Our Spring Revel was this Tuesday, and we have the pictures to prove it.
Hundreds convened at Cipriani 42nd Street to honor Lydia Davis with the Hadada Award. She received it from her high school classmate Errol Morris—“We played in the high school orchestra together,” she explained, “and he played the cello, and I played the violin. And I don’t know how well he played the cello, but I know I didn’t play the violin very well. So we were promising young musicians together.” Morris expressed a particular fondness for her essay on translating Madame Bovary, calling it “one of my favorite things ever.”
Davis’s speech was entirely improvised—or nearly entirely. She’d found herself “scrawling little notes in very small handwriting on a jiggling train” to New York, she said. Her husband, Alan Cote, attempted some encouragement, she told the crowd: “ ‘You know, Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the train.’ And I told him, Yes, that was probably easier.”
John Guare took the stage to award Chris Bachelder the Terry Southern Prize for Humor. Bachelder regaled the crowd with a story of the Review’s fact-checking prowess—suffice to say he’ll never again forget which pole the penguins come from. (Hint: not the North Pole.) He told us,
One of the paradoxes of the writing life is that, as you gain experience, you actually have fewer paths forward, and fewer habitable stances, and one stance that I find currently habitable is a kind of grave playfulness. And that’s a stance, among others, that The Paris Review supports and has always supported. And I think you can take that from a guy wearing a suit holding a model airplane.
David Szalay received the Plimpton Prize for Fiction from Rachel Kushner. “He may be new to me, and to the pages of The Paris Review,” she said, “but he’s a fully developed writer, whose wisdom, skill, and precision, whose sardonic wit, all come through wonderfully, leaving no awkward seams of labor or vanity.”
Take a look at the photos below—and we hope to see you next year!
Photos by Clint Spaulding / © Patrick McMullan / PatrickMcMullan.com Read More
- Did you know? Heterosexual men tend to enjoy sexual intercourse—so much so, in fact, that even when they’re not having intercourse, they sometimes wish they were. Undone, a new novel by John Colapinto, explores this fecund quadrant of the male psyche, because no one’s set foot there in a while and someone needed to mow the lawn: “By exploring heterosexual male lust, Mr. Colapinto has written the kind of novel that has gone way out of fashion. The classics of the genre—Portnoy’s Complaint (Roth), An American Dream (Mailer), and Couples (Updike), among them—are many decades old … Many critics and civilian readers would say—and have said—good riddance to priapic literature. In a 1997 essay, ostensibly a review of the late-period Updike novel Toward the End of Time, David Foster Wallace slammed the previous generation of ‘phallocrats’ for its sex-obsessed narcissism … Colapinto said he had read the Wallace essay and largely agrees with it. But on the subject of the sex-drenched novels of Updike, Roth and the other bards of the male libido, he said, ‘I couldn’t deny that I had a lot of fun reading those books when I was younger.’ In his view, there was an overcorrection.”
- Our Spring Revel was earlier this week, and though you might have expected some kind of superficial tribute to the wonders of the written word, you should know that our writers got real. They also described “their less-photogenic days at the desk”: “Even after thirty years, Lydia Davis said she has her off days. In accepting this year’s Hadada Award at this year’s annual gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, the author admitted throwing out the written version of her speech was a big mistake, and one that left her ‘scrawling little notes in very small handwriting on a jiggling train’ en route to New York … David Szalay and Chris Bachelder, respective winners of the Plimpton Prize for Fiction and the Terry Southern Prize for Humor, also didn’t exactly sugarcoat their career choice. In fact, pretty much every table had a writer in the midst of a one-person battle with the printed page. For novelist Adam Wilson, that means having a safe to lock up his cell phone in his Brooklyn home office.”
- A reissue of Marianne Moore’s 1924 Observations reminds of its “infectious devotion to everything small”: “A fresh reading of Observations suggests that, while Moore’s descriptive powers are formidable, she is primarily a poet of argument, which is to say that she is most primarily a poet of syntax—the convolutions of her long, charismatic sentences seduce us into agreement long before we’ve had time to consider the substance of the argument at stake … Read as a whole, as it was designed to be, Observations emerges as one of several books that in the 1920s created our lasting sense of what constitutes the modernist achievement—books that court chaos through exquisite artistry: Eliot’s The Waste Land, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Pound’s A Draft of XVI Cantos, Joyce’s Ulysses.”
