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Posts Tagged ‘Man Booker Prize’

In Which Our Writers Do Great Things

September 13, 2016 | by

Detail from the cover of our new Fall issue, doubling here as a celebratory bouquet.

On the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize are two of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize winners, Ottessa Moshfegh and David Szalay. Szalay is nominated for his novel All That Man Is, two sections of which first appeared in the Review: “Youth” and “Lascia Amor E Siegui Marte.” In our last issue, he talked to our editor, Lorin Stein, about writing All That Man Is. The two will convene again for a discussion at McNally Jackson Books on Friday, October 14.

Moshfegh, nominated for her novel Eileen, has published seven short stories in the Review: “Disgust,” from our Fall 2012 issue; “Bettering Myself,” from Spring 2013; “The Weirdos,” from Fall 2013; “A Dark and Winding Road,” from Winter 2013; “Slumming,” from Winter 2014; “No Place for Good People,” from Summer 2014; and “Dancing in the Moonlight,” from Fall 2015.

And Paul Beatty, whose novel The Sellout made the shortlist, discussed the book at length in an interview last year with the Daily.

Meanwhile, the National Book Awards have announced this year’s poetry longlist, and here, too, the Review is well represented: Peter Gizzi has three poems in our Spring 2015 issue and Monica Youn’s “Goldacre” appeared in our Summer 2016 issue; for the Daily, Youn wrote about what she refers to as “my Twinkie poem.” Solmaz Sharif spoke to the Daily this summer about her collectionLook. Finally, our poetry editor from 1953 to 1961, Donald Hall, has been nominated for his Selected Poems.

Our congratulations to all the nominees!

Mahasweta Devi, 1926–2016

August 8, 2016 | by

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Mahasweta Devi.

“Please don’t write more books. I can’t read so many books,” a little girl once said to Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet and Nobel laureate. The little girl was Mahasweta Devi, who grew up to be one of India’s best-known writers and activists. When Mahasweta died, on July 28—Devi is an honorific—she left behind no small collection herself: she had written more than a hundred books, including fiction and nonfiction about India’s tribal communities, Maoist insurgents, and women. Read More »

Not That New York Review, and Other News

July 27, 2016 | by

One of the underground papers from the exhibition “Realize Your Desires.”

  • To all the rich folks shopping for Common Projects sneakers and neon signs: your “minimalist” aesthetic isn’t the latest iteration of an artistic philosophy. It’s just consumer culture. As Kyle Chayka writes, “Despite its connotations of absence, ‘minimalism’ has been popping up everywhere lately, like a bright algae bloom in the murk of postrecession America … So long as it’s stylishly austere, it seems, it’s minimalist. Part pop philosophy and part aesthetic, minimalism presents a cure-all for a certain sense of capitalist overindulgence. Maybe we have a hangover from pre-recession excess—McMansions, S.U.V.s, neon cocktails, fusion cuisine—and minimalism is the salutary tonic. Or perhaps it’s a method of coping with recession-induced austerity, a collective spiritual and cultural cleanse because we’ve been forced to consume less anyway. But as an outgrowth of a peculiarly American (that is to say, paradoxical and self-defeating) brand of Puritanical asceticism, this new minimalist lifestyle always seems to end in enabling new modes of consumption, a veritable excess of less. It’s not really minimal at all.”
  • From Melville to Wallace, most of your prototypical “office novelists” are dudes, and their takes on bureaucracy are concerned less with work than with minute social shifts in hierarchy and class. Office novels by women have a different agenda, Lydia Kiesling writes: “The last two decades have seen a boom in workplace novels written by and mostly marketed to women … These books provide mapping, contextualizing, and rich illustration of women’s working lives. They form a kind of counter-tradition of office literature, dealing with the same bureaucracies and white-collar doldrums that have inspired male novelists but reflecting the particular challenges and preoccupations of women in the workforce … These novels often arrive at the same place: a woman who can’t cope with the demands of family and modern work finds a more flexible arrangement, usually capitalizing on her latent creative or entrepreneurial spirit.”
  • The Chilean writer Roberto Merino remembers his early experiences with television: “A Sunday session of Tugar, tugar, the dance program which Baila domingo later replaced, was a protracted sexual torment. Ah, what ochre sundowns were whiled away in fantasies of oneself waiting outside the Manuel Plaza gymnasium for the most ravishing of the contestants before sauntering off with a careless arm around her, drinking in that longed-for blend of odors: the scent my mother would have disdained as ‘cheap,’ the sweat, the cigarette smoke infused into the denim jacket, the fading sweetness of Adams or Bazooka chewing gum in the brazen kisses.”

A Parish for Slang Bedouins, and Other News

November 4, 2014 | by

John Frederick Lewis, A Bedouin, ca. 1841.

  • Edgar Allan Poe filed for bankruptcy in 1842. Here’s a long list of his debts, with creditors listed in Philadelphia, Richmond, and New York, and orderly columns of numbers that grow large enough to give you a sympathetic panic attack.
  • “If ambitious writers work at the boundaries of the written language (as they should), then they ought do it from a path of mastery, not ignorance; broken rules carry no power if writers and readers don’t notice the transgressions. Proper usage shows us where the earth is, so that, when the time comes, we know what it means to fly.”
  • Not unrelatedly: “Dickens published an essay on slang, probably by George Augustus Sala. The 1853 article expressed the view that either slang should be ‘banished, prohibited’ or that there should be a New Dictionary that would ‘give a local habitation and a name to all the little by-blows of language skulking and rambling about our speech, like the ragged little Bedouins about our shameless streets, and give them a settlement and a parish.’ ”
  • In which Ann Patchett reminds readers of the New York Times that she’s not married to her dog.
  • “I found it odd that there had never been a scientist as a Man Booker judge. There have been many non-literary types amongst the judges: a former spy, a former dancer, a Downton Abbey actor—but science, apparently, was a step too far. Until this year, when I joined the judging panel.”

