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Posts Tagged ‘Lydia Davis’

Lydia Davis’s “Local Obits”

June 11, 2013 | by

In seventh grade, I was teased mercilessly about my funny speaking voice, and I’ve been self-conscious about it ever since. It took some persuading to get me to make this recording, and it’s a testament to the story that I was game: while I love many things in issue 205, “Local Obits” was what I wanted to share. Anyone familiar with Lydia Davis’s work knows that she can do a lot with a little, and this piece—composed of elliptical snatches of lives, or, rather, someone else’s distillation thereof—turns the quotidian incantatory, funny, bittersweet, strange. A master class in the minimal (if not in performance).

 

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Announcing Our Summer Issue!

May 28, 2013 | by

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The proofs of our Summer issue just arrived at Twenty-Seventh Street from the printer. This afternoon is our last chance to catch any mistakes. You always find a few typos—and we have more names to spell-check than usual, because this issue contains more stories, poems, and interviews than any in recent memory. 

Some of these writers are regular contributors, including Lydia Davis—with her first publication since she won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for fiction—and David Gates, whose new story is a favorite of his and ours. Others are writers we’ve been waiting to publish for a while, namely Ben Lerner, whose first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is one of the best debuts we’ve seen in the past few years, and Kristin Dombek, whose essays in n+1 electrified us. The newly translated stories by Robert Walser are from his groundbreaking 1904 collection, Fritz Kocher’s Essays. This book (which won the admiration of Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin) made me feel for the first time that I understood what all the fuss is about.

Still others, including Emma Cline, Gillian Linden, and the Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli—translated by the likes of Jorie Graham and Mark Strand—are new to us and will probably be new to you. We look forward to saying, You read them here first.

Plus, three interviews.

Two are devoted to the art of literary biography. Michael Holroyd’s lives of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, among others, revolutionized the study of Bloomsbury and Edwardian literary history.

MICHAEL HOLROYD

I am a great believer in private life, which is quite unfashionable now—to be a celebrity is the thing, or you are nothing. But I believe in private life for the living, and I think that when one is dead one should be a little bit bolder, so that the rest of us may have some record of how things actually were. Otherwise we will be left with well-meant lies, which add to the difficulties of life and lead to real misunderstanding.

Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton are just as influential.

INTERVIEWER

What is it like to write a death scene?

HERMIONE LEE

It depends how they died. Some cynical biographer said to me, Make sure it’s a good death. Make sure you’re not picking someone who just declined. 

Finally, we have an Art of Fiction interview with the Nobel laureate Imre Kertész. It is, according to Kertész, the last interview he will ever give. Luisa Zielinski’s probing, sensitive questions explore the reasons that Kertész—ten years after he survived the Holocaust—decided he had to write.

IMRE KERTÉSZ

Look, I don’t want to deny that I was a prisoner at Auschwitz and that I now have a Nobel Prize. What should I make of that? And what should I make of the fact that I survived, and continue to survive? At least I feel that I experienced something extraordinary, because not only did I live through those horrors, but I also managed to describe them, in a way that is bearable, acceptable, and nonetheless part of [a] radical tradition … Perhaps I’m being impertinent, but I feel that my work has a rare quality—I tried to depict the human face of this history, I wanted to write a book that people would actually want to read.

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Your Borders Gift Card Is Useless, and Other News

May 24, 2013 | by

"Useless, useless." - John Wilkes Booth

“Useless, useless.” —John Wilkes Booth

  • Listen to James Salter read (Booker-winning!) Lydia Davis’s “Break It Down.”
  • We sort of would have assumed this, but apparently it took a Manhattan federal judge to declare that unredeemed Borders gift cards are, in fact, worthless. (Sorry, everyone whose bar and bat mitzvahs I attended!)
  • Oh dear. Poet David R. Morgan has confessed to multiple instances of plagiarism. (He says he’s “deeply sorry.”)
  • Meet Rosamunde Pilcher. In her native England, “the eighty-eight-year-old is regarded as a successful, if stylistically limited, writer of romantic novel. In Germany, she is nothing short of a national heroine—Julian Fellowes, Colin Dexter, and Ealing Studios rolled into one. More than one hundred of her love stories, set in Cornwall and Devon, have been turned into television films, all shot on location—but with German actors—and invariably aired on Sunday afternoons.”
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    In Memoriam: Evan S. Connell, 1924–2013

    January 10, 2013 | by

    We are sad to learn that Evan Connell has died. An early contributor to The Paris Review, Connell was and is a quiet hero of contemporary literature. His novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge have been cited as a crucial influence by writers as different as Lydia Davis, Jonathan Franzen, and Zadie Smith. In his history books—Son of the Morning Star (about General Custer) and Deus Lo Volt! (about the Crusades)—his poems, and his essays, he sang the glories of lost civilizations and unearthed the ruins at our feet. Connell delighted in tales of folly, of doomed experiments, but his own experiments bore fruits, plural, for no two are alike. We regret that Connell was unable to finish his Art of Fiction interview for the magazine; stay tuned in the next few days for selections from his work as it appeared in The Paris Review.

