- “You get a tremendous boot out of what the Angels call ‘screwing it on,’ taking a big bike and just running it flat out as fast as it will go. I used to take it out at night on the Coast Highway, just drunk out of my mind, ride it for twenty and thirty miles in just short pants and a T-shirt. It’s a beautiful feeling. I recognize it as an illusion and a fantasy, but for someone who has nothing else to go back to, this is maybe one of the happiest moments of his life.” In 1967, Hunter S. Thompson spoke to Studs Turkel about the Hells Angels, and fortunately it’s on tape. In fact, now it’s not just on tape—it’s an animated featurette.
- David Gates talks about taking his time: “I’m just naturally slow. It usually takes me about three or four months to write a story. Then it takes me a while after I finish a story to forget that story and convince myself that my next story is a hot new idea that’s never been done before. Nobody but the writer cares how long it takes to write something.”
- Bridges: great for driving over. Also great for playing like a harp. “In the middle of the bridge, the woman opened the bag to reveal a cache of objects, including a wireless speaker and a stethoscope, which she draped around her neck. She then approached each of the bridge’s wrought-iron suspension rods. Clanging them with a metal tine, she leaned in to listen, holding up the stethoscope as though each resonating note were a heartbeat: C, F, A, G. When the woman found a rod with a particularly pleasing sound, she set about attaching other equipment to the bridge, lifted from the kit bag: a ‘bridge-bow,’ resembling the spokes of a wheel, which would spin around and strike the suspension rod with rubber balls, and a ‘digi-bow,’ which would capture the resonance digitally and then enable her to manipulate it using a string.”
- Summer is slow, and in its longueurs you may find that you need a new hobby. Choose mesmerism and impress your friends with centuries of medical-spiritual flimflammery! An 1884 guide called Mental magic: a rationale of thought reading, and its attendant phenomena and their application to the discovery of new medicines, obscure diseases, correct delineations of character, lost persons and property, mines and prings of water, and all hidden and secret things will take you step-by-step through the joys of mesmerizing for fun and profit. If you get bored, just add drugs: “I have found,” the author Thomas Weldon writes, “that those who … have taken Opium, Datura, Indian Hemp, or other powerful Narcotics, are most susceptible to Magnetic Treatment and rapidly cured of disease.”
- The artist Mary Mattingly added her annotations to a bunch of old Whole Earth Catalogs, revising them to explore “scenarios of ecological collapse.” Living in a geodesic dome has never felt so apocalyptic: “Drop City is a fucked-up mess. Drop City is completely open, completely free; I own it, you own it, because we all know that energy comes from the same place. Ten domes under the skydome, overshadowed by the Rockies; silverdomes, domes that are paintings, multicolored cartopdomes, and one black dome … ”
After several years of hearing Norwegians describe Dag Solstad as their greatest living novelist, I finally read Shyness & Dignity—and got some idea of what the fuss is all about. Like the title, the plot is defiantly unprepossessing: a high school teacher notices something new about the play he’s teaching (for the umpteenth time), and this discovery triggers an existential crisis on the playground. The part that every Norwegian remembers is when the hero beats his umbrella to death against a water fountain, but behind this moment of high drama lies an amazingly compact story of one career, two marriages, and the history of Western philosophy, with particular attention to Kant and 1968. It is suggestive, sad, and extremely funny. I’ve already forced my copy on a friend. —Lorin Stein
Felix Moeller’s disturbing new documentary, Forbidden Films, begins outside the fortified bunker where Nazi propaganda films, still banned by the German government, are stored. There’s such a high quantity of nitro-celluloid, an archivist tells the camera, that the facility officially qualifies as an explosive device. It’s a somewhat heavy-handed attempt to literalize Moeller’s central metaphor: seventy years after their creation, the films still have the capacity to ignite controversy and endanger viewers. Moeller documents the rare screenings the government allows, as audiences turn up in droves for … what, exactly? the novelty? the danger? a dose of national guilt? (Film archives take note: turns out you can sell out a black-and-white movie just by slapping on a ringing endorsement from Joseph Goebbels.) I left the theater stunned at the propaganda films’ ability to grab and sway 2015 audiences—to frighten elderly Germans, to shock students, and to galvanize neo-Nazis, who still use the films to attract teenage followers. It’s worth seeing the look on the face of a middle-aged German man as he walks out of a screening and praises an anti-Polish film for its educational qualities: more people should know, he says, that it was really the Polish who started Word War II by persecuting and interning ethnic Germans. —Rebecca Panovka
You may recognize the distinctive hand behind our autumnal cover art—that’s Chris Ware, who’s interviewed in this issue about the Art of Comics:
I just figured there must still be various ways to make art “about” something without making it bad or sentimental. Comics basically seemed a way toward this goal for me … I think cartooning gets at, and re-creates on the page, some sixth sense—of space and of being in a body—in a way no other medium can quite so easily, or at least so naturally.