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Wish You Were Here, and Other News

October 15, 2014 | by

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A still from a film recording of Eugen Weidmann’s execution, June 17, 1939.

  • Richard Flanagan has won this year’s Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. “He instinctively hugged the Duchess of Cornwall as he received the award at a black tie dinner in London.”
  • Last night everything was peachy, but the Booker has a history of dust-ups and disorder. Also idiocy—Julian Barnes recalls an encounter after his novel Flaubert’s Parrot failed to win the prize: “I was introduced after the ceremony to one of the judges, who said to me: ‘I hadn’t even heard of this fellow Flaubert before I read your book. But afterwards I sent out for all his novels in paperback.’”
  • The guillotine at the dawn of the media age: in the Paris of 1939, the simplest way to stop executions was to film them. “Unbeknownst to Parisian prison officials, a film camera had been set up in one of the apartments overlooking the Place Louis-Barthou. The film recorded [an] execution and by the next morning photographic stills appeared on the cover of nearly every French newspaper … The public was scandalized by their own violence; the government embarrassed. In response France banned public executions.”
  • James Wood on the Australian novelist Elizabeth Harrower, whose work is back in print after twenty years: “[Harrower] essentially terminated her literary career. She has said that she thinks of her fiction as something abandoned long ago, buried in a cellar. She can’t now be bothered with writing. ‘I don’t know anybody who knows I’m a writer,’ she said in 2012.”
  • Against basic, the most modish putdown of 2014: “While what it pretends to criticize is unoriginality of thought and action, most of what basic actually seeks to dismiss is consumption patterns—what you watch, what you drink, what you wear, and what you buy—without dismissing consumption itself. The basic girl’s sin isn’t liking to shop, it’s cluelessly lusting after the wrong brands, the ones that announce themselves loudly and have shareholders they need to satisfy. (The right brands are much more expensive and subtle and, usually, privately owned.)”

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Nothing Happened: An Interview with Joseph O’Neill

October 3, 2014 | by

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Photo courtesy of the author

The narrator of Joseph O’Neill’s new novel, The Dog, decides to move to Dubai. Transitional places make more sense to him than those in which “everything has been built and all that remains is the business of being in buildings.” He sees his own life, in the aftermath of a recently disintegrated relationship, as somehow “posthumous” and shameful. And meanwhile his legal training, instead of arming his intellect, merely alerts him to the inadequacies of the language he’s forced to use. “Lost in a fantastic vigilance of ambiguity, obscurity, and import,” caged in by the feeling that “the very project of making sense [is] being mocked,” he drafts endless disclaimers and other corporate documents that he only slenderly understands. His new apartment tower is called The Situation. His preferred spa is called Unique. But even recreation is an exercise in compromise—“there’s more than one Unique.”

Javier Marías, paraphrasing Faulkner, once told an interviewer that “when you strike a match in a dark wilderness it is not in order to see anything better lighted, but just in order to see how much more darkness there is around.” The Dog isn’t much interested in bright epiphanies. Instead it shows the extent of one man’s ignorance—his helplessness in a foreign world. The evocative sentences that helped to win O’Neill’s previous novel, Netherland, the 2009 PEN/ Faulkner Award and a wide readership, are largely absent here. With its deadpan existentialism and playful corporate-speak, The Dog is perhaps closer to a book like Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. It is bleakly, unexpectedly funny.

I met O’Neill in Manhattan on an afternoon in mid-September. We talked about the fact that Netherland “very nearly didn’t get published at all,” the relationship between his work and that of Louis C.K., and why he is “deeply uninterested in the chattiness you get in so many contemporary novels.”

It’s been mentioned by various reviewers that The Dog is a very different book to Netherland, at least in its tone. What sort of sentences did you find yourself looking for as you sat down to write, and what kinds of sentences did you find yourself striking out?

Generally, I want sentences that are both conscientious and surprising. For me, plot happens most of all at the level of the sentence. As I reader, I want to start a sentence and then be surprised by what happens to it, or intelligently happens. To be surprised by the conscientious movement of emotion and attention over the course of the sentence. I used to write poetry, and I think good poetry does that—captures a movement of intelligence. Still more generally, I want a verbal landscape that’s unusual—that I haven’t read a million times before, and that isn’t easily replicable in other forms. This approach animated the writing of Netherland.

In The Dog, my main character is a theorist—he is disposed toward theorizing and rationalizing, as well as to deep emotion, and is only occasionally given to recollection. To my mind, this makes him a comically urgent character—a man who is constantly caught short by this thoughts, who constantly needs to take a mental leak. That being the case, it wouldn’t have made sense to reuse the highly particular, contemplative voice of Netherland.

I’m not interested in writing stuff that’s indistinguishable from other stuff. I’m trying to avoid that deathly sense that here’s something you’ve read before, but with different characters, or with one situation replaced with another. I’m also deeply uninterested in the chattiness you get in so many contemporary novels. Read More »

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