Click here to read the Art of Fiction interview with José Saramago from the Winter 1998 issue.
answered how to be an asshole. But how about what to do when you’ve been dealt one? In other words: I got dumped. Quick: where’s the revenge section of the bookshop? —Greta, New York CityYou
In Patrick Hamilton’s 1947 novel The Slaves of Solitude, a middle-aged Englishwoman embarks on her first love affair and—after many heartbreaking and cringe-inducing misadventures—discovers that the best revenge is a night alone in a fancy hotel. As Rita Konig would say, J’AGREE. If nights alone are not your idea of poetic justice (or if you want to work on your French), I suggest the libertine novella No Tomorrow, by Vivant Denon. Here a jilted young nobleman takes revenge on his mistress the other way—by going to bed with her friend. (Who, needless to say, has her own agenda.) The New York Review Classics has bulked out this slim bagatelle (newly translated by Lydia Davis) with the original text. So you can compare as you set your vendetta out to chill.
Monday’s paper) to cast its nefarious spell on impressionable young minds.In the Spring 1959 issue, readers were introduced to “grand Guy Grand,” a billionaire trickster who sows confusion wherever he goes. The story was adapted from Terry Southern’s novel The Magic Christian, published later that year. In the late sixties the novel was made into a movie starring Peter Sellers, and it continues (on the evidence of
When not tending New York holdings, Guy Grand was generally, as he expressed it, “on the go.” He took cross-country trips by train: New York to Miami, Miami to Seattle—that sort of thing—always on a slow train, one that makes frequent stops. Accommodation on these trains is limited and, though he did engage the best, Grand often had to be satisfied with scarcely more than the essentials of comfort. But he didn’t mind, and on this particular summer afternoon, at precisely 2:05, he stepped onto the first Pullman of the Portland Plougher, found his compartment, and began the pleasant routine of settling in for the long slow trip to New York. As was his habit, he immediately rang the porter to bring round a large bottle of Campari and a thermos of finely-iced water; then he sat down at his desk to write business letters.
It was known that for any personal service Grand was inclined to tip generously, and because of this there were usually three or four porters loitering in the corridor near his compartment. They kept a sharp eye on the compartment-door, in case Grand should signal some need or other; and, as the train pulled out of the station, they could hear him moving about inside, humming to himself, and shuffling papers to and fro on his desk. Before the train made its first stop, however, they would have to scurry, for Grand’s orders were that the porters should not be seen when he came out of his compartment; and he did come out, at every stop.
I’m told a publication calling itself The Awl has blogged about our use of snuck for sneaked, calling out the whole Paris Review masthead for this transgression of English.
Transgression against English, they undoubtedly mean. If English had been transgressed by us, we would have stepped across it and begun writing in a foreign language. However solid an ambition that remains, no one will accuse us of it here. I suppose there’s no pausing to get basic prepositions correct when you’re on your way to obsessing over arcane questions of the irregular preterit. But let’s not be pedantic.
Actually, let’s be pedantic as hell. It ought to go against any writer’s grain when people try to pass off schoolmarmish grammarianism as a concern for style. Style is about getting the maximum effect out of words, eliminating unwanted ambiguities, and writing in such a way that readers see things better—in short, it’s about meaning. Grammarianism, which is to say, an out-of-control prescriptivism, is about doing things the right way, or more often, about giving others grief for not having done so.
I’m not an antiprescriptivist. Trying to keep your mother tongue honest is noble and even necessary. But a person needs to be objecting to a word on some grounds—that it’s inexact or obscure, that it’s confusing or unbeautiful. What is The Awl’s problem with snuck? As far as one can tell, somebody told them at some point that it was preferable to use sneaked. Why, though? We’ve been saying and writing snuck for at least a hundred and twenty-five years now, in high and low contexts. Everybody knows exactly what it means. Indeed, a big-deal British linguist has theorized that the reason snuck emerged as a form to begin with is that it sounds more like what it says. It’s shorter, faster, more final—it’s sneakier. To my ear, sneaked has lost the war, and even smells a bit of the lamp.
Admittedly, I come from a place where people still say y’uns (oldest surviving usage of ye, according to some scholars), which may disqualify me from pronouncing on such matters.
I wish The Awl the joy of its style sheet, and strongly urge the excellent Mr. Cox and the rest of you to stick to your guns.
R. Crumb is the subject of the first Paris Review Art of Comics interview. “I used myself as a character in the introductory page of the first few issues of Zap Comix, showed myself in a wacky cartoon, R. Crumb, the cartoonist.” His self-portraits, like the artist, have aged well.
This is the second installment of Rita Konig’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
7:00 A.M. NPR. Turns out it is pledge week. That explains the intolerable service! I can’t retain any information other than the stuff they are giving away.
8:00 A.M. New York Times story on children’s menus. Nicola Marzovilla hates them.
7:30 P.M. Times dinner at Bill Keller’s house. Walk into a room of faces I don’t know. See one I recognize across the room. Phew. Can’t think why I know him. Am seated next to him at dinner. Penny drops. I have been watching him (quite a lot) making stew on the screen in the back of my Jet Blue seat. He is Mark Bittman, food writer from the Times. So I tell him. “Sigh, Yes, I get that a lot.” Pretty much end of conversation. Ben Brantley, theater critic, on other side. Heaven. Realize this is my moment to ask about the shark fin in the Obama picture. So I ask: did they choose it on purpose? Was this a big joke at the Times? No one had noticed! Bill goes off to find a copy of the paper. Apparently, it is more likely to be a dolphin. Think I hide my disappointment reasonably well. By the end of dinner conversation has turned to Real Housewives.
9:00 A.M. Flight to Savannah for art classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Last April, sitting on a panel during their Style Week, I told founder and president Paula Wallace that I really wanted to learn perspective drawing. Presto! Am on my way for three days of private tuition.
10:00 A.M. Plane is TINY. Actually, I find that small planes are less scary than the big ones. We are jammed in like sardines. Read The Far Cry and eat mini pretzels. I am now loving the book. Read it all the way to the end. It is such a Persephone book.
1:00 P.M. Get picked up at airport. Keith Johnson was on my plane and is also going to SCAD to shoot for his show “Man Shops Globe.” Arrive at Magnolia Hall and start lessons, almost immediately, in the Carriage House with Peili Wang. He has two HUGE plastic bags filled with art materials. The most exciting is a box with a grid of every color of marker pen! I feel about eight years old.
9:30 P.M. Back from dinner and get into bed with new iPad. Watch “Real Housewives Reunion.” Kelly Bensimon is so stupid, she is like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda. Move on to Glee pilot. It is so cheery after all those bitching women. Want to break into song—“Don’t stop believing”—and I hate musicals! I do LOVE Jane Lynch, though. And she just got married. It was in the Times Style section.