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Posts Tagged ‘writers’

The Story in the Shadows: An Interview with Sjón

September 26, 2016 | by

Sjón. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta.

Photo: Gabriel Kuchta.

Moonstone, Sjón’s latest novel, has been called “the gayest book in Iceland.” It follows the sixteen-year-old Máni Steinn, a queer hustler and cinephile whose life becomes upended by the Spanish flu of 1918 when the pestilence ravages Reykjavik. With the country fearful of any bodily contact, Máni can no longer pick up “gentlemen,” and the cinema houses are shut down. Máni finds solace in a new friendship with Sóla G, a beautiful feminist who rides a motorcycle and dresses all in black. When Máni gets tangled up in a sodomy scandal that threatens to humiliate the homophobic country, Sóla is perhaps the only person who can help him.

As with Sjón’s previous books—The Whispering Muse, The Blue Fox, and From the Mouth of the Whale—the magic of Moonstone lies in language. Máni Steinn doesn’t just love movies but “lives in the movies. When not spooling them into himself through his eyes he is replaying them in his mind.” Máni is illiterate, and as he struggles to read, “the letters of the alphabet disguise themselves before his eyes, glide between lines, switch roles in the middle of a word, and might as well be a red cipher to which he does not have the key.” Sjón’s easy way with words goes back to the Icelandic sagas he devoured as a child. He has internalized the lyrical language of epics, myths, folktales, and religion—“the old great narratives,” as he calls them.

Moonstone has been praised all around, with David Mitchell calling it “Sjón’s simmering masterpiece,” and it has won nearly all of Iceland’s literary prizes, including the country’s most prestigious: the Icelandic Literary Award. Sjón and I met once in New York in 2013, to discuss his earlier works; this month he was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for him about Moonstone over e-mail. Read More »

We Are All Suffering Equally

September 20, 2016 | by

Artists reclaim the cells of England’s Reading Prison.

Artists and Writers in Reading Prison. Photo: Marcus J Leith, courtesy Artangel, 2016.

Photo: Marcus J Leith. All images courtesy Artangel, 2016.

Outside each cell at Reading Prison, there’s a small metal frame screwed into the wall. The cell number sits in the bottom section, and the top has a card that keeps track of graffiti before and after prisoners are moved: NONE, SOME, or LOADS. The most popular form of vandalism is a wry ROOM SERVICE often scrawled next to the cells’ emergency buttons for calling warders. In one cell, the dated corner of a tabloid newspaper clings to a piece of chewing gum: presumably the rest of the page involved nudity. Stickily, it fossilizes a moment—July 5, 2013—in the year the prison closed.

Elsewhere, on the red glossy paint of an internal doorpost, there’s a lengthy autobiography in ballpoint, including a guilty plea for seven armed robberies, a “shout out to all the mandem” in postcodes across England, the anticipation of a release date—16.04.2016—and a final motto: RIDE OR DIE. Rather more tersely, cell C.2.2. has CUNT! scratched into the wall. From 1895–97, under the different number C.3.3., this was where Oscar Wilde served his sentence for “gross public indecency”—homosexual acts. The number became his identity. Read More »

In Which Our Writers Do Great Things

September 13, 2016 | by

Detail from the cover of our new Fall issue, doubling here as a celebratory bouquet.

On the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize are two of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize winners, Ottessa Moshfegh and David Szalay. Szalay is nominated for his novel All That Man Is, two sections of which first appeared in the Review: “Youth” and “Lascia Amor E Siegui Marte.” In our last issue, he talked to our editor, Lorin Stein, about writing All That Man Is. The two will convene again for a discussion at McNally Jackson Books on Friday, October 14.

Moshfegh, nominated for her novel Eileen, has published seven short stories in the Review: “Disgust,” from our Fall 2012 issue; “Bettering Myself,” from Spring 2013; “The Weirdos,” from Fall 2013; “A Dark and Winding Road,” from Winter 2013; “Slumming,” from Winter 2014; “No Place for Good People,” from Summer 2014; and “Dancing in the Moonlight,” from Fall 2015.

And Paul Beatty, whose novel The Sellout made the shortlist, discussed the book at length in an interview last year with the Daily.

Meanwhile, the National Book Awards have announced this year’s poetry longlist, and here, too, the Review is well represented: Peter Gizzi has three poems in our Spring 2015 issue and Monica Youn’s “Goldacre” appeared in our Summer 2016 issue; for the Daily, Youn wrote about what she refers to as “my Twinkie poem.” Solmaz Sharif spoke to the Daily this summer about her collectionLook. Finally, our poetry editor from 1953 to 1961, Donald Hall, has been nominated for his Selected Poems.

Our congratulations to all the nominees!

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

September 2, 2016 | by

Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago.

Admiralty House, Bermuda.

Drawing of a house in the West Indies.

In the summer of 1986, I finished secondary school, and that autumn I enrolled in a secretarial course in Cork City. It was a course of a kind that I suspect no longer exists, with bookkeeping exercises involving sheets of carbon paper, classes in shorthand, typing learned on manual typewriters. I have a hazy recollection of being instructed in how to walk properly, and of someone who ran a modeling agency coming to talk to us. The talk was of little interest to me, perhaps because my modeling prospects were precisely zero. My secretarial prospects, unfortunately, were not much better, something that didn’t go unnoticed by the tiny, fierce woman tasked with teaching us. Still, I remember fondly the sweeps and curves and wriggles of Gregg shorthand as we practiced giving shape to language. Words like get or racket with their piglet-style tails, or yell and yam and Yale with their resemblance to mutant tadpoles. We took words apart and mined them for sound, converted that sound into something close to art. Read More »

Women at Work: Irina Reyn and Emily Barton in Conversation

August 30, 2016 | by

Barton-Reyn2

From left: Irina Reyn, Emily Barton.

Last month, after her reading at the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, New York, Irina Reyn sat down for an onstage conversation with the novelist Emily Barton. Reyn had read from her new novel, The Imperial Wife, in which two women—Catherine the Great in eighteenth-century Russia and Tanya in contemporary New York—negotiate marriage and ambition, on two very different registers. Barton’s third novel, The Book of Esther, was also published this summer. It imagines a nation of Turkic warrior Jews transposed from the Middle Ages to World War II–era Europe and follows one woman’s Joan of Arc–style quest to defend her people. Unsurprisingly, the conversation quickly became a lively discussion about the writing of both novels, gender and work, and the standing of women in the current political climate. —Ed. Read More »

The Spoil of Destruction

August 25, 2016 | by

The house Thomas Mann described as “so completely my own” could be torn down.

Mann, in 1941, at his Pacific Palisades home, with his wife, Katia, and two of their grandchildren.

Thomas Mann’s house in Pacific Palisades, California, is up for sale. The news came as a surprise: the house, designed by the modernist architect J. R. Davidson, was believed to have a reliable owner with Chester Lappen, the lawyer who bought it from Mann in 1953, and his heirs. As late as 2012, they’d expressed no interest in selling. Things have changed. Read More »