Posts Tagged ‘short stories’
January 20, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Congratulations to Review contributors Garth Greenwell and Ottessa Moshfegh. The former received a rave review of his debut, What Belongs to You, in the New York Times: “Greenwell writes long sentences, pinned at the joints by semicolons, that push forward like confidently searching vines. There’s suppleness and mastery in his voice. He seems to have an inborn ability to cast a spell.” And the latter has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for her novel Eileen.
- In the 1840s, before photomechanical printing processes came along, illustrated books were adorned by hand with “real” photographs. “Photography incubabula,” as such projects are known, were time-consuming to produce, requiring a complicated development process and elaborate pasting. You can have a look at some of them in the Getty, whose photography incubabula collection “spans a vast array of topics, from a 1878 publication filled with beautiful microscopic images of plant anatomy to an exceptionally rare 1844 edition of H. Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature—considered the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs showing the potential of the medium.”
- Is a young person in your life beginning the college application process? Tell her not to apply to Tolstoy College—yes, it has a prestigious name, but it’s been closed since the eighties. When it was open, though, what a place it was! As Jennifer Wilson tells it, the college, based in Buffalo, was an anarchist paradise: “the college tried to model equal and shared governance and collective decision-making in the running of the school as well. Initially, there was no official policy on grading, but the administration stepped in and imposed limits on the number of A’s that could be given out in a class. Professors then let students decide collectively who would get which grades, using the Marxist rubric of ‘each according to his ability, each according to his need.’ In practice, this meant that one student might say, ‘I need the A; I’m going to law school,’ in the hope of convincing other students that he was truly needy. Faculty salaries were collectively determined, too, and based on the respective household expenses of each staff member.”
- Paul Lisicky on Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation” and the torrent of disgraces she rains on her characters: “People, no matter how inert they seem to be, contain the capacity to surprise us, to change … Yes, O’Connor destroys some of her characters—subjects them to humiliation, degradation, violence. But maybe that’s because she understands human stubbornness, how we cling to our limitations until events of great force alter us … A narrative, when it’s really alive, will always disturb you when you’re there to seek comfort, and sing in two contrary voices when you just want to hear a single, pure melody.”
- Turning off your cell phone for a little “off-the-grid” time is a voguish way to announce your awareness of technology’s ills—but is it a mental-health exercise or just another signal of privilege? “The next big fashionable purging movement looks set to be the Wi-Fi detox; a bit like colonic irrigation for the mind, flushing out all the unnecessary gunge … What better proof that you’re just too cool and creative to be ‘on’ all the time; that you need to be free to think great thoughts? … Going off grid is all about suggesting you’re so hotly in demand that you need to stand back from the craziness—but also crucially that you can afford to do so.”
January 15, 2016 | by The Paris Review
Don’t let the breezy title put you off. At the Existentialist Café, Sarah Bakewell’s group portrait of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Beauvoir, and the other “Continental” philosophers who flourished before and after World War II, is chatty, irreverent, gossipy, unabashedly personal—as far from the existentialist tone as it’s possible to get—but it’s also a work of deep intelligence and sympathy, reminding us how exciting those thinkers can be. And it’s a page-turner. I was so sorry to finish the last chapter that I almost—almost—ran over to the Strand to see what they had by Merleau-Ponty. —Lorin Stein
“They worked / They worked / They worked / and they died / They died broke / They died owing / They died never knowing / what the front entrance / of the first national city bank looks like.” Pedro Pietri wrote “Puerto Rican Obituary” in 1969, after having served in Vietnam. There’s no mention of that war in the poem, but there’s a strong sense of futility, death, and disaffection that must have been informed by witnessing the violence of war and then coming home to unfulfilled dreams. “Obituary” is the first poem in City Lights’ new collection of the late poet’s work, much of which is otherwise only available in out-of-print or photocopied editions. I hadn’t heard of Pietri before reading this collection, which is a shame because he strikes me as the Ginsberg of the post-Vietnam era—combining politics, race, and the personal in performative poetry. His lines are propulsive and witty, especially in the playful “Telephone Booth” series, which reads like a flirtatious midnight conversation: “because I do not / want to make / future generations / lose sleep I / will do my very best / not to influence / anyone regardless / of what a nice ass / they seem to have.” —Nicole Rudick
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January 11, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- First things first: David Bowie is dead, and the world is a worse place for it. Here, from 2013, is a list of his hundred favorite books, including DeLillo’s White Noise, Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and, yes, The Paris Review’s collected Writers at Work interviews, among many others.
- While we’re talking music, Alex Abramovich has put in a good word for that most maligned of instruments, the saxophone, which has for too long been discounted as an agent of sleaze. (Bowie used it to impeccable effect on “Modern Love.”) “A shitty thing about standard histories of rock and roll—ones that tell us that the music is half country and western, half rhythm and blues—is that they always slight jazz. (To do otherwise would be to suggest that rock and roll was was being played, by black musicians, well before Elvis Presley followed Ike Turner into Sam Phillips’s studio.) But the truth is that electric guitar solos are directly descended from saxophone solos via Charlie Christian, who defined his instrument (which was once seen as a joke among jazz musicians, much as the saxophone’s a joke in rock) by being the first guitarist good enough to cop saxophone riffs in cutting contests.”
