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Posts Tagged ‘Mortals’

Job Aspirations; Forgiveness

May 4, 2012 | by

I am a student interested in working for The Paris Review one day. What steps would you recommend to get there?

Read lots. That’s the main thing. And not just the books they assign you in class. The Daily gives you a pretty good idea of what books and articles we’re reading; at the very least you'll have something to talk about in the interview. (You should read The Paris Review. Maybe this goes without saying.)

Learn to write. I don’t mean “creative” writing, I mean short-form journalism. If your school has a good student newspaper, sign up. Or start sending pitches to your favorite magazines. The main thing is to write for an editor who can help you improve—tightening sentences, taking yourself out of the picture when you don’t belong, that kind of thing. Being able to write short, competent reports is a surprisingly useful skill—and one that we value here.

Bump one of us off. The Review has only six full-time employees, so job openings are rare. But we do accept new (unpaid) interns every season: click here for more information on how to apply.

We’re honored by your interest!

I’m working on a character who is trying to figure out secrets in his family and still hold it intact … I've been reading Albert Camus’s The Fall and loving it, but wondered if you might have any other suggestions for literature dealing with themes of forgiveness to help out with some inspiration?
Much Obliged

Dear Obliged,

The first title that pops into my head is Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? Then I hear Henry James: “Yes, and forget her, too.” James wrote lots of novels about forgiveness. The Wings of the Dove, which I have never made it through, The Ambassadors, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Altar of the Dead all turn on acts of forgiveness. If your subject is forgiveness in marriage, you may be inspired by Norman Rush’s Mortals or Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead or Jane Smiley’s The Age of Grief. Then there are Jonathan Franzen’s last two novels, Freedom and The Corrections. Forgiveness is a big subject in Franzen’s work, though critics don’'t often point it out. The Corrections is less about marital forgiveness, more about how hard it can be to forgive one’s parents and kids. Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment has to do with forgiveness in divorce. D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers has to do with forgiveness between mothers and sons; Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage has to do with forgiveness between Geoff and D. H. Lawrence ... For some reason everywhere I turn today, I see people asking to be forgiven and trying to forgive. Maybe you can’t go wrong.

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Outer Space; Dad Books

April 15, 2011 | by

I’m having trouble finding nature poems that deal with outer space (planets, galaxies, and weird phenomena like black holes, and so on). Has a true artist ever written on this theme? It would have to be someone with intellect and sensibility, not just a pop sci-fi writer. Thanks so much for any suggestions. —Alex

The book you are looking for—at least, one of them—is The Cosmos Poems, by Frederick Seidel. Weird phenomena abound.

A sample:

It is the invisible
Dark matter we are not made of
That I am afraid of.
Most of the universe consists of this.

I put a single normal ice cube
In my drink.
It weighs one hundred million tons.
It is a sample from the densest star.

I read my way across
The awe I wrote
That you are reading now.
I can’t believe that you are there

Except you are ...

Dear Mr. Stein,

Recently my dear old dad has requested a “good book” for his sixty-first birthday. In the past, as far as fiction is concerned, he’s seemed especially drawn to the classics, such as Ulysses, Moby-Dick, the poetry of William Butler Yeats, and anything else one might read as an English-lit major. Understandably, he’s now going through a bit of a literary midlife crisis and is looking for some excitement. What contemporary works would you suggest to reawaken his intellectual spirit and introduce him to the fiction of the twenty-first century? Best Wishes, Jemima M.

If we start with your father’s predilection for Ulysses and Moby-Dick, and if by “good book” we assume your father means a big, ambitious novel with what Alex calls “intellect and sensibility”—and a real story to tell—I suggest Hilary Mantel’s Booker winner Wolf Hall, a historical novel about the court of Henry VIII that makes brilliant use of old-fashioned modernist stream-of-consciousness and at the same time, in its handling of private life between the sexes, is very much of our century. I suspect your father might also like either of Jonathan Franzen’s last two novels, The Corrections or Freedom. Or Péter Nádas’s complex, tricky, very inward family saga of Hungarian intellectuals in the late twentieth century, A Book of Memories. (My mother loved this one.)

At the very top of the list I’d put Norman Rush’s Mortals, the story of a middle-aged CIA agent, undercover as a Milton scholar at a university in Botswana, facing hard changes in his career and his marriage.

Read a few pages of each; I bet one will have his name on it.

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