Then there’s our interview with Aharon Appelfeld:
My nights are a nightmare, quite often, but the nightmares are rich—rich in human behavior, rich in feelings, rich in sensations. I nourish myself by those nights. They nourish me.
And in the Art of Fiction No. 225, the Nobel Prize–winner Herta Müller discusses her early fascination with plants (“They knew how to live and I didn’t”), life under Ceauşescu, and her approach to the sentence:
I’m not hungry for words, but they have a hunger of their own. They want to consume what I have experienced, and I have to make sure that they do that … The language knows where it has to wind up. I know what I want, but the sentence knows how I’ll get there.
There’s also an essay by David Searcy; the final installment of Rachel Cusk’s novel Outline, illustrated by Samantha Hahn; fiction by David Gates, Atticus Lish, and Alejandro Zambra; and poems by Karen Solie, Stephen Dunn, Maureen M. McLane, Devin Johnston, Ben Lerner, Frederick Seidel, Linda Pastan, and Brenda Shaughnessy.
And finally, a portfolio of letters between George Plimpton and Terry Southern, circa 1957–58, in which Southern writes of this magazine, “[its] very escutcheon has come to be synonymous (to my mind at least) with aesthetic integrity, tough jaunty know-how, etc.”
Get yourself some of that integrity and know-how—subscribe now!
The proofs of our Summer issue just arrived at Twenty-Seventh Street from the printer. This afternoon is our last chance to catch any mistakes. You always find a few typos—and we have more names to spell-check than usual, because this issue contains more stories, poems, and interviews than any in recent memory.
Some of these writers are regular contributors, including Lydia Davis—with her first publication since she won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for fiction—and David Gates, whose new story is a favorite of his and ours. Others are writers we’ve been waiting to publish for a while, namely Ben Lerner, whose first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is one of the best debuts we’ve seen in the past few years, and Kristin Dombek, whose essays in n+1 electrified us. The newly translated stories by Robert Walser are from his groundbreaking 1904 collection, Fritz Kocher’s Essays. This book (which won the admiration of Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin) made me feel for the first time that I understood what all the fuss is about.
Still others, including Emma Cline, Gillian Linden, and the Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli—translated by the likes of Jorie Graham and Mark Strand—are new to us and will probably be new to you. We look forward to saying, You read them here first.
Plus, three interviews.
Two are devoted to the art of literary biography. Michael Holroyd’s lives of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, among others, revolutionized the study of Bloomsbury and Edwardian literary history.
I am a great believer in private life, which is quite unfashionable now—to be a celebrity is the thing, or you are nothing. But I believe in private life for the living, and I think that when one is dead one should be a little bit bolder, so that the rest of us may have some record of how things actually were. Otherwise we will be left with well-meant lies, which add to the difficulties of life and lead to real misunderstanding.
Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton are just as influential.
What is it like to write a death scene?
It depends how they died. Some cynical biographer said to me, Make sure it’s a good death. Make sure you’re not picking someone who just declined.
Finally, we have an Art of Fiction interview with the Nobel laureate Imre Kertész. It is, according to Kertész, the last interview he will ever give. Luisa Zielinski’s probing, sensitive questions explore the reasons that Kertész—ten years after he survived the Holocaust—decided he had to write.
Look, I don’t want to deny that I was a prisoner at Auschwitz and that I now have a Nobel Prize. What should I make of that? And what should I make of the fact that I survived, and continue to survive? At least I feel that I experienced something extraordinary, because not only did I live through those horrors, but I also managed to describe them, in a way that is bearable, acceptable, and nonetheless part of [a] radical tradition … Perhaps I’m being impertinent, but I feel that my work has a rare quality—I tried to depict the human face of this history, I wanted to write a book that people would actually want to read.