- What’s the point of a literary magazine today? Our editor, Lorin Stein, essays an answer: “Writing fiction is pretty much the opposite of writing a good tweet, or curating an Instagram feed. It’s the opposite of the personal-slash-professional writing that is now part of our everyday lives. More than ever, we need writers who are unprofessional, whose private worlds come first … By writing offline, literally and metaphorically, this new generation of writers gives us the intimacy, the assurance of their solitude. They let us read the word I and feel that it’s not attached to a product. They let us read an essay, or a stanza, and feel the silence around it—the actual, physical stillness of a body when it’s deep in thought. It can’t be faked, in life or on the page.”
- Not dissimilarly, Christian Lorentzen wonders about the role of the short story, which was once the highest-paying, most robust form in fiction: “the revolutions of the past century have been absorbed by four generations of writers at work today, and that modes once heralded as avant-garde now linger among the array of strategies available to any writer … Literary fiction is at its worst when it’s easy to imagine it recast as quality television or low-pressure art-house cinema. The battle between words on a page and images on a screen has long been lost.”
- Elizabeth McKenzie’s The Portable Veblen is not, in fact, an easy-to-carry smattering of the seminal economist’s musings on conspicuous consumption. It’s a novel. About a woman with a fondness for squirrels. That woman’s name is Veblen, and she and her husband are at odds over a furry visitor in their attic. “It doesn’t take long for the reader to understand that the couple’s opposed feelings about the squirrel—he wants to trap or kill it, she wants to make friends—bespeak a deeper opposition in personality and values that might very well ruin their relationship … When Veblen cages the attic squirrel and takes him on a meandering driving trip, all the while holding conversations with him about the meaning of love and happiness, you begin to realize that McKenzie means to blur the boundary between adorable eccentricity and actual madness.”
December 31, 2015 | by Elizabeth Geoghegan
We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!
Remembering Lucia Berlin.
Lucia Berlin was not PC. And she was not New Age. She never talked to me about “recovery” or “karma.” We never spoke of the Twelve Steps. It was understood: she was sober now. No need to talk about it. Especially when she could write about it. Her stories, populated with alcoholics and addicts, are rendered with an empathy, disgust, and ruthless wit that echo the devastating circumstances of her own life. She’d moved from isolation to affluence to detox and back again, and Boulder, Colorado—inundated with massage therapists, extreme athletes, and vegans—was an unlikely place for her to end up. Yet she spent much of the last decade of her life there. First in a clapboard Victorian beneath the red rocks of Dakota Ridge; later, when illness nearly bankrupted her, in a trailer park on the outskirts of the pristine town.
News of the trailer depressed me until I managed a visit, finding her at ease amid the shabby metal homes stacked on cinder blocks. It’s likely Lucia would have felt more comfortable watching a bull be gored in a Mexico City arena or huddling among winos on a corner in Oakland than she ever felt at her first place on posh Mapleton Hill. But that was where we spent nearly all of our time together. Usually at her kitchen table. Read More >>
December 10, 2015 | by David Griffith
Reading Flannery O’Connor in the age of Islamophobia.
At a little more than fifty pages, “The Displaced Person” is one of Flannery O’Connor’s least anthologized stories—and if you share her beliefs about what she called “topical” stories, it’s also one of the most problematic. O’Connor was wary of stories that focused squarely and perhaps sentimentally on social issues. Her own “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” featuring a bigoted white woman riding a newly integrated bus, was, she feared, just such a story—though in a letter to a friend she confided that she “got away with it … because I say a plague on everybody’s house as far as the race business goes.”
In the very same letter, O’Connor writes that “the topical is poison,” lambasting Eudora Welty’s famous story “Where Is the Voice Coming From,” written from the point of view of the man who assassinated the civil rights leader Medgar Evers. “It’s the kind of story that the more you think about it the less satisfactory it gets,” O’Connor wrote. “What I hate most is its being in the New Yorker and all of the stupid Yankee liberals smacking their lips over typical life in the dear old dirty Southland.”
Like many in the South, O’Connor abhorred racism but was slow to embrace integration, feeling that to rush things would lead to more violence. This stance may have been part and parcel of her attitude toward topical writing. To be topical, she thought, was to risk arguing for social changes that couldn’t be brought about by mere idealism, but by the hard, messy, and sometimes violent work of transforming hearts. Read More »
November 18, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Inspired by our famous Writers at Work interviews, “My First Time” is a series of short videos about how writers got their start. Created by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling, each video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.
Today’s featured writer is the playwright Katori Hall, whose American debut, Hoodoo Love, first appeared off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 2007.
“My First Time” will return with a new set of authors, including Ben Lerner, in a few months. In the meantime, be sure to watch the previous interviews in the series:
- Donald Antrim on Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, his first novel
- Sheila Heti on The Middle Stories, her first collection
- Tao Lin on Bed, his first collection
- Christine Schutt on Nightwork, her first collection
- Branden Jacobs-Jenkins on his play Neighbors
- Gabrielle Bell on The Book of ... series, her early cartoons
- J. Robert Lennon on his debut novel, The Light of Falling Stars