In March, The Paris Review launched The Art of Distance, a newsletter highlighting unlocked archive pieces that resonate with the staff of the magazine, quarantine-appropriate writing on the Daily, resources from our peer organizations, and more. Read Emily Nemens’s introductory letter here, and find the latest unlocked archive pieces below.
“These past few weeks, even as I’ve relished the extra time to read, I’ve missed sports acutely. Just a few innings of baseball before bed! Oh, what I’d do for the swish of a three-pointer! So, as the Paris Review softball team’s permit application is stalled at NYC Parks and Rec, as the only basketball being played is me throwing laundry into the hamper, as MLB comes up with more and stranger ideas for how to restart the stalled-out season, I went back to the archive to find some interesting moments in the magazine’s sports literature. I hope it’s a balm for those among us missing sports. For those who stay far from even the sidelines, I’d encourage giving these pieces a shot. You’ll see that literary sportswriting rarely keeps to the bounds of the baseline—it is about character development as much as athletic performance, about linguistic craft as much as physical form. Let us not forget Robert Frost’s outlook on poetry, from his Art of Poetry interview: ‘I look on the poet as a man of prowess, just like an athlete.’ In that, perhaps we’re all in it for sport.” —EN
The Paris Review has had the good fortune to serialize a handful of novels over the past decade, among them Chris Bachelder’s The Throwback Special. A group of retired footballers meet up every November to reenact a historic play: the premise is straightforward enough, but the complexity of this group portrait will knock the breath out of you like an encounter with a very solid offensive lineman. Here are part 1 and part 2. Subscribers can read the whole book now, or you can order a copy in our Bookshop.org store.
At the opening of her essay “What I Did Last Summer,” Betty Eppes admits, “I was a pretty good tennis player—fluctuating between No. 1 and No. 3 at my tennis club in Baton Rouge.” Betty drops the racket for another adventure.
Admittedly, The Basketball Diaries is more about sex and drugs in sixties NYC (be forewarned, some observations have aged less than gracefully) than about basketball, but this early version of Jim Carroll’s memoir does talk about pickup games, his high school’s jock culture, and hitting an “incredible amounts of jump shots” while stoned.
TPR art editor Charlotte Strick and illustrator and writer Leanne Shapton put their fins together for this portfolio, titled “Swimming Lessons,” from Summer 2016. Enjoy these poolside pictures until we can get back to the diving board.
TPR’s first poetry editor, Donald Hall, was perhaps second only to George Plimpton in his sports fandom. His Art of Poetry interview includes a brief but glorious anecdote about trying out for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’d also direct you to “The Third Inning.” It borrows its structure from our beloved nine-inning game, but reaches far beyond the diamond.
And there’s plenty of sports in the Daily archive, as well. I’d start by pointing you to Rowan Ricardo Phillips’s tennis writing, which was a precursor to his 2018 book The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, and to Leonard Gardner’s look back at Fat City from the half-century mark.
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