In the last six or seven months, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the importance of the arts. Maybe you have, too. In certain circles, it’s become a sort of refrain: we need the arts more than ever.
In my experience, this has not been—in any obvious or immediate way—the case. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of news. My taste for fiction has narrowed. I’m more impatient. A certain kind of story went stale for me last November. When I read a contemporary writer, I want to be spoken to honestly and intelligently about the times we live in.
I realize this is not a new complaint. As luck had it, my colleagues and I spent the election deep in the Paris Review archive. We were revamping our website, and it meant rereading and sorting through all our back issues, hundreds of stories and interviews, thousands of poems, many written in times of upheaval. The more I read, the more I saw them reflect the politics of their time. Read More