Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’
April 8, 2016 | by Lorin Stein
Ever since I started editing The Paris Review, I’ve wished we could interview Merle Haggard. No songwriter means as much to me. Unfortunately, the Review doesn’t have a series on the Art of Songwriting (and for good reasons), so for the past six years I just wished. Then last Friday, at a friend’s wedding, I met a country deejay named Rebecca Birmingham. We happened to start talking about Merle and how much his songs moved us both, how true they were to experience, how original they sound even now. We both knew he was in poor health, he’d been in poor health for years, but she had a friend who’d know how to get in touch … Four days later we got the news that he was dead. Read More »
March 25, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- John Jeremiah Sullivan on Shuffle Along, one of the first all-black musicals on Broadway: “The blacks-in-blackface tradition, which lasted more than a century in this country, strikes most people, on first hearing of its existence, as deeply bizarre, and it was. But it emerged from a single crude reality: African American people were not allowed to perform onstage for much of the nineteenth century. They could not, that is, appear as themselves … In Shuffle Along, two black people fell in love onstage, and [the journalist Les] Walton wanted to see how a white audience would handle this … What he expected to see was not rage or revolt but something more ambiguous, an occasional discomfort passing through the room, and perhaps at certain moments a holding-back too, on the part of the cast. ‘White audiences, for some reason,’ Walton wrote, ‘do not want colored people to indulge in too much lovemaking.’ ”
- Speaking of musicals: American Psycho is one now. When Bret Easton Ellis’s novel came out, in 1991, some bookstores refused to stock it. Times have changed. As Dwight Garner writes, “This novel was ahead of its time. The culture has shifted to make room for Bateman. We’ve developed a taste for barbaric libertines with twinkling eyes and some zing in their tortured souls … Reading Mr. Ellis’s novel today, the hysteria of 1991 is almost inexplicable to me. It’s apparent from the start that Patrick Bateman is a sendup of a blank Wall Street generation. He’s a male mannequin, the ultimate soulless product of a soulless time … Something has happened since 1991 to our response to violence, especially when it is seasoned with a shake of wet or, especially, dry humor. Increasingly inured to the mess, we’ve learned to savor the wit.”
- What about Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary? Was it, too, ahead of its time? Though its observations about youth and work have long been dismissed as pedestrian, the economy has made them radically prescient, as Daniel Wenger writes: “Two years before Sex and the City, Fielding offered a third-wave route around the battleground between love and power … Today, Bridget Jones needn’t be limited to the confines of its chick-lit designation. The notion that the equations of life do not add up is still a particular problem for women of all ages, but many young people, no matter their gender, will find some of Bridget’s story familiar. Within a couple of years of graduating college, Bridget would have found her job prospects threatened by the global recession of the late eighties and early nineties; even when we first meet her, she’s flitting from position to position. Millennials began joining the workforce in the wake of the Great Recession, and according to a 2014 Council of Economic Advisers report, the consequence is an almost epigenetic stain on professional lives.”
- Sometimes people talk about fiction and nonfiction, and I’m like, What’s really the difference, you know? And they sort of phumpher and mumble a bit before they throw their hands up. But a lot of us feel this way: “According to Geoff Dyer, who says his next book is ‘a mixture of both fiction and non- but will be published as non-,’ the strength of the distinction in anglophone culture has waxed and waned … The nonfiction novels of Truman Capote and Norman Mailer blurred the lines again in the 1960s, he continues, and the boundary is ‘perhaps going through another porous phase right now’ … ‘You’d have to go back to the early nineteenth century or earlier to a time when “literature” referred to fiction and nonfiction rather than to a particular, highly regarded form of imaginative writing,’ he adds. Dyer cites Raymond Williams, who suggested that ‘the special regard in which fiction comes to be held … is probably connected to romanticism and the emphasis put on the imagination—which is itself a response to the rise of industrialization: a very fact-based process as Dickens emphasizes later in Hard Times.’ ”
- But why stop there? Why knock down the walls between genres when you can mount an assault on the separation between language and culture? On Charles Taylor’s The Language Animal: “He argues that language, like everything else that matters to human beings, cannot be understood as a kind of semantic Lego, where we acquire individual words with firm, clear shapes and string them together to form sentences, paragraphs, essays, and books. Language is shaped by the culture that has produced it, which means that it, in turn, shapes those who go on to use it. Hence: ‘The basic thesis of this book is that language can only be understood if we understand its constitutive role in human life’ … He agrees that ‘speech is the expression of thought,’ but insists ‘it isn’t simply an outer clothing for what could exist independently.’ The broadly Wittgensteinian alternative he offers to this reductionism is a kind of holism, in which the meanings of words hang together in complex webs in which culture and semantics cannot be disentangled.”
