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Posts Tagged ‘Raymond Carver’

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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Literary Paint Chips: Gallery 1

April 26, 2012 | by

Paint Samples, suitable for the home, sourced from colors in literature. As seen in our two-hundredth issue.

City Fingers1 Delta Khaki2 Navy Rayon3 Limpopo4
Mapp’s Silence5 Nightclub Lycra6 Alleline’s Pink Gin7 Lydia8
Montdore Mink9 Rothko’s Forearm10 Moth11 Mrs. Jones Green12
Elephant Hills13 Camel Cashmere14 Glimpse Gray15 Samsa Juice16
Anne’s Shoes17 Mossy Trout18 Lipstick Smack19 Ocean Heart20
Mediterranean Cock21 Rebecca’s Smalls22 Dock Green23 Fair Fuzz24
Gosling25 Random Dandelion26 Violet Hour27 Golightly28

Annotations

  1. “The clouds have their old color back, their old English color: the color of a soft-boiled egg, shelled by city fingers.” ‘London Fields,’ Martin Amis.
  2. “They hurried out of the room and returned in a minute or two, each pushing a kind of tall dumb-waiter laden, on all its four wire-netted shelves, with eight-month-old babies, all exactly alike (a Bokanovsky Group, it was evident) and all (since their caste was Delta) dressed in khaki.” ‘Brave New World,’ Aldous Huxley.
  3. “Instead, she’d burst into tears. Wetting the front of her navy-blue rayon housewife dress.” ‘Blonde,’ Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. “Then Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, ‘Go to the banks of the great gray-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.’ ” “The Elephant’s Child,” Rudyard Kipling.
  5. “Miss Mapp inclined her head. Silence was gold.” ‘Miss Mapp,’ E.F. Benson.
  6. “So Becca shows up at the last minute, right before post time. She’s already called about eighteen times just to let us know that she’s coming, finally she dances through the door in this micro lycra red dress— just a sheath really, perfect for that 3:00 a.m. nightclub appearance, but like even I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around in this thing in the middle of the day. But the boys love it and it gets so quiet for a minute you can hear the sound of tongues dropping and saliva splashing on the floor.” ‘Story of My Life,’ Jay McInerney.
  7. “Percy showed it to him last night—over a pink gin, was it, Percy, at the Travellers’?” ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,’ John le Carré.
  8. “Lydia never looked clean; her skin was not pitted like Joe’s but it had a permanent grayness, the grayness of one reared on baked beans, jelly and bread and dripping.” ‘The Millstone,’ Margaret Drabble.
  9. “‘The important thing, dear,’ she said, ‘is to have a really good fur coat, I mean a proper, dark one.’ To Lady Montdore, fur meant mink.” ‘Love in a Cold Climate,’ Nancy Mitford.
  10. “He’s very close to being the shade of the walls, isn’t he, and the shade of the walls is exactly the color of the inside of Rothko’s forearm.” ‘Breaking and Entering,’ Joy Williams.
  11. “He will not open the screen and capture their pollened bodies. He did this once and the terrified thrash of the moth—a brown-pink creature who released col- ored dust on his fingers—scared them both.” ‘In the Skin of a Lion,’ Michael Ondaatje.
  12. “ ‘Now, darling,’ she said sailing past me into the kitchen. ‘I’ve brought you some nice soup, and some smart outfits of mine for Monday!’ She was wearing a lime green suit, black tights and high-heeled court shoes.” ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary,’ Helen Fielding.
  13. “‘Well, let’s try and have a fine time.’ ‘All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?’ ” “Hills Like White Elephants,” Ernest Hemingway.
  14. “Cousin Bette, a victim, ever since her arrival in Paris, to a longing for cashmere shawls, was fascinated by the thought of possessing this particular yellow camel’s-hair, given by the baron to his wife in 1808, and according to the custom of certain families passed over to the daughter in 1830.” ‘Cousin Bette,’ Honoré de Balzac.
  15. “I saw large gray eyes in a bright, lively face, and suddenly this face began to quiver and laugh.” ‘First Love,’ Ivan Turgenev.
  16. “He seemed, unfortunately, to have no proper teeth—how was he, then, to grasp the key?—but the lack of teeth was, of course, made up for with a very strong jaw; using the jaw, he really was able to start the key turning, ignoring the fact that he must have been causing some kind of damage as a brown fluid came from his mouth, flowed over the key and dripped onto the floor.” ‘The Metamorphosis,’ Franz Kafka.
  17. “Everywhere I go, upstairs or down, they all cast admiring glances at my feet, which are adorned by a pair of exceptionally beautiful ( for times like these!) shoes. Miep managed to snap them up for 27.50 guilders. Burgundy-colored suede and leather with medium-sized high heels. I feel as if I’m on stilts, and look even taller than I already am.” ‘Diary of a Young Girl,’ Anne Frank.
  18. “He was the color of moss, that color green. It was as if he had been wrapped up in moss a long time, and the color had come off all over him.” “Nobody Said Anything,” Raymond Carver.
  19. “When I awoke, B. and the girl had gone, leaving in the wake of their coupling a great mountain of disheveled bedding, a brilliant stain of orange lipstick smack in the middle of the pillow, and on the exposed sheet the untidy evidence of their urgency.” ‘A Fan’s Notes,’ Frederick Exley.
  20. “Ah, brig, good-night / To crew and you; / The ocean’s heart too smooth, too blue, / To break for you.” “Shipwreck,” Emily Dickinson.
  21. “And then later that business down below, his thick cock that blue-brown of Mediterranean types and, he wonders if her hair there is as curly as the hair on her head, in and out, he can’t believe it will happen, while the rest of them sit here listening to the rain.” ‘Rabbit Is Rich,’ John Updike.
  22. “These are her underclothes, in this drawer. This pink set here she had never worn. She was wearing slacks of course and a shirt when she died.” ‘Rebecca,’ Daphne du Maurier.
  23. “‘If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’ ” ‘The Great Gatsby,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  24. “In the black pubic hair, ladies and gentlemen, weighing one hundred and seventy pounds, at least half of which is still undigested halvah and hot pastrami, from Newark, NJ, The Shnoz, Alexander Portnoy! And his opponent, in the fair fuzz, with her elegant polished limbs and the gentle maidenly face of a Botticelli, that ever-popular purveyor of the social amenities here in the Garden, one hundred and fourteen pounds of Republican refinement, and the pertest pair of nipples in all New England, from New Canaan, Connecticut, Sarah Abbott Maulsby! ” ‘Portnoy’s Complaint,’ Philip Roth.
  25. “When the first gosling poked its gray-green head through the goose’s feathers and looked around, Charlotte spied it and made the announcement.” ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ E.B. White.
  26. “Not a dandelion in sight here, the lawns are picked clean. I long for one, just one, rubbishy and insolently random and hard to get rid of and perennially yellow as the sun.” ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Margaret Atwood.
  27. “At the violet hour, when the eyes and back / Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits / Like a taxi throbbing waiting.” ‘The Waste Land,’ T. S. Eliot.
  28. “For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks.” ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ Truman Capote.

