Five days before the Spring issue went to press, I found myself perched on a sofa in the Review’s Chelsea office, listening as Jamaica Kincaid and Darryl Pinckney put the finishing touches on a conversation they’d begun eight years earlier. By then, my colleagues and I had pored over hundreds of pages of transcripts for Kincaid’s Art of Fiction interview, and yet, that Monday afternoon, as the two writers went back over the stories she’d told him about her childhood on Antigua, her adventures as a young journalist in seventies New York, and her life as a writer, new details kept emerging. She was a backup singer in Holly Woodlawn’s band before being replaced by Debbie Harry? She drafted Annie John out loud in the bath while pregnant with her first child?
JAMAICA KINCAID AND DARRYL PINCKNEY IN THE PARIS REVIEW OFFICES. PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHANIE BLACK.
Among the greatest pleasures of the Review’s Writers at Work series is the opportunity to eavesdrop on a revered author speaking intimately—on a conversation that feels at once spontaneous and timeless. We experienced a similar pleasure while first reading many of the pieces that appear in the Spring issue. The manic highs and lows of an all-consuming sexual affair, recorded by Annie Ernaux in a diary she would later use to compose Simple Passion. Jane Gardam’s hard-won sense, confided to Sadie Stein, of the importance of comfort and happiness to literature. Ordinary household objects made luminous in Ishion Hutchinson’s elegy for his grandmother and her home by the sea in Portland, Jamaica. The accidental uncovering, in a scene from Will Arbery’s play Corsicana, of a painful, long-repressed teenage memory. A glimpse into the private world of a middle-aged woman scraping by in northeastern Texas. A love scene told in the language of an IKEA instruction manual.
The cover image, by Andrew Cranston, a favorite of our art director, Na Kim, was painted on a hardback book especially for the Review. For me, it captures something about this strange season we are in, when hope feels almost painful. “Spring like a gun to the head,” Dorothea Lasky writes in one of three poems she contributed to the issue. “Green how I want you.”
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