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Posts Tagged ‘Vivian Gornick’

Sex and Sensibility

October 16, 2013 | by

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Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, detail, 1768, oil on canvas. National Gallery, London, UK.

Vivian Gornick describes the journey to self-possession as one of unimaginable pain and loneliness. “It is the re-creation in women of the experiencing self that is the business of contemporary feminism: the absence of that self is the slave that must be squeezed out drop by drop,” she says, quoting Chekhov, in “Toward a Definition of the Female Sensibility,” from her 1978 collection Essays in Feminism.

The journey, Gornick observes, is “one in which the same inch of emotional ground must be fought for over and over again, alone and without allies, the only soldier in the army, the struggling self. But on the other side lies freedom: self-possession.”

Last July, three years to the month that my marriage ended, I also ended my first serious postdivorce relationship, on the eve of the twelfth anniversary of my mother’s death. It was the first year I had forgotten my mother’s anniversary and one month after my divorce became official. My ex-husband, who had vowed to become a better friend the day we told my father we were splitting up, showed up when others were too fed up with my ramblings and hand-wringing over a man who had made me astoundingly unhappy for months. For some, it was not easy to understand that the sexual content of being loved, after so much loss, was simply gripping. Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Quaker Meeting, Blue Trout, and the Call of the Wild

June 21, 2013 | by

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Quaker Meeting in London, c.1723.

Why aren’t there more novels about Quaker worship? It’s inherently dramatic, people sitting in silence and waiting for God to speak through them. Dramatic—and really, really funny. For proof look no further than Nicholson Baker’s forthcoming novel, Traveling Sprinkler. The hero, Paul Chowder, spends a lot of time attending Quaker meetings (i.e., church). Most of the rest of the novel he spends trying to teach himself the guitar, write (incredibly dorky) songs, and win back the girlfriend who left him in Baker’s earlier novel The Anthologist. There are lots of reasons to love Traveling Sprinkler: Baker gets sweeter with each new book, and underneath the sweetness lie witty arguments about poetry and song and taste. Among other things, this is the best novel I’ve read about Spotify. It also vividly captures Quaker beliefs and practices at a moment when, as Paul Elie wrote last year in the New York Times, many novelists have trouble writing about religion. —Lorin Stein

“Beautiful and brilliant, possessed of an eye protected against sentiment coupled with a steel-trap mind and a tongue feared by all who had been at the receiving end of its talented sarcasm, a sarcasm that for some would always be wickedly amusing, for others just wicked.” So says essayist (and issue 204 contributor) Vivian Gornick of critic and writer Mary McCarthy on The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog. In a piece drawn from her introduction to a new edition of McCarthy’s 1949 novel, The Oasis, Gornick highlights the book’s biting satire but, more importantly, McCarthy’s fearlessness in barely disguising her characters from their real-life counterparts (mostly her Partisan Review colleagues). As McCarthy stated in her Art of Fiction interview, “What I really do is take real plums and put them in an imaginary cake.” —Justin Alvarez Read More »

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Introducing Our Sixtieth-Anniversary Issue!

February 27, 2013 | by

-1If you happened to be in Paris this past month, and walked past the public toilets at the corner of rue Alexandre Dumas and boulevard de Charonne, you may have noticed a giant picture of George Plimpton’s face gazing out over the 11th arrondissement with great benignancy and just the slightest possible suggestion of a gueule de bois. This illegal memorial to our founding editor, by the poster artist JR, celebrates the sixtieth birthday of The Paris Review in the city of her birth. 

It happens also to be the cover of our special anniversary issue.

In which:

Deborah Eisenberg talks failure and perseverance with Catherine Steindler—

You write something and there’s no reality to it. You can’t inject it with any kind of reality. You have to be patient and keep going, and then, one day, you can feel something signaling to you from the innermost recesses. Like a little person trapped under the rubble of an earthquake. And very, very, very slowly you find your way toward the little bit of living impulse.

Mark Leyner talks process with Sam Lipsyte—

When I was at Brandeis, I met this girl named Rachel Horowitz, and we really loved reggae music. This was in 1970. We decided, Why don’t we go to Jamaica? So we went and we got some really nifty little bungalow place in Montego Bay—very cheap, because we couldn’t afford much then. And it had a little pool for the couple of bungalows and a little kitchen. And I’d never really stayed in place like this on my own, with a girlfriend. I mean, nothing quite like that. I had been away the year before with another girl, took a trip to Israel and in Europe and things, but I’d never been in a groovy tropical place like this. And we had a car, so one day we drove into town and got some stuff, because we had a refrigerator and a pantry. We also got some Red Stripe. And this guy at Brandeis had given me some acid to bring to Jamaica. This guy was like the Johnny Appleseed of acid. He would take a load of acid and explain an album cover to you for just hours. He would take a Hot Tuna album that you had seen a trillion times and he would begin to examine it with these long lectures that were like Fidel Castro giving a lecture at the Sorbonne. He also once set his hand on fire and watched it for quite a while because he was so high. That really impressed me. Anyway, this guy had given me some acid and one night, when Rachel and I were just hanging out in the hotel, I said, You wanna take some? She said no. I said, Okay, I think I’m going to. So I took it, and it comes on, and then I want a beer and I go into the little kitchen, and by now the acid’s full on and this guy, this big flying cockroach, like a palmetto bug—you know those things?—it crawls out of the six-pack, and to me, at the time, it was like a pterodactyl, in some Raquel Welch movie set in prehistoric times. According to Rachel, I batted this thing in the little kitchen for, like, five hours. She heard pans and things breaking and she said I emerged with a torn shirt, sweaty—and victorious. That’s what my experience of writing The Sugar Frosted Nutsack was like. Battling this pterodactyl in the closet with a pan. At a certain point, of course, the book attained a mind of its own, a subjectivity or an autocatalytic, machinelike quality.

