Posts Tagged ‘William Styron’
August 9, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Premise one: all your free time can be monetized. Premise two: in the future or maybe even tomorrow, really ordinary sounds from our day-to-day lives will be interesting to someone. Conclusion: you should buy yourself a microphone rig and become a “sound hunter,” one of those “who roam city streets and remote countrysides to capture the dramatic and unusual as well as the plain but underappreciated noises that surround us. Some of them release albums and even play concerts.” The most prominent of these is Chris Watson, whose latest field recording included “the noise of the insect known as the water boatman in the moor’s pond, said to be the loudest animal relative to its body size. ‘It’s the sound of them rubbing their penises beneath their abdomens to sing to attract females,’ Mr. Watson said with a boyish smile.”
- I’ve always dismissed all this “read to live” talk as sentimental indie-bookseller hyperbole. I stand corrected. It turns out reading actually does help you live longer. (By two whole years! Think of all the TV you could watch with that time.) A new study “looked at the reading patterns of 3,635 people who were fifty or older. On average, book readers were found to live for almost two years longer than non-readers … Up to 12 years on, those who read for more than 3.5 hours a week were 23 percent less likely to die, while those who read for up to 3.5 hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die.”
- Today in haircuts: academic research has at last confirmed what many have suspected for years—rich white dudes have no truck with the barbershop. Instead they favor upmarket salons, where someone is around to file your nails and there’s none of that pesky male companionship. As Kristen (ahem) Barber writes, “The young licensed barbers working in these salons also seemed disenchanted with the old school barbershop. They saw these newer men’s salons as a ‘resurgence’ of ‘a men-only place’ that provides more ‘care’ to clients than the ‘dirty little barbershop.’ And those barbershops that are sticking around, one barber told me, are ‘trying to be a little more upscale’ by repainting and adding flat screen TVs … Barbershops, they said, are for old men with little hair to worry about or young boys who don’t have anyone to impress.”
- Frederick Olmsted literally changed the landscape of American parks—but he did so, as Nathaniel Rich notices, with a strange sleight of hand. “An unmistakable irony creeps vinelike through Olmsted’s landscape theory: It takes a lot of artifice to create convincing ‘natural’ scenery. Everything in Central Park is man-made; the same is true of most of Olmsted’s designs. They are not imitations of nature so much as idealizations, like the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School. Each Olmsted creation was the product of painstaking sleight of hand, requiring enormous amounts of labor and expense. In his notes on Central Park, Olmsted called for thinning forests, creating artificially winding and uneven paths, and clearing away ‘indifferent plants,’ ugly rocks, and inconvenient hillocks and depressions—all in order to ‘induce the formation … of natural landscape scenery.’ He complained to his superintendents when his parks appeared ‘too gardenlike’ and constantly demanded that they ‘be made more natural.’ ”
- Almost fifty years ago, William Styron published The Confessions of Nat Turner—a Southern white man fictionalizing the nation’s bloodiest slave revolt. His novel was well-received … at first. Sam Tanenhaus writes, “In August 1967, the Times would describe Styron, without irony, as an ‘expert in the Negro condition.’ Six months later many were regarding him as a frothing racist, accused—as Styron bitterly recalled—of having written ‘a malicious work, deliberately falsifying history.’ He had, as he later put it, ‘unwittingly created one of the first politically incorrect texts of our time.’ Today the furor over The Confessions of Nat Turner is more relevant than ever. The questions Styron struggled with continue to provoke us. Who ‘owns’ American history? Who gets to tell which stories—and why? Is artistic license a hallowed precept or a stale presumption? Bill Styron learned the answers in the most direct and painful way.”
June 24, 2015 | by William Styron
The Paris Review could have been named Weathercock—and other early memories from an editor emeritus.
A new collection of William Styron’s nonfiction, My Generation, includes this reminiscence on the origins of The Paris Review; this piece first appeared in 1959, as Styron’s introduction to The Best Short Stories from The Paris Review.
Memory is, of course, a traitor, and it is wise not to trust any memoir which lends the impression of total recall. The following account of the founding of The Paris Review comprises my own recollection of the event, highly colored by prejudice, and must not be considered any more the gospel than those frequent narratives of the twenties, which tell you the color of the shoes that Gertrude Stein wore at a certain hour on such and such a day…
The Paris Review was born in Montparnasse in the spring of 1952. It was, as one looks back on it through nostalgia’s deceptive haze, an especially warm and lovely and extravagant spring. Even in Paris, springs like that don’t come too often. Everything seemed to be in premature leaf and bud, and by the middle of March there was a general great stirring. The pigeons were aloft, wheeling against a sky that stayed blue for days, tomcats prowled stealthily along rooftop balustrades, and by the first of April the girls already were sauntering on the boulevard in scanty cotton dresses, past the Dome and the Rotonde and their vegetating loungers who, two weeks early that year, heliotrope faces turned skyward, were able to begin to shed winter’s anemic cast. All sorts of things were afoot—parties, daytime excursions to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, picnics along the banks of the Marne, where, after a lunch of bread and saucissons and Brie and Evian water (the liver was a touch troubled, following a winter sourly closeted with too much wine), you could lie for hours in the grass by the quiet riverside and listen to the birds and the lazy stir and fidget of grasshoppers and understand, finally, that France could be pardoned her most snooty and magisterial pride, mistress as she was of such sweet distracting springs. Read More »
June 11, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
One measure of a book’s influence is the mark it leaves on the vernacular. In this sense, many plaudits must go to William Styron, born today in 1925, who helped start The Paris Review and served as an advisory editor. His 1979 novel, Sophie’s Choice, has ascended into idiom, as Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary have acknowledged. The latter defines a Sophie’s Choice as “essentially a no-win situation … a choice between two unbearable options,” and gives the following example:
The loan [sic] hiker’s arm was wedged in a crevice when he slipped and fell. He didn't have the strength to release himself. Each movement wedged his arm more deeply into the crevice. After several days without food and water, he was left with a Sophie's Choice: continue to wait for help and possibly die, or use the serrated blade of his pocket knife to cut off his own arm and climb to safety before bleeding to death.