March 23, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
We’re delighted to announce the ten winners of the 2016 Whiting Awards:
- Brian Blanchfield, nonfiction
- J. D. Daniels, nonfiction
- LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, poetry
- Madeleine George, drama
- Mitchell S. Jackson, fiction
- Alice Sola Kim, fiction
- Catherine Lacey, fiction
- Layli Long Soldier, poetry
- Safiya Sinclair, poetry
- Ocean Vuong, poetry
For the second year, the Daily is proud to feature selected work from all the Whiting honorees. Click each name above to read on and learn more about them. You can also see them read tomorrow night (Thursday, March 24) at BookCourt—John Wray, himself a former Whiting recipient, will host the event.
Founded in 1985, the Whiting Awards, of fifty thousand dollars each, are based on “early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come.” The program has awarded more than six million dollars to three hundred writers and poets, including Jonathan Franzen, Alice McDermott, David Foster Wallace, Jeffrey Eugenides, and The Paris Review’s own Mona Simpson and John Jeremiah Sullivan. Click here for a list of all the previous honorees. If you’re curious about last year’s winners, you can read some of their work here.
Congratulations to this year’s honorees!
March 23, 2016 | by Whiting Honorees
J. D. Daniels studied at the University of Louisville and Boston University. His writing has appeared in The Paris Review, AGNI, n+1, Oxford American, The Best American Essays, and elsewhere. Daniels is the recipient of The Paris Review’s 2013 Terry Southern Prize. His collection, The Correspondence, will be published in 2017. Read More »
March 22, 2016 | by Whiting Honorees
Brian Blanchfield, a poet and essayist, is the author of three books, including two collections of poetry: Not Even Then (2004) and A Several World (2014), which received the 2014 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and was long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry. His third book, Proxies, is a collection of essays forthcoming in April. He is the recipient of a 2015–2016 George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation fellowship. His recent work has appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, The Paris Review, Brick, Guernica, Lana Turner, and other publications. Since 2010, Blanchfield has been a poetry editor of Fence, and he currently serves as a guest editor of the PEN Poetry Series. He is originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and lives in Tucson, Arizona. Read More »
December 15, 2015 | by Ane Farsethås
Readers in the U.S. await the fifth volume of My Struggle—but in Norway, Karl Ove Knausgaard has moved on. With the money from Struggle’s sales, he’s established his own publishing house, devoted to promoting new talent and translating books by writers like Ben Marcus and Donald Antrim into Norwegian. Since his announcement, in 2011, that he would stop writing, he’s gone to publish four books of essays, and this fall he launched a new series: his “four seasons” quartet, On Autumn, On Winter, On Spring, and (as you might have guessed) On Summer. Presented as a “lexicon for an unborn child” and dedicated to the youngest of his four children, the quartet comprises several hundred short texts about objects (boots, chewing gum, plastic bags) and concepts (love, sex, war).
I recently caught up with Knausgaard in Oslo, where we discussed his new books and how he’s moving past the success of My Struggle.
You’ve described your new series as “personal encyclopedia of our close surroundings.”
It started as a completely private project. When we were expecting our daughter, I wanted to write something for her, a diary or letter, for her to read when she was older—about how things looked like around our home before she was born, what her family was like, our thoughts and habits. Around the same time I got an assignment from an American magazine to write a short text for each issue for a year. I ended up writing about ten things that made life worth living and ten things that made me want to shoot myself. The editor quit and the project was canceled before I turned it in, but in that brief form I’d found something that appealed to me. So I continued writing, about a new subject every day, and at some point the two projects merged. Read More »