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On Not Letting Go

October 6, 2011 | by

"Notebook on an Intended Dictionary." Bound manuscript written on wrappers from the 1855 edition of 'Leaves of Grass.' Courtesy The Library of Congress.

Probably no writer ever finishes a book without wishing he could keep it to himself. For one thing, a book is company, during the writing of it; it’s hard to accept its departure. For another, a book is never free of flaws, its author being human. Poets have long been able to console themselves for the loss and the exposure by revising and republishing. Thus Whitman expanded, aggrandized, and eventually bloated Leaves of Grass; thus Wordsworth enlarged upon and finally diluted The Prelude. Some writers of fiction, too, have indulged themselves. Henry James returned to his early prose to render it more ineffable. Raymond Carver restored some of the fullness that a charismatic editor had cut from his early stories. Read More »

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Staff Picks: Terry Castle, Jane Smiley, Ramona Ausubel

April 1, 2011 | by

Diary of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1809–71).

Do not take Terry Castle to bed if you plan on getting any sleep. I keep trying to savor The Professor, her memoirs of love and friendship in the academy. It’s like trying to savor cocaine. The title essay, about a formative affair Castle had as an undergraduate, is now up there on a short shelf in my mind alongside Adolphe and First Love. —Lorin Stein

In the Morgan Library’s exhibition “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives,” Bob Dylan sketches a hotel-room table and then uses it to ink out a poem; JP Morgan has a first-rate time with the girls at dancing school; Charlotte Bronte struggles to write in between her studies; John Ruskin graphs out “pretty” chess moves; and Albert Einstein thinks “about the gravitation-electricity problem again” even though he knows he should be doing other things. The show comes complete with a brochure of carefully typed out diary entries, but I found it much more rewarding to squint my way through the diaries, wondering at the tiny scribbles and neat printings, and feeling just a bit closer to these beloved authors and figures. —Rosalind Parry

I have a girl crush on Ramona Ausubel, whose short story “Atria” was published in The New Yorker this week. I can’t wait to read her forthcoming novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us. Of it, Ausubel admits, “I have been trying not to think too hard about what it will be like to release this story to the great big world.” (P. S. Don’t miss her story in The Daily last week.) —Thessaly La Force

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Why David Means Is Not a Novelist

June 22, 2010 | by

Photograph by Max Means

Since his 1991 debut “A Quick Kiss of Redemption,” David Means has established himself among the finest and most incisive American writers of contemporary short fiction—and as the member of his generation perhaps most invested in the short form itself. In his three previous books—each curated with remarkable care and enviable devotion—Means has delivered exquisite local portraits of the destitute, desolate, and disconsolate in postindustrial America. In the course of discussing “The Spot,” his marvelous new collection of razor-sharp shorts, we wondered, is he tempted at all to go longer—to essay the novel?

Yeah, I'm tempted by the novel. Tempted is the correct word because compared to the demands of the story it would seem that the novel, all that wide-open space, would be enticing after four story collections. But what's not enticing to me is the idea of simply going big and wide for the sake of giving into the possibility of going big. I love novels, and I read them more than anything, but stories cut in sharp and hard and are able to reveal things in a different way: they're highly charged, a slightly newer form, and inherently more contemporary.

Big and wide can mean expansive and comprehensive, but it can also mean bloat. Novels often thin themselves out to a watery hue—some even start that way—and at times seem to only ride along the surface of things, giving us what we already know, reporting the news that is just news. Ezra Pound said that literature is news that stays news. I keep reading novels that feel, even if they're trying new tricks, like old news, and often resort to cliché to keep moving: out of the corner of his eyes, his heart was pounding in his chest, that kind of thing. Those books are just surfing along on a very small waves—reading them is like watching surfers on Cape Cod trying to catch whatever's coming in on a lame day. Read More »

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