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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Stern’

What We’re Loving: Fictional Memoirs, Unreliable Narrators

February 15, 2013 | by

51eJO4rgNrLAs we close our Spring Issue, plan our Spring Revel, and try to find a new office, I’ve been taking refuge in two books at once. At dinner I’m reading Edward Limonov’s outrageous and very funny “fictional memoir” It’s Me, Eddie, about living as a penniless émigré in a New York SRO. In later years, Limonov has had a confusing political career (he may be the only living Russian poet to have raised a private army or campaigned for Zhirinovsky), but back in 1978 he was pure punk. After dinner it’s the new translation of Climates, by André Maurois, an irresistible, micro-Proustian novel about a jealous husband and the woman who tries to save him. I can’t explain why these two books go so well together, except to note that each one broods on a painful breakup, and that I don’t want either one to end. —Lorin Stein

I’ve been paging through the late Richard Stern’s Still on Call, a collection of essays, reflections, and general miscellany. In one section, Stern describes his encounters with other writers, including a near-stalking of Sinclair Lewis in Central Park and a leisurely lunch with Thomas Mann, but it was Stern’s meeting with “Japan’s most distinguished poet,” Shuntarō Tanikawa, that especially interested me. Unfamiliar with Tanikawa, I tracked down a translation of his 1980 collection, At Midnight in the Kitchen I Just Wanted to Talk to You, and felt an immediate affinity after reading “My Favorite Things,” Tanikawa’s take on Oscar Hammerstein’s famous lyrics. If you can’t get your hands on a copy of the collection, you can still read the poem here—Brenna Scheving

Who writes a novel-length lipogram, and furthermore, who translates it? Sadists? Cat lovers without a cause? Georges Perec and Gilbert Adair have, respectively, accomplished this feat. A Void (translation of the French title, La disparition) could rescue you from the winter doldrums as a cerebral, cleverly disguised detective tale. Written sans the letter e, it forces you to acknowledge the absence while following the protagonist, Anton Vowl. In this paragraph alone, I have used e sixty-two times. If you need further evidence of Perec’s merit as a writer, look at his author photo. —Kendall Poe

I picked up a galley of The Other Typist on a whim, and from the first page was absorbed: I haven’t been able to put it down. Suzanne Rindell’s story of a 1920s police stenographer who becomes increasingly obsessed with a glamorous new typist reminds me at points of Notes on a Scandal and Patricia Highsmith, but has creepy charms all its own. —Sadie Stein



Richard G. Stern, 1928–2013

January 28, 2013 | by

We mourn the loss of Richard Stern, a lion of the literary world whose name was little known outside the den. He established himself as a nurturing teacher and a powerful force in literature at the University of Chicago, where, while writing, he taught English and creative writing from 1955 until his retirement in 2001. In Stern’s New York Times obituary, Philip Roth recalls meeting Saul Bellow, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Norman Mailer in Stern’s U of C classroom. During his tenure at the school, Stern was awarded the Medal of Merit for the Novel by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in 1986.

He published fiction, short stories, and essays prolifically, appearing in The Paris Review four times, across a span of almost thirty years. The second of these occurrences, from Issue 66 (Summer 1976), was the story “Aurelia Frequenzia Reveals the Heart and Mind of the Man of Destiny,” a brief and disorienting vignette about the interview of a mysterious Vietnamese ex-politician by a French journalist. Marked by a strong current of anxiety and paranoia, tension builds and builds until an abrupt and surprising resolution. It is representative of the work he shared with us.