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Posts Tagged ‘slush pile’

Well-Read Lovers; Constant Rejection

November 18, 2011 | by

This week we asked our friend Angus Trumble to give us the benefit of his wisdom—and received an embarras de richesses. Thanks to all for your questions and to Angus for his answers; there was none we could bear to cut. By day Angus is the senior curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art. By night, and sometimes also by day, he blogs on such topics as the euro crisis, the Ladies of Bethany, and his own globe-trotting adventures.

Dear Angus,
Do the best readers make the best lovers? Would you be more likely to break up with someone if they never read, or read all the time?

I am flattered that you feel I have the necessary qualifications to provide an accurate answer to this question. In my experience, the well-read can be excellent lovers, although there are times when a specific literary prompt may inhibit the natural flow, as for example when one’s partner genuinely believes himself to be some sort of Vronsky, when in fact he lacks the magnificent build, military bearing, disposable income, or even the remotest capacity to smolder. I can quite confidently say that it is unlikely that I would ever commence a relationship with a person who never read, which removes the need to break up with him. My parents’ marriage survived a period in the late fifties, when my mother read the complete works of Sir Walter Scott, evidently led in his direction by a genetically encoded taste for the lowering mist, gloomy crags, and bloodstained crofts and glens of the Highlands of Scotland. On the whole, therefore, I am for readers—although it is also true that I would immediately eject anyone whom I caught in bed with a romantic novel by the late Dame Barbara Cartland.

Have you ever had a story accepted for publication through a slush pile?

As a matter of fact I have, although it was a book review and not a story. My first long article for The Times Literary Supplement was entirely unsolicited and dealt with what struck me at the time as a wholly new and remarkable historical analysis of, of all things, the epidemiology of the Black Death. To my astonishment, in due course this offering propelled me onto the front cover, together with an enormously magnified photograph of a plague-carrying flea. So there is hope.

What should you do if you don’t like a book halfway through? How do you know when you should give it up?

For years, far too many years, I fell into the dangerous trap of being determined to finish a book despite having reached the conclusion half way through—or at the very least having become deeply suspicious—that in all probability this would not give me pleasure or profit. Yet essentially I am an optimist, and therefore, I suppose, when faced with undeniable evidence that a novel in which I am immersed is, for example, a bleak and depressing saga of frustrated sexual longing and entirely populated by characters of scarcely conceivable dullness, part of me hopes that twenty pages hence there awaits bright flashes of comic genius that may yet salvage the experience. Optimistic though I continue to be, from the vantage point of comfortable middle age I can now say that this is never true and that certainly the healthiest, most sensible, and efficient strategy is to abandon ship.

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Wells Tower Wins Young Lions Fiction Award

June 11, 2010 | by

Everything Ravaged, Everything BurnedCongratulations to Wells Tower, whose short-story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned won the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award last night. Tower’s first two published stories were picked from the slush pile by The Paris Review way back in 2001, and both showcased what Edmund White called the “tensile strength” of his style. “His range is wide,” wrote White, “and his language impeccable, never strained or fussy.” You can hear Tower read the first of the two stories we published, “Down through the Valley,” by clicking here.

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Department of Corrections

June 8, 2010 | by

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Even Roth once dreamed of the jackpot.

Thank you, Mike Leaverton, for your notice in SF Weekly about our event at The Booksmith in San Francisco next Monday, June 14. (Hope to see you there!) And thank you, too, for the opportunity to clarify a few things about the legend of the Paris Review slush pile. Your version went like this:

The Paris Review throws all unsolicited submissions, three-pointer style, into an ancient, fire-belching potbellied stove, which a soot-covered intern, such as Philip Roth (Summer, 1946) or Don DeLillo (Fall, 1952), keeps eternally lit for this very purpose.

While we do receive more than a thousand fiction submissions every month, we don’t use them to heat our office, or to play trash-can basketball. We read them all, every single one, before burning (or sending back via SASE).

In fact, the summer issue, which hits newsstands and mailboxes next week, includes a story, “Elk Stalled in Snow,” by Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, who came to our attention through a slush submission. Mr. Reetz-Laiolo will join me at The Booksmith on Monday night, along with photographer Jeff Antebi and poet Matthew Zapruder.

And just one more thing: Philip Roth was never a Paris Review intern. But his story, “Conversion of the Jews,” was plucked from, yes, the slush pile, by Rose Styron in 1958. The odds might be long but, like you, we’re always dreaming of the jackpot.

 

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