- Time to ask again—what were the suburbs? Two new books, Houses for a New World, by Barbara Miller Lane, and Detached America, by James A. Jacobs, look back at the era of Levittown and the postwar suburban-housing boom, which we’re struggling to make sense of. As Martin Filler writes, “Both new books remind us of a time when a popular American middle-class weekend pastime was to pile the kids and in-laws into the family car and drive around looking at model houses, whether or not you were actively shopping for a new place. Lane has found newspaper advertisements and promotional materials for subdivisions that were clearly aimed at wives (who wielded huge influence about housing decisions even though their husbands were the breadwinners) and stressed the transformational nature of life in these up-to-the-minute dwellings. A revealing example of that appeal to women can be found in a 1955–1957 sales brochure for Cinderella Estates, a new Anaheim, California, subdivision not far from the recently completed Disneyland. This booklet depicts a princess-like figure and regal coach next to a rendering of a sprawling ranch-style house and the words ‘your every wish for a home … come gloriously true.’ ”
- On the poet Ocean Vuong, born in Saigon and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, whose work is “influenced by both the plainspoken ironies of Frank O’Hara and the exotic folklorism of Federico García Lorca”: “Reading Vuong is like watching a fish move: he manages the varied currents of English with muscled intuition. His poems are by turns graceful (‘You, pushing your body / into the river / only to be left / with yourself’) and wonderstruck (‘Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn’). His lines are both long and short, his pose narrative and lyric, his diction formal and insouciant. From the outside, Vuong has fashioned a poetry of inclusion.”
- Last night, we hosted our Spring Revel, and our guests came away with a special, unexpected treat: a Lydia Davis story on a bottle of mouthwash. “It hasn’t exactly been my dream to see my work printed on a bottle of mouthwash,” she told T Magazine. “I wasn’t even aware there was such a plan in the works … I was very surprised and amused … I actually had to go back and forth a few times with everyone to get the spacing of the story right—it makes a difference with those very short stories. They have to be read slowly, with pauses in between the lines, otherwise they go by too quickly. So I gave some revisions to the people at The Paris Review, and they went back to Aesop, and in the end we got it just right—it was tricky working in such a small space … So, if someone had asked me what I was doing that day, I would have had to say I was working collaboratively to revise a mouthwash label.”
- Today in books of photos of other people’s mirrors: try Mirrors, which is just that. It comprises pictures of mirrors advertised on Craiglist—a difficult prospect for the sellers, who always ends up showing more than intended. The photographs, as Rebecca Bengal writes, “innocently intrude into strangers’ bedrooms and trespass into their backyards. Unwittingly, the would-be sellers reveal themselves in bizarre and beautiful ways—a phantom hand, a pair of feet, a swath of wallpaper, a drawn curtain, a gaudy, overdressed living room, another one totally lacking in decoration or feeling. The sheer presence of the reflection interrupts reality, creating new graphic worlds, transforming even the most plain surface into an optical illusion. They invite a casual voyeurism; that lack of self-awareness is at the heart of their allure … A vase of flowers regards its reflection; a computer screen stares down its echo; a dog pauses before a reverse of itself. In these images, the mirror becomes a character, too, a palpable observer in the room, quietly enhancing and regarding everything in sight.”
- Look, normally I don’t go in for this type of thing, but come on: this is John Milton made of Stilton. Show a little respect, people. “I fell in love with John Stilton,” his maker, Christian Kjelstrup, says. “In Norway, Milton and Stilton are treated the same: both are enjoyed only by connoisseurs. The difference between John Milton and John Stilton is the latter is fat, greasy and sticky. I had a hard time making him. The fridge in my office now serves as his temporary mausoleum; I suspect his odor will survive him, perhaps even the fridge.”
- Shakespeare’s plays are full of lots things: murder, royalty, cheap penis jokes … and drugs, of course. It’s these that captured the interest of Meghan Petersen, who’s curated an exhibition called “Shakespeare’s Potions” at the Currier Museum of Art. It’s not about drugs, per se, but poisons and elixirs: “Titania, the fairy queen of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has four followers named for household remedy ingredients: Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, and Moth. Oberon also sees Titania sleeping on a ‘bank where the wild thyme blows, / Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, / Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, / With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.’ The aromatic language precedes Oberon placing a love potion in her eyes. Petersen noted that while herbals relayed cures, they additionally included herbs ‘for provoking lust,’ such as sea holly, mustard, and peas. ‘Shakespeare’s Potions’ also explores perhaps the most famous of the Bard’s brews: the witches’ cauldron of Macbeth … While some of the components are outlandish, hemlock was a poison well-known in herbals, the “digged i’th’ dark” emphasizing, as Petersen stated, “the belief that plants harvested in the dark — without the light of the moon—took on evil and villainous powers.” The toxic plant also appears in Hamlet with this emphasis: ‘Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected.’”
- Note to historical novelists: the Stalinist era is severely underrepresented in fiction, even though it was a demented hellscape whose horrors practically beg to be dramatized. Saul Austerlitz makes the case: “Life under Joseph Stalin was often brutal, dramatic, and short, so it’s curious that the period is still given such short shrift by fiction writers. Hitler’s Germany, by contrast, is very well-trod ground, and even the post-Stalinist era is a more regular fictional backdrop. Yet neither of these periods can match the mixture of paranoia, longevity, and callousness that marked the dictator’s three decades in power … In the West, the Soviet purges of the late 1930s or the gulag aren’t discussed with the same authority or regularity as Kristallnacht or the concentration camps. The fundamental illogic of the USSR, hellbent on consuming its own, is as hard for outsiders to explain as it is to understand. And the complexity of Stalinism’s impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe remains underexplored, literarily speaking. Lithuanian-American historical novelist Ruta Sepetys, author of the World War II refugee novel Salt to the Sea, is hoping to expand the frame of stories told about forgotten places and forgotten times: ‘I’d love to see more fiction about countries like Hungary, Armenia, and Ukraine. Through characters and story, historical statistics become human.’”
