As one of our readers, Ms., pointed out, I didn’t really give readers enough notice about last week’s PEN translation panel. Mea culpa! You can watch the following video of the event—featuring a distinguished assemblage of writers, editors, and translators—from the comfort of your own home. And if you have any burning questions on the topic, I feel safe in saying Lorin will be delighted to answer them, via firstname.lastname@example.org!
This year our Spring Revel will take place on April 3. In anticipation of the event, the Daily is featuring a series of essays celebrating Robert Silvers, who is being honored this year with The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize.
Writers dream. They dream more than most people. Writers dream of sex, of fat advances and big sales. They dream of fame. When they get serious, they dream of being published by the ideal publisher and being edited by the ideal editor. From 1993, when he bought my first novel, Wartime Lies, until October 2002, when he died, shortly after publishing my sixth novel, Schmidt Delivered, Siegfried Unseld, the head of the German publishing house Suhrkamp Verlag, was my ideal publisher. A giant of a man, Siegfried loved books passionately and physically, the way other men can love wine. Siegfried didn’t publish books, he published authors. A writer lucky enough to be one of them could feel invulnerable: Siegfried believed in his work, and Siegfried couldn’t be wrong.
I have long been afflicted on and off by “regular contributor” envy, wishing disconsolately that in the list of writers whose names appear in The New York Review of Books my name were followed by that tag. It’s an absurd pretension, since its fulfillment would have meant upending my life and career. I suffer from it only because the ideal editor of my—and I would guess every writer’s—dreams is another giant of a man, Robert B. Silvers, the editor, brain, and heart of the NYRB. When I write a piece for his magazine, of course I have the immeasurable good luck to be edited by him. There is no experience quite like it. Bob knows everything that’s worth knowing, a consequence of his unflagging curiosity. I recall sitting next to him years ago at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting. While the energy minister of an OPEC country, the name of which I have forgotten, droned on, I stole a glance at Bob, who could no doubt recall it instantly. He was busily taking notes, in a tiny but precise scrawl. My mind was in neutral, in fact I was struggling against sleep; his was fully engaged. Later he told me that taking quick and accurate notes was a habit he’d formed soon after college, working for the Connecticut politician and diplomat Chester Bowles. It’s just one of his useful habits, along with reading everything that deserves his attention and deploying, when the occasion presents itself, a powerful crawl stroke. Read More
This is the second installment of Jones’ culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
Morning I put in some book requests, per last night’s TLS: Tom McCarthy’s new book C, which is out September 7, and his first novel, Remainder, which I meant to read after the great piece Zadie Smith wrote in the New York Review of Books a couple of years ago, “Two Paths for the Novel,” about McCarthy and Joseph O’Neill. Meetings and a quick edit eat up much of the morning.
Lunch with a favorite literary agent—one of those agents who turns out to represent all the writers you’re hearing great things about. We fill each other in on what we’ve been reading. I make a mental note to pack Rosecrans Baldwin’s You Lost Me There in the vacation bag.
Afternoon Gilbert sends me a 5 P.M. pick-me-up, in the form of the YouTube video for Cee Lo’s hilarious single “F–k You.” I love the typography! Thanks, Gilbert. I start working on my book review, which is to say, I write a sentence that may or may not be the lede.
Trailer break! The Social Network. I am bizarrely excited to see this movie, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and his hoodie. And now onward to the trailer for the fake Twitter movie, which looks even more awesome.
In the NYT, I read a piece on the Shakespeare Quarterly opening up its traditional peer review system to open review online. As a former (recovering?) academic, I like this idea.
Remainder arrives. I check out the Literary Saloon, which leads me to New York‘s twenty most anticipated books of the season, and to a piece about Barnes and Noble, also in New York, by Andrew Rice. Paris Review alert! One of NY Mag‘s most anticipated fiction books is Danielle Evans’ Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. We published Danielle’s first short story, “Virgins” (issue 182), which went on to be selected for Best American Short Stories. And Andrew Rice had a great piece of nonfiction, “The Book of Wilson,” from his travels in Uganda, in issue 177.
I also read “Dear Prudence” on Slate. This is the only advice column I ever read. I’m not exactly sure why—I’m not sure why I read it, and I’m not sure why it’s the only one I read. And I don’t have time to puzzle it out, so it’ll be one of the many things in life I just chalk up to mystery appeal.
Evening Bhangra class. A few years ago (actually, about six years ago, yikes), my friend Sailaja and I started taking bhangra classes. We had no dance background, and I have the flexibility of a No. 2 pencil. But our teacher, Ambika, is brilliant, and after a year or so we had become, as Sailaja put it, not great bhangra dancers but passable bhangra students. Which we thought was pretty impressive!
Home and slightly wired from exercise, so Max and I pop in the third episode of Foyle’s War. Bedtime (re)reading: an essay on pain from Atul Gawande‘s book Complications. Read More