Posts Tagged ‘The Atlantic’
December 23, 2011 | by The Paris Review
“Is it dreamed,” Jude asked Teddy, “or dreamt?” From the first sentence of Ten Thousand Saints, you know you’re dealing with a real novelist. Eleanor Henderson’s debut, about a Vermont stoner in 1980s New York, slipped under my radar. (Apparently no one else missed it—it appears on every best-of list from The New York Times to O.) If only I owned a bathtub, I’d be reading it there right now. —Lorin Stein
What a thrill to discover that Spotify has all of Germaine Tailleferre’s piano works! The only woman in the group of French avant-garde composers knows as Les Six, Tailleferre’s engaging, inventive compositions make for perfect winter listening. —Sadie Stein
It took me weeks, and several recommendations, to sit down and read Zach Baron’s fifteen-thousand-word article on Hunter S. Thompson (“a savant at … writerly failure”), the self-loathing of journalism, traffic jams, desert hackers, and the depressing truth of Las Vegas, but I’m glad that I did. It’s territory that could be trite but here feels both thoughtful and fresh. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
I think I’ve discovered literature’s best (literal) snake: Kaa, from Kipling’s Jungle Book—specifically at the end of the chapter “Kaa’s Hunting.” After barreling into a terrified throng of monkeys and bashing through a stone wall with his head, the massive rock python begins coiling and uncoiling his more than six feet of body in a mesmerizing slow dance that lures all who watch into his deadly grip. Chilling! —Nicole RudickRead More »
October 14, 2011 | by The Paris Review
While I was in Los Angeles, I had the chance to see two very different—but very “California”—exhibits, both of which I’d recommend to anyone. The first, Robert Irwin’s “Way Out West” at L&M Arts, is a light installation that's visually engaging on its own terms, but even more so to those familiar with Irwin’s writing. More straightforward but just as interesting, LACMA’s “California Design, 1930–1965” is a colorful, exhilarating showcase of all things “modern,” from lobster-print swimsuits to Ray and Charles Eames’s living room (which is fully reassembled in the museum) to the original Barbie Dream House. It’s a survey not just of West Coast design, but of the crafting of the modern conception of California as we know it. —Sadie Stein
Sigrid Nunez’s Sempre Susan doesn’t just evoke Susan Sontag, the person, with hard-won sympathy, insight, and cool; it contains (in a very tiny space) material for an entire novel of idealism and disillusionment. This Sontag—who “often struck me as someone who wanted to be feeling ten times what she actually felt”—is a tragic figure, and this memoir captures the spirit of the spirit of her times. —Lorin Stein
I had, much to my shame, never read the fiction of Alan Hollinghurst until this last Indian summer weekend, when I found myself utterly absorbed in the world of The Stranger’s Child. Its prose is marvelously precise, its subjects both literary and sensual, and its general character inimitably English. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
Lisa Yuskavage’s ethereal paintings are on display at David Zwirner until November 5. —Jessica Calderon
Last spring, the culture guerrillas at Bidoun went to Cairo to check in on the revolution. They came back with their Summer issue (#25), which includes interviews with graffiti artists, tour guides, ex-members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and hard-core metal musicians. Also, dream narratives, photographs, and thumbnail sketches of the dozens of the new political parties. There is very little analysis and no claim to know what comes next. But, more than anything else I’ve read, it gives you a sense of life on the ground. —Robyn Creswell
I just discovered the blog Letters of Note and could not tear myself away. They’ve archived, photographed, and transcribed amazing correspondences: everything from a letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his family describing his capture in 1944, to a vintage rejection slip from Sub Pop records addressed to “Dear Loser.” —Artie Niederhoffer
Everyone I know has been sending me Kate Bolick’s fascinating piece on marriage, coupling through history, gender imbalances, and, well, as the title says, “All the Single Ladies.” —D. F. M.
August 12, 2011 | by The Paris Review
I can’t pretend it’s a light read, but Michael Kimball’s Us is heartbreakingly lovely. It’s a story of death, loss, and loneliness—but the writing’s a pleasure, and sometimes you just need to read something with weight. –Sadie Stein
Accounts of scientific expeditions and sea voyages have long been my preferred summer reading—they seem particularly suited for never-ending afternoons spent lolling by the ocean. I’m using the last warm days to finish The Journey of Anders Sparrman. –Clare Fentress
I first encountered Wodehouse during a childhood August, and slurped up all of Jeeves immediately. What better time to indulge in the unflagging fun than now, when Norton has just released stupendously colorful new editions of the books? –Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
I didn’t go on vacation this summer, so I’ve been vicariously living through the galley of The Best American Travel Writing 2011. It includes a round-the-world sea voyage with Christopher Buckley and trashy Miami parties with Emily Witt. –Ali Pechman
I’m really eager to get my hands on Faye Dudden’s Fighting Chance—which tells the story of how women’s suffrage fractured the like-minded abolitionist community. Here’s a great piece on the book from the Wilson Quarterly. –S.S.
While browsing The Atlantic’s new video channel, I came across this clip documenting some important bioastronautics research. –Natalie Jacoby
NYRBlog quite bluntly states what I’ve thought more than once in “Here’s What I Hate About Writer’s Houses”: “That art can be understood by examining the chewed pencils of the writer.” –A. P.
