iraq crisis, an experience on which he based a best-selling graphic novel and hit movie (released here as Weapons of Mass Diplomacy and The French Minister, respectively). We heard from Antonin earlier this week. —L. S.

Dear Lorin,

I’m writing you from the Café de Tournon, where the founders of The Paris Review spent so much time back in the fifties. It happens to be my local, too. Today I ordered a café crème instead of my usual espresso. I’m celebrating your decision to make me the Paris editor of The Paris Review. I admit it sounds bizarre to me, though it’s hard to say what exactly counts as bizarre these days, around here. In any case, I will strive to do my duty by our readers … whatever that may turn out to be. Read More >>