Our Spring Revel is tonight. In anticipation of the event, the Daily is featuring a series of posts celebrating Lydia Davis, who is being honored this year with The Paris Review’s Hadada Award. Here, the illustrator Roman Muradov has adapted into comics Davis’s story “In a House Besieged,” which was originally published in the collection Break It Down (1986).
- Since I began working at the Review, I’ve asked repeatedly for one simple thing that would propel this magazine to new heights: limited-edition designer-made cashmere Paris Review socks. They’re now a reality, and guests at our Spring Revel will walk away with a pair of them. (Maybe they’ll even walk away wearing them.) As Women’s Wear Daily reports, “Editor Lorin Stein has enlisted the talents of Gabriela Hearst and Peter Miles to design signature socks as a parting gift for attendees at the April 5 gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. The fashion designer Hearst and art director Miles, whose portfolio includes work for Céline, took into consideration some of the cover art from the literary journal. The women’s design borrows from Derek Boshier’s art on the spring 1966 issue’s cover, and the men’s version drew from Günter Fruhtrunk’s handiwork on the summer 1969 one. Hearst teamed with the Italian sock specialist Maria La Rosa to produce the women’s socks.”
- Dan Chiasson looks at Robyn Schiff’s new collection, A Woman of Property, which seems to emerge from the anxious mist of a stress dream: “Schiff’s poems, with their Hitchcock-like distrust of appearances, their alertness to hidden binds and snares, offer something few poets ever discover: a vision of the whole world. It’s a paranoid vision, often an unsettling one, but a huge variety of phenomena enter the poems. From H1N1 to supermarket carnations and the petrified rictus of a lobster (“like a terrible crack / in a wall something worse is coming through”), these poems are interested in everything, possessing a capaciousness that, paradoxically, requires tight control. If you had a houseful of wild animals, you would need cages. Schiff, like Marianne Moore—a profound and not entirely metabolized antecedent—has, instead, stanzas: rigid, cratelike stanzas, which often employ regular patterns of syllables per line.”
- If you go to the movies and see The Witch, you may think, Hey, I know a ton about Puritanism now! I’m, like, an expert in Puritanism! Michael Robbins is here to remind you that you’re not: “Twice we see Thomasin’s brother Caleb steal a peek down her shirt and then feel guilty about it, and we’re supposed to infer that religion leads to shame, which leads to repression, which leads to making out with a witch disguised as a grown-up Red Riding Hood … To be blunt, most reviewers appear not to know much about Puritanism … No doubt many Puritans, like many film critics, were self-righteous. But Jonathan Edwards articulated a core theme of Calvinism when he wrote that ‘The deceitfulness of the heart of man appears in no one thing so much, as this of spiritual pride and self righteousness.’ It is one thing to strive to recognize and overcome self-righteousness and fail; it is another to see it only in those to whom you feel superior.”
- Charlotte Moorman is widely known as “the topless cellist,” because she once played the cello with her top off. But she did other things, too. Two new exhibitions aim to tell us more about her career as an avant-garde performer: “The formidable eleven-person curatorial team at the Block has used the opportunity to refurbish Moorman’s unfortunately limited reputation as Nam June Paik’s topless prop … The exhibition begins by positing Moorman’s version of John Cage’s 26’1.1499″ for a String Player as the centerpiece of her experimental performances … Her elaborately annotated copy of the score is displayed under glass … Explained in handwritten notes, her additions include playing a giant bomb outfitted with strings, smashing lightbulbs with hammers, kicking cowbells, and frying an egg. These actions, combined with the already rigorous timing, ultimately made the piece impossible to complete in the prescribed twenty-six minutes. Cage publically dismissed Moorman’s interpretation as ‘murdering’ his score, but she performed it on the Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas shows anyway.”
- What if JFK’s most stirring bit of rhetoric—“Ask not what your country” et cetera—was lifted from Kahlil Gibran? The poet, whom the New York Times memorably (and accurately) discussed as a “candy metaphysician,” once wrote a letter to the Lebanese parliament with this little zinger in it: “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?” Kennedy’s advisor Ted Sorensen is aware of the similarity: “The Khalil Gibran Society telephoned and wrote me asking whether either Kennedy or I had read the piece, even though it had not been translated into English by January 20, 1961. Did either of us read Arabic or any of the Middle Eastern languages in which it had appeared? I was asked. No, we did not.”