Posts Tagged ‘RIP’
April 5, 2014 | by The Paris Review
We have received word that Peter Matthiessen, a founding editor of The Paris Review, died today after a long battle with leukemia. A Zen priest, novelist, environmentalist, and two-time winner of the National Book Award, Peter was a heroic figure to generations of readers, including our own. He lived a life of adventure but was, even in public, the first to admit his vulnerabilities and flaws. As a writer, he held himself to the highest standards—his own—even in the face of incomprehension or disregard. As the most senior member of our board, and the last living founder of the Review, he was unfailing in his encouragement and love of this magazine; we have lost a progenitor, a guiding spirit, and a cherished friend.
You are one of the few writers ever nominated for the National Book Award in both fiction and nonfiction. Define yourself.
I am a writer. A fiction writer who also writes nonfiction on behalf of social and environmental causes or journals about expeditions to wild places. I have written more books of nonfiction because my fiction is an exploratory process—not laborious, merely long and slow and getting slower. In reverse order, Far Tortuga took eight years, At Play in the Fields of the Lord perhaps four, and the early novels no doubt longer than they deserved. Anyway, I have been a fiction writer from the start. For many years I wrote nothing but fiction. My first published story appeared in The Atlantic the year I graduated from college and won the Atlantic firsts prize that year; and on the wings of a second story sale to the same magazine, I acquired a noted literary agent, Bernice Baumgarten, wife of James Gould Cozzens, the author of a best-selling blockbuster called By Love Possessed, whose considerable repute went to the grave with him.
And when did you start your first novel?
Almost at once. It was situated on an island off the New England coast. I had scarcely begun when I realized that what I had here at the very least was the Great American Novel. I sent off the first 150 pages to Bernice and hung around the post office for the next two weeks. At last an answer came. It read as follows: “Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this 150 years ago, only he wrote it better, Yours, Bernice.” On a later occasion, when as a courtesy I sent her the commission on a short story sold in England, she responded unforgettably: “Dear Peter, I’m awfully glad you were able to get rid of this story in Europe, as I don’t think we’d have had much luck with it here. Yours, Bernice.” Both these communications, quoted in their entirety, are burned into my brain forever—doubtless a salutary experience for a brash young writer. I never heard an encouraging word until the day Bernice retired, when she called me in and barked like a Zen master, “I’ve been tough on you because you’re very, very good.” I wanted to sink down and embrace her knees.
August 22, 2013 | by Jonathan Segura
Elmore Leonard died this week. This is terribly sad news. It’s terribly sad when the world loses someone fantastically gifted who also, through some cosmic fluke, is not a dick. Elmore Leonard was not a dick. He was nice. He wrote something like a book a year, and even the crap ones were better than most of what passes for decent fiction these days. And he was one cool motherfucker.
We hung out one afternoon in October 2010 at his house in the suburbs north of Detroit. I was interviewing him for a story just before his ninety-millionth novel, Djibouti, was about to hit. He wore this black sweater with a scraggly beard and smoked cigarette after cigarette in his office, just talking. His daughter was in the other room futzing with this chair that was in the process of getting reupholstered. Gregg Sutter, Elmore’s longtime research man, floated in and out of the room a couple times, and Elmore sat there at his desk doing his third or fourth interview of the day—late in the day now—an eighty-five-year-old guy talking about how he’s got the best job in the world and why would he ever want to stop doing that? Apparently he didn’t. Sutter said recently that Elmore was banging away at his next book up until he had a stroke a couple weeks ago.
Back then, we talked about a bunch of stuff. The usual chaff about his writing process (longhand, then typewriter), his aversion to all that social media junk, what he was writing now. (Stacked uneasily on a chair nearby was a stack of material about mountaintop removal that Gregg had dug up; it would become fodder for his last novel, Raylan.) He’d just unboxed his first cell phone. He smoked and talked dismissively about his atrial fibrillation and how “you can get a stroke easily with it” and so he took a couple pills for it every day and had bloodwork done every week or so. This was a serene, cool man much more like the smiley bemused grandpa pictured in his current official author photo. Previous versions featured a scowly guy rocking lavender-shaded sunglasses and a the-fuck-you-looking-at puss. I can’t imagine meeting that guy, after having met this guy. Read More »
August 10, 2012 | by Lorin Stein
We are sad to learn of the death of David Rakoff, at forty-seven, after a long battle with cancer. Rakoff’s essays and contributions to This American Life include what must be the most melancholy humor writing of our time, or else the funniest melancholy writing. Even at his most arch, Rakoff wrote with an undertone of kindness that made his fans love him. Many of his readers will feel that they have lost a friend.
August 1, 2012 | by The Paris Review
“The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seem like three minutes. Then there is the business of surprise. I never know what is coming next. The phrase that sounds in the head changes when it appears on the page. Then I start probing it with a pen, finding new meanings. Sometimes I burst out laughing at what is happening as I twist and turn sentences. Strange business, all in all. One never gets to the end of it. That’s why I go on, I suppose. To see what the next sentences I write will be.” —The Art of Fiction No. 50
May 8, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
Last September, we ran this interview with Mr. Sendak; his inimitable wit, wisdom, and legendary cantankerousness came through loud and clear.