But some don’t seem to grasp the finer points of the phrase’s usage.
To wit: there has been, since 1984, a restaurant in England named Sophie’s Choice. Yes, a center of fine dining, serving “modern European cuisine and a range of wines from around the world,” which takes its name from a novel whose titular choice involves which of one’s offspring will die in a concentration camp.
“Our emphasis on good service creates a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere,” the proprietors write. Mains include roast breast of Barbary duck and char-grilled medallions of lamb rump with Cumberland sauce. They do weddings.
Styron said in his second Art of Fiction interview,
Not long ago I received in the mail a doctoral thesis entitled “Sophie’s Choice: A Jungian Perspective,” which I sat down to read. It was quite a long document. In the first paragraph it said, In this thesis my point of reference throughout will be the Alan J. Pakula movie of Sophie’s Choice. There was a footnote, which I swear to you said, Where the movie is obscure I will refer to William Styron’s novel for clarification. This idiocy laid a pall over my life for a dark brief time because it brought back all these bugaboos we have about the written word.
One can imagine that this establishment was no better received, if the author was aware of it. And I hope he was not—this is a scenario in which ignorance is bliss. If you choose to celebrate his birth tonight, best to make your reservations elsewhere.
April 25, 2014 | by Silvana Paternostro
In our Summer 2003 issue, The Paris Review published Silvana Paternostro’s oral biography of Gabriel García Márquez, which she has recently expanded into a book. In celebration of García Márquez’s life, we’re delighted to present the piece online for the first time—this is the last of five excerpts we’ve run this week. Read the complete text here.
ROSE STYRON: Somehow, everyone on Martha’s Vineyard seemed to know that he was coming to visit us. Everyone wanted to meet him. Harvey Weinstein, spotting me in Vineyard Haven, hurried over to say, “Please invite me—he’s my favorite author—I’ll sweep the floors.” President Clinton, whom Gabo admired and hoped to talk with, wanted Chelsea to meet him. We decided a large cocktail gathering on our lawn would be prudent, to be followed by a very small seated dinner so the president and Gabo and our Mexican guests, the Carlos Fuenteses and Bernardo Sepulvedas (he was the former foreign minister), could chat in relative quiet. At dinner Gabo’s goddaughter, our friend Patricia Cepeda, translated ably. Our Vineyard neighbors, the Vernon Jordans and the William Luers, and Hillary Clinton completed the table. We all remember that President Clinton’s sweater sported an Elvis crossword puzzle.
WILLIAM STYRON: Although I wasn’t listening closely, I could tell—I have enough Spanish to know—that Gabo and Carlos were engaging him in a talk about the Cuban embargo. They were both at that time passionate about the embargo. Clinton was resisting this conversation, I presume because his mind was already made up. He wasn’t about to be budged even by people that he admired as much as Gabo. So Bill Luers, sitting closer, seeing Clinton’s eyes glaze over, as an ex-diplomat spoke out firmly enough to change the tone of the conversation from politics in Cuba to literary matters. It changed the entire tone at the table. Someone, Bill Luers or perhaps Clinton, asked everyone at the table to give the name of their favorite novel. Clinton’s eyes lit up rather pleasurably. We had a sort of literary parlor game. I recall that Carlos said his favorite novel was Don Quixote. Gabo said The Count of Monte Cristo, and later described why. He said it was the perfect novel. It was spellbinding, not just a costumed melodrama, really a universal masterpiece. I said Huckleberry Finn just off the top of my head. Finally, Clinton said The Sound and the Fury. Immediately, to everyone’s amazement he began to quote verbatim a long, long passage from the book. It was quite spellbinding to see him do that because he then began to give a little interesting lecture on the power of Faulkner and how much Faulkner had influenced him. He then had this kind of two-way conversation with Gabo, in which Gabo said that without Faulkner he would never have been able to write a single word, that Faulkner was his direct inspiration as a writer when he was just beginning to read world literature in Colombia. He made a pilgrimage to Oxford, Mississippi. I remember him mentioning this to Clinton. So the evening was a great success, though a total failure as far as politics went. Read More »
December 10, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
This is exciting, and something we’ve had in the works for a long time.
Since 1985, 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center and The Paris Review have copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which became the foundation of a Writers-at-Work interview. As of today, 92Y and The Paris Review are making these recordings available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. The release of these recordings is made possible by a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, who worked in the art department at The Paris Review and volunteered as an archivist at 92Y’s Poetry Center.
The online series kicks off with audio of Garrison Keillor on the secrets of humor writing; Iris Murdoch on what makes a great book; and William Styron on the future of the written word. The series also happily features George Plimpton, the late, great founder of The Paris Review, conducting many of the interviews.
Stand by in the coming months for audio of John le Carré, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Octavio Paz, Günter Grass, Paul Auster, Tony Kushner, Czeslaw Milosz, Maya Angelou, Jamaica Kincaid, and Allen Ginsberg, among others.
July 12, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
This infographic on “the psychology of abandonment”—that is, why we don’t finish certain books—makes for fun reading. But even more interesting is the Goodreads list of those titles most frequently abandoned. We don’t want to spoil Stieg Larsson for anyone, but let’s just say that those who don’t persevere are missing out on some sexual sadism and computer espionage.