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Posts Tagged ‘Roberto Bolaño’

You Are Quite Unnecessary, Young Man!

September 4, 2014 | by

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Antonin Artaud

The English translation of Roberto Bolaño’s excellent final novella, A Little Lumpen Novelita, is out this month. The book opens with an epigraph by Antonin Artaud, who was born today in 1896: “All writing is garbage. People who come out of nowhere to try to put into words any part of what goes on in their minds are pigs.”

Since I read it about a month ago, I’ve thought of this quotation every day, often as I’m writing—you can imagine the rat-a-tat of my keyboard punctuated with an occasional “All writing is garbage.” It’s a bracing sentiment, taunting and misanthropic, and a truer one than most of us would care to admit. At the moment, it flies in the face of our glad-handing literary culture, where every book is a good book and every writer in every M.F.A. program partakes of a dignified struggle with Art.

Here’s how that quotation, which comes from Artaud’s The Nerve Meter (1925), goes on: Read More »

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Staff Picks: Pop, Rock, and Bear Hock

August 29, 2014 | by

From Barry Guy's Witch Gong Game ll/l0 (1993).

From Barry Guy’s Witch Gong Game ll/l0 (1993).

John Swartzwelder has written more Simpsons episodes than any other writer (fifty-nine in total). He’s also one of the most eccentric writers in the business: one story goes that “when he could no longer smoke in restaurants, he bought his favorite booth from his favorite diner and had it installed in his home.” Since leaving The Simpsons in 2003, he has self-published a novel each year, all of which are available on his Web site. After reading his first novel, The Time Machine Did It, I’m not surprised that Swartzwelder is the same person who introduced now-classic Simpsons characters such as Cletus Spuckler, Stampy the Elephant, and the three-eyed fish Blinky (who has now become a symbol among pundits for nuclear waste and wildlife mutation). The novels are pure screwball, honoring the comedies of the Marx Brothers and Preston Sturges as Swartzwelder dismisses any narrative rule for laughs. In The Time Machine Did It, a private detective named Frank Burly (“to give prospective clients the idea that I was a burly kind of man ... and who would be frank with them at all times”) finds himself traveling through time for a supposed multimillionaire who wakes up one day to find that everything he owns is gone. The plotline includes a homemade time machine and a town taken over by criminals, but why the novel works is the simple fact that it never takes itself too seriously. “On an impulse I mooned most of the 1950’s as I went by. I don’t know what makes me do these things. I guess it’s just part of my charm.” —Justin Alvarez

In outline, it reads like something made up by Roberto Bolaño: an Austrian writer crosses America, wracked by nightmares and visions and pursued by his mysterious, estranged wife. Peter Handke’s 1972 novella Short Letter, Long Farewell helped inspire the American “road movies” of Wim Wenders, and if Bolaño didn’t know the book, there is a strong family resemblance. As the critic Wayne Koestenbaum put it, the two writers share an “ability to sound sane (though vacant-souled) about insane circumstances,” whether these involve a desert sunset or a restaurant serving bear hock à la Daniel Boone. —Lorin Stein

That Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” is, in part, a transmutation of birdsong into lines of music has oddly come up several times over the past month, in the course of putting together the Fall issue and elsewhere. At the same time, I’ve found myself returning periodically to Music & Literature’s impressive fourth issue to gaze at the work of British composer Barry Guy, whose graphic scores are translations of sensory experiences relating to literature, painting, and architecture and visual reflections of movement, energy, and pitch. So it felt like the stars had fully aligned when I read Christian Wiman’s “translations” of Osip Mandelstam, from a small collection called Stolen Air. Instead of faithfully translating Mandelstam’s poems, Wiman has created versions of them: though some closely resemble the originals, others, he says, are “liberal transcriptions” and “collisions and collusions” between the two poets. Wiman sought to get at the sound of Mandelstam’s language, its music, without having any knowledge of Russian but feeling buoyed by Mandelstam’s notion of a poet’s “secret hearing.” And so we get silvery, jostling lines like “I love the early animal of her, / These woozy, easy swings” and “Better to live alluvial, / Better to live layered downward, / To be a man of sand, of hollows, shallows / To cling to sleeves of water / And to let them go—” —Nicole Rudick Read More »

