A cultural news roundup.
- Bad sex.
- Bad numbers.
- Good books.
- Children’s books.
- A visit to St. Mark’s.
- “Confessions of a Plagiarist.”
- Unrest at the Eliot Prizes.
- Upheaval at the NYPL.
- Tensions over Civilization.
- The case for porn.
- The case for gossip.
- “Gossip Girl has always had an especially soft spot for scribblers—and not just for fleeting appearances.”
- Jane Austen?
- It’s not TV, it’s … Faulkner?
- “The very nicest thing Hollywood can possibly think of to say to a writer is that he is too good to be only a writer.” —Raymond Chandler
When Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco opens the back doors leading out onto his garden, it seems so serene that you would be hard-pressed to believe you were in the middle of downtown Manhattan. Inside, the walls are covered with boomerangs, his laptop is decorated with superhero stickers, and his painting palette is filled with cigarette butts. Recently, the artist invited me to his combined studio, kitchenette, and office space on the basement floor of his brownstone to talk about his working process, how he started out as an artist, and why it’s important to habituate your audience to disappointment. Orozco’s “Corplegados” work was recently exhibited at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. It is his first exhibition following his two-year museum retrospective, which traveled to the Kunstmuseum in Basel, MoMA in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and Tate Modern in London.
I always wanted to be an artist. At some point my father asked me whether I might instead want to be an architect or something like that, but I didn’t. I thought about it for maybe a month. My father was an artist. He was a painter and he knew how hard it is to make a living out of it. My mother was also a kind of artist—she was a pianist. All of my school friends, all their parents were artists, whether writers or photographers or sculptors. I was surrounded.
I started with painting. Painting as an activity is wonderful. You are standing up and you have the freedom to apply colors to a white surface starting almost from nothing. You feel free when you are painting. You feel that you are concentrating on something very particular that is very difficult, but that you enjoy doing it, even though you know that you are probably going to fail, because it’s very difficult to make a good painting. Read More
They say it’s better to give than to receive, but by bidding in the Paris Review Auction, you can do both!
This year’s auction features extraordinary feasts, luxurious excursions, rare first editions, and one-of-a-kind artwork, as well as book discussions with Paris Review editors, naming opportunities for novel characters, and much more. It’s a chance to be a part of our rich history—and pamper yourself or someone special in the bargain.
And a holiday bonus: all proceeds support America’s premiere literary magazine. (That’s us, by the way.)
To view and bid on these and other exclusive items click here. Auction ends December 11.
See our editors in action! This Wednesday night, join editor Lorin Stein at the New York Public Library as he discusses the James Family—that’s Henry, William, and Alice—with Jean Strouse, author of the recently reissued biography of Alice James. The fun begins at 7 P.M.
Then, next Thursday, Southern editor John Jeremiah Sullivan will be chatting with Wells Tower about the art of the essay, also at the New York Public Library. Seats are free; don’t miss it!
But first thing’s first: tomorrow, at 7 P.M. at Word Bookstore in Greenpoint, Poetry Editor Robyn Creswell will be on a panel tackling the biting wit and anarchist bent of the novels of Albert Cossery. Come learn more about the books that Creswell calls “hymns to laziness.”
We hope to see you there!
It didn’t make sense to speak as we walked along an empty path by a lake in western Ireland, since the wind would carry only the sound of itself and of the rain against the stones and grass, and since there wasn’t much to say anyway. I tried not to picture our hotel, where there was a fire and books, and a tray of coffee and slabs of cake. Instead I stared at a sheep ahead huddled with some rocks.
Bone-soaked, half numb, and disoriented, I thought of a little book I had recently read by John Casey, Room for Improvement: Notes on a Dozen Lifelong Sports. It is a lovely but peculiar collection of essays about his various athletic endeavors. Most of his activities are of the lonely, unwatched variety, like canoeing, sailing, and long-distance running. Casey spends a lot of time rowing a dinghy.
Casey’s book is not really about a dozen sports (is rowing a dinghy a sport?). This book is about being sporting, about being a sportsman. What qualifies as a sport here is whatever encourages the cultivation of character. A sportsman is not merely athletic; he is fair and brave. He can read maps, tie knots, sleep in the snow, quote the Odyssey. He can take care of himself, though he is generous and self-deprecating. He is an ideal man from another era, an era that idealized its own nostalgia, too. Read More
In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?
McAllister had just published his first story, “The Faces Outside,” in both IF magazine and Simon and Schuster’s 1964 roundup of the best science fiction of the year. Confident, if not downright cocky, he thought the surveys could settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren’t lying beneath the texts they read like buried treasure awaiting discovery.
His project involved substantial labor—this before the Internet, before e-mail—but was not impossible: many authors and their representatives were listed in the Twentieth-Century American Literature series found in the local library. More impressive is that seventy-five writers replied—most of them, in earnest. Sixty-five of those responses survive (McAllister lost ten to “a kleptomaniacal friend”). Answers ranged from the secretarial blow off to a thick packet of single-spaced typescript in reply.
The pages here feature a number of the surveys in facsimile: Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer. Each responder offers a unique take on the issue itself—symbolism in literature—as well as on handling a sixteen-year-old aspirant approaching writers as masters of their craft.
Even if he approached them en masse, with a form letter.
And failed to follow up with a thank-you note.