If you happened to be in Paris this past month, and walked past the public toilets at the corner of rue Alexandre Dumas and boulevard de Charonne, you may have noticed a giant picture of George Plimpton’s face gazing out over the 11th arrondissement with great benignancy and just the slightest possible suggestion of a gueule de bois. This illegal memorial to our founding editor, by the poster artist JR, celebrates the sixtieth birthday of The Paris Review in the city of her birth.
It happens also to be the cover of our special anniversary issue.
Deborah Eisenberg talks failure and perseverance with Catherine Steindler—
You write something and there’s no reality to it. You can’t inject it with any kind of reality. You have to be patient and keep going, and then, one day, you can feel something signaling to you from the innermost recesses. Like a little person trapped under the rubble of an earthquake. And very, very, very slowly you find your way toward the little bit of living impulse.
Mark Leyner talks process with Sam Lipsyte—
When I was at Brandeis, I met this girl named Rachel Horowitz, and we really loved reggae music. This was in 1970. We decided, Why don’t we go to Jamaica? So we went and we got some really nifty little bungalow place in Montego Bay—very cheap, because we couldn’t afford much then. And it had a little pool for the couple of bungalows and a little kitchen. And I’d never really stayed in place like this on my own, with a girlfriend. I mean, nothing quite like that. I had been away the year before with another girl, took a trip to Israel and in Europe and things, but I’d never been in a groovy tropical place like this. And we had a car, so one day we drove into town and got some stuff, because we had a refrigerator and a pantry. We also got some Red Stripe. And this guy at Brandeis had given me some acid to bring to Jamaica. This guy was like the Johnny Appleseed of acid. He would take a load of acid and explain an album cover to you for just hours. He would take a Hot Tuna album that you had seen a trillion times and he would begin to examine it with these long lectures that were like Fidel Castro giving a lecture at the Sorbonne. He also once set his hand on fire and watched it for quite a while because he was so high. That really impressed me. Anyway, this guy had given me some acid and one night, when Rachel and I were just hanging out in the hotel, I said, You wanna take some? She said no. I said, Okay, I think I’m going to. So I took it, and it comes on, and then I want a beer and I go into the little kitchen, and by now the acid’s full on and this guy, this big flying cockroach, like a palmetto bug—you know those things?—it crawls out of the six-pack, and to me, at the time, it was like a pterodactyl, in some Raquel Welch movie set in prehistoric times. According to Rachel, I batted this thing in the little kitchen for, like, five hours. She heard pans and things breaking and she said I emerged with a torn shirt, sweaty—and victorious. That’s what my experience of writing The Sugar Frosted Nutsack was like. Battling this pterodactyl in the closet with a pan. At a certain point, of course, the book attained a mind of its own, a subjectivity or an autocatalytic, machinelike quality.
And Willa Kim shows us her store of Paris Review erotica.
Plus, fiction by Adelaide Docx, David Gates, Mark Leyner, Ottessa Moshfegh, Adam O’Fallon Price, and Tess Wheelwright. Poetry by Sylvie Baumgartel, Peter Cole, Stephen Dunn, John Freeman, Tony Hoagland, Melcion Mateu, Ange Mlinko, Frederick Seidel, and Kevin Young. Essays by Vivian Gornick and David Searcy.
On newsstands March 15. Subscribe now!
Saturday, September 10, brings us the extravaganza that is the fourth annual NYC Lit Crawl. We’ll be there, with our dancing shoes on! Join us as we unveil our fall issue to the rock and country stylings of the Dog House Band—featuring Sven Birkerts, David Gates, Wyatt Mason, and James “Sin Killer” Wood, among others. The new mag will be hot off the presses: Lydia Davis on translation, Dennis Cooper and Nicholson Baker on writing dirty books, Terry Castle’s stash of anonymous kiddie photos, and more.
When: Saturday, September 10; the band plays from 8:15–9:45 P.M.; drinks till ??.
Where: Fontana’s Bar (21+)
105 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002