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When Shades Meant Shady, and Other News

July 28, 2014 | by

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Sunglasses: take ’em off! Photo: Zarateman, via Wikimedia Commons

  • “It’s not too much of an exaggeration to call autocorrect the overlooked underwriter of our era of mobile prolixity. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to compose windy love letters from stadium bleachers, write novels on subway commutes, or dash off breakup texts while in line at the post office.” The wondrous history of autocorrect, including a brief meditation on the nature of profanity. (Because autocorrect “couldn’t very well go around recommending the correct spelling of mothrefukcer.”)
  • “Three hundred thousand books are published in the United States every year. A few hundred, at most, could be called financial or creative successes. The majority of books by successful writers are failures. The majority of writers are failures. And then there are the would-be writers, those who have failed to be writers in the first place, a category which, if you believe what people tell you at parties, constitutes the bulk of the species.”
  • On the distinct merits of Bolaño’s Distant Star: “At some point in 1995, Bolaño seems to have discovered that he could expand a published text without diluting its effect or getting bogged down in circumstantial details, and that he could bring back characters and give them fuller lives without being strictly constrained by what he had already written about them.”
  • After twenty-seven years, the Rodeo Bar, “New York’s longest-running honky-tonk,” has closed.
  • “I’m not happy about people wearing sunglasses at all. Proper upstanding citizens never used to. They preferred to leave that sort of thing to dodgy characters from the underworld.”

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Give a Warm Welcome to Our Newest Issue

April 1, 2014 | by

208.5-C1At last! Spring is here, Easter is coming, and, as you can see, the latest issue of The Paris Review has already taken its pastels out of the closet—it’s ready to sally forth into the cherry blossoms. And at its heart are two of our most anticipated interviews.

First, there’s Cormac McCarthy on the Art of Fiction:

I rise at six and work through the morning, every morning, seven days a week. I find the sun has a forlorn truth before noon.

And there’s Thomas Pynchon on his process, his elaborate research for Bleeding Edge, and his depiction in the media:

Being called paranoid seems preferable to any number of things. Especially now, with the degrees of access, the ubiquity of cameras—it’s a position that seems increasingly less, well, paranoid. The word that does bother me is recluse. I don’t consider myself reclusive.

Plus, an excerpt from a newly unearthed novel by Roberto Bolaño; fiction by Lydia Davis and Ottessa Moshfegh; poems by Frederick Seidel, Anne Carson, and Dorothea Lasky; an essay by Christian Lorentzen; and a portfolio by Salman Rushdie.

 We humbly assert that it’s one of our strongest issues ever. See for yourself.

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Dr. Who Poetry, and Other News

September 9, 2013 | by

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  • “We’re trying to reorder some of the myths based on the documents.” Bolaño’s unpublished work, on view in Spain.
  • Harper Lee and agent Samuel Pinkus have apparenty reached an “agreement in principle” to settle the eighty-seven-year-old author’s copyright lawsuit.
  • While he might have objected to their dissemination, here are twenty-two out-of-print J. D. Salinger stories that you can read online.
  • A crowd-funded Dr. Who poetry book? Oh, it’s happening.
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    The Part About the Helmets

    June 17, 2013 | by

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    We were thrilled to run across this custom bike helmet, modeled on the 2666 cover designed by Charlotte Strick (who just happens to be The Paris Review’s art editor!). Says Ariel Abrahams, who commissioned the literary topper,

    I chose my design because when I read the book 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, I was literally taken aback. I had to sit down, stop my life and just read. I really fell in love. I thought a bike helmet depicting the magical sea-life images from the cover of the third book of 2666 would commemorate these overwhelming, larger than life feelings somehow. If you have read the book, you know the importance of the sea creature images to the tone of the story.

     

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