Revisiting is what I do. I am a pathological revisitor, I think—my ex-wife ventured to suggest a time or two when, late returning from some errand, I’d admit to having taken an excursion into one of my old neighborhoods. I’m always driving back through my old neighborhoods, the places I have lived within the city from the time I was four until my early teens. The five great ages of my youth, as I conceive them—each as sweeping and portentous, as distinctly toned and lit as Thomas Cole’s five stages of Empire in that famous series of paintings. When I drive through—pretty slowly with the radio off and the windows open—I’ll get into this tour guide state of mind. I’ll fall into this line of patter, actually talking to myself as if into a little microphone. I don’t intend to speak out loud. But here I go. Read More
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!
Our contributor Ben Lerner turned me on to an astonishing new book, White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, by Michael W. Clune. A graduate student in the English department at Johns Hopkins, Clune led a double life as a junkie that in the late nineties took him from the slums of Baltimore to a Chicago jail, and, eventually, into recovery. But White Out is more than a recovery memoir. It is a phenomenology of heroin addiction—the single best thing I have read about the drug—and a deep, often beautiful meditation on the nature of memory, pleasure, and time. “In the timeless space of dope I discovered that time is the great enemy of thought … The teacup I hold in my hand is a bullet shot out of a gun. It’s no wonder that it’s so impossibly hard to think in these conditions. It’s no wonder that maggots grow in fresh meat, that an electric bill is overdue as soon as you open it, that the first time you try something you’re already addicted.” —Lorin Stein
You may remember Samuel Delany from, among other things, our Spring 2011 issue. In that interview, he briefly mentions Dennis, his partner of more than twenty years. Among the photographs we considered to accompany the conversation were shots of Chip and Dennis on the couch in their Harlem apartment, and though they didn’t make the final cut, the images contained an intimacy that was, frankly, very touching. Little did I know that their relationship is the subject of its own book. First published twenty-five years ago and reissued this month by Fantagraphics, Bread and Wine is a graphic novella that gives their origin story, beginning when Dennis had been living on the streets in New York for six years. Loosely structured around Hölderlin’s elegy of the same name, the book is told from Delany’s point of view and is by turns realist and direct and revelatory and romantic. In the same way, Mia Wolff’s superb black-and-white art is alternately detailed and spare, drawing the most out of this honest and heartfelt tale. —Nicole Rudick
David Searcy’s essay “The Hudson River School,” in the latest issue of Granta, is about a lot of things: western Texas, Google Maps, coyotes, the Jared Coffin House, and flossing. And just like his previous essays in the Review (here and here) and his fiction, Searcy leaves it up to the reader to put together the pieces. I’ve always loved that in books. My favorite section is his take on the theater of Google Maps, when you click from one point to another, sweeping “away to the rear like smoke in a wind before things re-materialize around the next coordinate” and the smudges in the distance could be anything—a sheep, a crying child, or, simply, emptiness. —Justin Alvarez
I came across Oliver Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars on the bookshelf of the house where I’m staying. Sacks writes on the peculiarities of the human brain with both awe and humility; he trusted his patients’ accounts of rare achromatopsia, of reprieve from total blindness, and of anterograde amnesia when no other doctors would. The fact that it was published twenty years ago and still offers significant theories on neurology speaks to Sacks’s importance in the medical and literary worlds. —Ellen Duffer
The small coastal commune of Cassis, located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of Southern France, is a hub of tourism, boasting a coastline of stunning inlets (calanques) and an abundance of venues for consumption of moules-frites. While visiting last week, I was surprised to come upon a poetry shop, selling nothing but customized and framed poems and boasting “plus de 4000 poèmes à votre service pour ceux que vous aimez.” A refreshing change from overpriced bottled water! —Kate Rouhandeh
We also have seven nominees for this year’s Pushcart Prize:
- Sarah Frisch, “Housebreaking,” issue 203
- David Gordon, “Man-Boob Summer,” issue 202
- Lorrie Moore, “Wings,” issue 200
- Davy Rothbart, “Human Snowball,” issue 201
- Sam Savage, “The Meininger Nude,” issue 202
- David Searcy, “El Camino Doloroso,” issue 200
- John Jeremiah Sullivan, “The Princes: A Reconstruction,” issue 200
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!