Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.
Working at his place in the afternoon, and other notes from the archive on writing and romance.
If you enjoy these free interviews, and the portfolio, why not subscribe to The Paris Review? You’ll get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door.
Jane and Michael Stern, The Art of Nonfiction No. 8
Issue no. 215 (Winter 2015)
When you started writing about road food, did you think it was of a piece with the folkways movement that was going on then?
If we didn’t at the start, we very quickly did. The year after Roadfood was published, we published Amazing America. And in Amazing America there are lots of folk-art environments and stuff like that. I think when we absolutely started, when Roadfood was called Truck Stoppin’, we weren’t thinking that it had anything to do with pop culture or folk art, but as soon as we got on the road and started finding guys like Howard Finster and that guy in Wisconsin—
—the guy who collected—
JANE AND MICHAEL STERN
—the oil rags—
—not only did we very quickly realize that that was our passion, but I think it really helped us, in some way, to get a perspective on the food we were writing about. It wasn’t just truck-stop food. It was food that was a cultural phenomenon as well.
And that led to Roadfood?
Well, in doing that, we were eating in all these road-food places, which didn’t have a name then. There wasn’t the concept of “road food”—there were just these little mom-and-pop cafés, and we kept a little notebook of these places. So after the trucker book came out, and did very well, there came the usual publisher question of what was next. And I said, I think we should do a book called Truck Stoppin’, and I remember the editor said, What’s that? And I said, Places truckers eat. So we got a contract to do that. Then our grand idea was to review every restaurant in America, which seemed like a really easy thing to do, considering neither of us had ever been anywhere. Michael had been to Chicago, and I had been to New Haven! We just opened a Rand McNally map, and said, Piece of cake. Three years later, we were still on the road finding these places. We were so sloppy. The main thing is that we wanted to be together.
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Art of Translation No. 4
Issue no. 213 (Summer 2015)
Richard, you once wrote that rumors of your ignorance of Russian are somewhat exaggerated. What is the actual state of your Russian?
I can’t really speak Russian. But I can hear it, and I understand quite a lot. I look at the text all the time as I translate. I don’t just use Larissa’s translated manuscript. She even sometimes gets very angry. She says, Where did you get that? You must have looked in the dictionary!
Richard has something better than the knowledge of Russian. He has intuition and literary style.
When your first draft goes to Richard, what does it look like? Is it close to what it might become?
You mean, how bad is it? How bad is it, Richard? Tell me.
She makes it as bad as possible so that I have something to do.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Art of Fiction No. 35
Issue no. 34 (Spring–Summer 1965)
People say that you have great self-discipline and that you never let a day go by without working. At what time do you start?
I’m always in a hurry to get going, though in general I dislike starting the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o’clock, I get under way and work until one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o’clock, I go back to work and continue until nine. I have no difficulty in picking up the thread in the afternoon. When you leave, I’ll read the paper or perhaps go shopping. Most often it’s a pleasure to work.
When do you see Sartre?
Every evening and often at lunchtime. I generally work at his place in the afternoon.
Doesn’t it bother you to go from one apartment to another?
No. Since I don’t write scholarly books, I take all my papers with me and it works out very well.
By Eric Fischl
Issue no. 86 (Winter 1982)
If you enjoyed the above, don’t forget to subscribe! In addition to four print issues per year, you’ll also receive complete digital access to our sixty-eight years’ worth of archives.
Last / Next Article