We’re gearing up for our Spring Revel here at the Review. Variously described as “the best party in town” and “prom for New York intellectuals,” it’s a tradition that stretches back … well, tens of years. In that time, archival evidence suggests, it’s grown by leaps and bounds. The fifth revel, for example, in 1969, was held on the grounds of an abandoned church on Roosevelt Island (then known as Welfare Island). It did not go as planned. As George Plimpton later recounted, “Two pianos placed out in a grove of trees were destroyed in a late night rainstorm; almost all the profits from the revel were paid to a piano rental company. The final tally showed that proceeds turned over to the magazine amounted to fourteen dollars.”
Thirty years ago, though, the revel finally became the serious, unmistakably sophisticated affair that it remains today. In our Spring 1985 issue, Plimpton et al enlisted Roz Chast to help dream up a few concepts that could really guarantee a once-in-a-lifetime Revel experience. They were riffing on the theme of “Great Moments in Literature.” Here are three of their proposals:
These, and about a dozen others, were ultimately declined. But that’s not to dismiss their ingenuity—nor is it to say they won’t be dusted off at some point by later staffs of the Review, perhaps as early as this year. If you ask me, that Zola idea has legs, even if it’s in flagrant violation of the fire code.
Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.