And Willa Kim shows us her store of Paris Review erotica.

Plus, fiction by Adelaide Docx, David Gates, Mark Leyner, Ottessa Moshfegh, Adam O’Fallon Price, and Tess Wheelwright. Poetry by Sylvie Baumgartel, Peter Cole, Stephen Dunn, John Freeman, Tony Hoagland, Melcion Mateu, Ange Mlinko, Frederick Seidel, and Kevin Young. Essays by Vivian Gornick and David Searcy. 

On newsstands March 15. Subscribe now!

 

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Walking While Reading

May 11, 2012 | by

I’ve been reading a few things lately on the subject of walking, including treatments philosophical (Rousseau’s Reveries of the Solitary Walker, Thoreau’s “Walking”), narrative (Walser’s The Walk, new from New Directions next month), and poetic (O’Hara’s Lunch Poems and some Wordsworth). I’m thinking of writing an essay on the subject and noting that my list so far consists of only dead men. Can you recommend any writers who are female and/or living who have written about walking?

Rebecca Solnit is female and very much alive. You should start with her Wanderlust: A History of Walking. And if city walking interests you—or the subject of walking with one’s mother—you will want to read Vivian Gornick’s modern classic, Fierce Attachments.

As it happens, I’m in the middle of a brand new book about walking: The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert MacFarlane. I keep saving it for bed to make it last. The American edition won’t be out until October, but the British edition comes out early next month; if you can possibly wait for it, I would. You will want to read MacFarlane, above all for the wealth of his references, but also for the unabashed, Norsey music of his prose:

I’ve read them all, these old-way wanderers, and often I've encountered versions of the same beguiling idea: that walking such paths might lead you–in Hudson’s phrase–to “slip back out of this modern world.” Repeatedly, these wanderers spoke of the tingle of connection, of walking as seance, of voices heard along the way. Bashō is said to have told a student that while wandering north he often spoke with long-dead poets of the past, including his twelfth-century forbear Saigyo: he therefore came to imagine his travels as conversations between “a ghost and a ghost-to-be.”

With so much to read out there—and more being published all the time—how do you find the time to get through it all?

Please don’t quote my actual name.

Dear “Stefan” (not his actual name),

You’re mixing me up with Kurt Andersen—and I have no idea how he gets through it all. I get through almost none of it. It just sits there on my desk and table and shelves, glowering, until our interns box it up and take it to the Strand.

But the nice thing about books is that they don’t go anywhere. The good ones keep.

Have a question for the editors of The Paris Review? E-mail us.

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Staff Picks: Dioramas, Donald Young and Stardom

September 9, 2011 | by

I’ve been reading Ben Jeffrey on Philip Roth’s later novels and our sometime special tennis correspondent Louisa Thomas on Donald Young and stardom. –Lorin Stein

This week I stumbled across the artfully nostalgic Welcome to Pine Point. Developed by the creative team behind Adbusters and billed as an interactive documentary, it explores the memories of a now-vanished mining town. It’s part film, part photo album, and completely fascinating. –Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

A conundrum: two petite biographies from Yale’s Jewish Lives series—Joshua Rubenstein’s Leon Trotsky and Vivian Gornick’s Emma Goldman. Which to read first? Sorry, Lev, the anarchist woman wins. –Nicole Rudick

A friend just drew my attention to an article in the June issue of Plum Hamptons by Taylor Plimpton about his father, touch football at the Matthiessens’, and the Review as seen from a child’s perspective: “Of my introduction long ago to the rich literary culture of the Hamptons,” it begins, “I remember best the nose-hair.” –L.S.

This is the last week to see the incredible diorama show at the Museum of Art and Design, “Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities.” The title describes it well. –Artie Niederhoffer

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is kind of goofy, very uneven, and has an unwieldy third act. Still necessary viewing for the Serge-o-phile. And I thought Laetitia Casta made a stunning Bardot! –Sadie Stein

Recent perusal of a used book store turned up a Dover Thrift reprint of Clarence Cook’s 1881 The House Beautiful: Essays on Beds and Tables and Stools and Candlesticks. As a furniture enthusiast, I enjoyed its strong opinions on dining-room tables and wash-stands; as a New Yorker, I found it to be rather comforting. There’s just something nice about knowing that Victorian Manhattanites were packed in as uncomfortably as today’s: “In city houses, particularly in New-York, where I believe we are more scrimped for room ... even the richest people are obliged to squeeze themselves into a less number of square feet than in any other city in the world calling itself great. ” –Clare Fentress

Over Labor Day weekend I read Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum’s 1899 memoir, because I’ll be damned if I give up the summery feeling of adventure without a fight. –Cody Wiewandt

I went to a garage sale this weekend that boasted a near-complete set of the now nonexistent hardcover Horizon magazine, and picked up a strange-looking issue with only a large gold Chinese character for “Tang” on the cover. Inside, I found an article on the dynasty’s turbulent history by one of my favorite writers, Emily Hahn. Definitely one of my better bargain finds. –Ali Pechman

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