     

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    Documenta 13

    July 11, 2012 | by

    Massimo Bartolini, Untitled (Wave), 1997–2012. Photo: Nils Klinger

    Michelangelo Antonioni was not happy with the grass. This was the summer of 1966, and London was experiencing an extreme drought. The director had shot the pivotal scene in Blow-Up where David Hemmings photographs an unconsenting Vanessa Redgrave and her lover, and maybe, or maybe not, a murder at Maryon Park. But the grass looked terrible, scraggy and yellow, so Antonioni had the crew spray-paint it green, and then shot the whole sequence again.

    Antonioni would’ve approved of the grass in Kassel, though. It was incredibly green, food-coloring green. The leaves, too. The city, at the northern tip of the province of Hesse, in the middle of Germany, is known for having been nearly obliterated by Allied bombs in World War II and for Documenta, the hundred-day international exhibition of 150 contemporary artists that takes place every five years. I was there with my girlfriend, Liza, for the event's thirteenth incarnation, but at some point, everyone I met would mention the destruction—whether to explain the city’s history of manufacturing weapons or the blocky postwar architecture.

    The painter and professor Arnold Bode organized the first Documenta in 1955 in order to exhibit publicly the “degenerate” art that had been banned under the Third Reich. The work of prewar and wartime modernism was displayed in the ruins of the Fridericianum Museum, not just as an act of recovery but of testimony, too. This year, the director is Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and the exhibition spread beyond the renovated Fridericianum to the main square, the train station, the Brothers Grimm Museum, the sprawling Karslaue Park, and more. There were paintings, installations, films, performances, lectures, seminars, and, as described in the press packet, “periodic activity.” I was there for three days, which is enough time to realize how little time that is, especially since this year Documenta extends beyond Kassel to Alexandria, Cairo, and Kabul, where ruins, recovery, and testimony are not distant concepts.

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    Dear Paris Review, What Books Impress a Girl?

    June 8, 2012 | by

    Dear Paris Review,

    Someone sent me this text message yesterday: Whats a book I should read to make girls think I'm smart in a hot way? I want to seem like a douchey intellectual instead of my deadbeat self. What should I tell him?

    Sincerely,
    A

    Dear A,

    The correct answer is probably that your friend should be secure in his tastes, find someone who loves him for who he is, and not worry about impressing anyone. Many movies have demonstrated the pitfalls of posturing and the inevitable public unmasking that follows. That said, our job here is to try to answer questions, and as such, I took the unusual step of soliciting a range of answers from both men and women.  (My own immediate response was to offer the following formula: worst book of great author, a gambit that men of this type also apply to albums, i.e. Metal Machine Music, which they will claim is underrated.) Then too, there is the dual nature of the question: Does the author wish to come across as a poseur for some reason, or attract a woman of substance?  If his goal is (inexplicably) the former, the female contingent offered the following names: Madness and Civilization; The Power Broker; Žižek (any), The Brothers Karamazov. (All worthy reads, needless to say, but often used for ostentatious or intimidating purposes.) And, added one, “I like DFW, but he’s the novelist equivalent of a neg.”

    As to books the women whom I spoke to found appealing (and please note that this implies actual reading, not use as props): At Swim Two Birds, The Beauty Myth, “any book read twice.” Elaborated one: “Extra points for Martin Amis memoir, minus points for other Martin Amis nonfiction. Someone who actually appears to be reading William Gaddis for real and not just carrying it around will always rate a second glance. And a straight man reading Mary Gaitskill would be nearly irresistible to me.”

    When faced with the same question, male correspondents provided the following terse responses: “Cantos, Pound.” “Kathy Acker.” “Sontag.”

    Portnoys Complaint,” said one, “may as well be Yiddish for douche.”

    Others were more expansive. “How about Laszlo Kraszahorkai’s Satantango? It’s ostentatious, hip, handsomely designed (looks great on a bedside table), and comes with seals of approval from Sontag, Sebald, and James Wood. It is also, for the most part, unreadable.”

    Gravitys Rainbow, all the completed Caro LBJ books, Brothers Karamazov. But if you really want ‘I am a brooding intellectual with an effortless knowledge of contemporary culture,’ I think Matterhorn is tough to top.”

    “There’s a difference,” remarked one colleague, “between getting a girl to think you’re smart, and getting a girl to WANT to talk to you. The following are books that will make girls want to talk to you.

    —Greatest pick-up book of all time is Just Kids by Patti Smith, because every girl has read it and they ALL want to talk about it.
    —Any book ever written by Haruki Murakami
    The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
    White Album by Joan Didion
    What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Don’t question it. Just trust.)”

    And in corroboration, one fellow says: “If it means anything, the only time a girl ever sat down and started talking to me out of nowhere was when I was reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem in college.  Didion has an effect on people.”

    Take this for what it’s worth, and we hope you actually find a book you love in the process.

    Have a question for the editors of The Paris Review? E-mail us.

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