May 27, 2011 | by The Paris Review
Last Sunday I stayed in bed till one P.M.—then stayed up till two A.M.—reading the galleys of Chad Harbach’s first novel, The Art of Fielding. To say it’s the best novel I’ve read about a college shortstop would be true, as far as it went, but it’s about more than that: “For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.” —Lorin Stein
I’ve been reading Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker article about New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon with mixed feelings. What Wilpon says about his players makes one wonder if he’s trying to sabotage his own team (which is also mine). Carlos Beltran is overpaid, David Wright is overpraised, José Reyes is always injured. These are opinions an owner should keep to himself. But when Wilpon says, “We’re snakebitten, baby,” he sounds like a true Mets fan to me. —Robyn Creswell
If you haven’t read any of Diana Athill’s work, I highly recommend Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a collection of her short fiction recently released by Persephone. Funny, engaging, and unexpected. —Sadie Stein
I very much enjoyed Francine Prose’s short essay “Other Women” in the new feminist-themed Granta. Prose was secretly writing her first novel as a graduate student. She joined a feminist consciousness-raising group, and, after selling the book, she left her husband and moved to San Francisco. Somehow, she says, she became a feminist. But was it before or after she discovered her husband had slept with nearly every single woman in the group? —Thessaly La Force
August 25, 2010 | by Thessaly La Force
Lorin has written more for Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog over at The Atlantic. I hope you'll read everything he's written so far, but I thought I'd take the time to mention today's entry. Here, Lorin addresses the death of the book review, and his very inspiring reasons for moving from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux to The Paris Review:
I left book publishing to edit The Paris Review because I think the situation can be dramatically improved. Not in the high-stakes game of bestsellers and Time covers, but down here on the ground, where reputations and markets are built and readers make up their own minds. I want there to be a magazine where fiction and poetry come first, where there's no hype, and where the aim is to reach the 100,000 people who, a few years ago, had never heard of Roberto Bolano—but whose lives have been slightly changed by his fiction.
I am one of those people. For what it's worth, I have also been one of the people who say they don't like stories or poems. It wasn't actually true in my case. (I suspect it's not true in general.) What annoys me is the idea that I should like a story or a poem, just because somebody took the trouble to write it. We are indeed competing for limited airspace. With apologies to Ezra Pound, a story or poem needs to be at least as involving as an expose by David Grann, as tough-minded as a comment by Hendrik Hertzberg. Which is to say, it must if possible be even better written.
Literary writing (or, if you prefer, imaginitive writing) has certain advantages of its own, none of them weakened one bit by technology. It can often be funnier than other kinds of prose. It can deal more humanly with sex. It can say shameful things about family life—not by treating them as scandals but, on the contrary, by showing that they're normal. More sins are confessed more deeply, through the screens of verse and make-believe, than you will ever find on a talk show or reality TV. Literature gives the best accounts of intimacy. Lena McFarland is right—you may not learn stuff you didn't know from a work of fiction. But there can be great comfort in seeing the troubles of daily life put into words of power and beauty.
And as David Foster Wallace observed, literature has a way of making you feel less alone. TV doesn't do that. It entertains and entertains, but there is a part of you it gives the silent treatment. In my experience, even the Web can you leave you feeling lonelier, once you turn off the computer. Fiction and poetry connect you, or they can, to something bigger and quieter and more lasting than the day you had at work. The question of posterity is fascinating. Some writers hope to live on, through their words, after death. Some write for the present day. Either way, they take us out of the moment and out of our smallest selves.
August 23, 2010 | by Thessaly La Force
Lorin will be guest blogging this week over at The Atlantic for Ta-Nehisi Coates. We'll be reading, and hope you will too. Today, in his first post, he tackles the hubbub surrounding Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, and the magic of discovery for literary fiction:
But already, in the first mini-backlash against the book—or really, against the all the attention it's received—we hear it implied that fiction should restrict itself to entertainment or fade into obscurity: that critics should spend more time celebrating mass-market novels because they're what the people "actually" want. This fake populism pretends to speak for women (as if women weren't the overwhelming consumers of serious fiction, whether written by women or men). Really it's the logic of the Hollywood blockbuster machine.
Unfortunately, you find the same logic at work all over publishing today. Without a complex network of local bookstores and local reviewers, more and more houses see the blockbuster as their only viable business plan. They spend vast amounts signing up and promoting books that seem written to spec. That model is great if you're publishing mysteries, or vampire books, or chick lit, or books about Founding Fathers. A good formula, well executed, can be a beautiful (and profitable) thing.
But for literary fiction, the fiction of discovery, formulas are death. In my 12 years at FSG, we saw publishers lose millions every season trying to corner the market on the Big New (preferably Young) Literary Sensation. Meanwhile really tricky, idiosyncratic writers—Lydia Davis, Denis Johnson, Elif Batuman, Richard Price, Sam Lipsyte, Roberto Bolano, James Wood, Hans Keilson—confounded even the most charitable expectations of the chains, and went through one printing after another. Now Franzen seems poised to do the same thing on a much, much bigger scale.
I name these particular authors, all published by FSG, only because I was there when it happened: I know for a fact no magic was involved. The books succeeded because critics kept yelling eureka (and because some resilient booksellers, like that clerk at Cluster of Grapes, kept putting them in customers' hands). These books may never have cornered any market. That wasn't the point. They found the readers who needed them. Each became a few thousand people's favorite book.