For the last few years, The Paris Review has cohosted The Norwegian-American Literary Festival, gathering a small group of American and Norwegian writers and critics for a series of informal lectures, interviews, discussions, and music. We’re proud to announce this year’s festival itinerary: coming to New York for three nights this month, May 19, 20, and 21. All the events below are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there! And yes—that guy in the picture (Torgny Amdam of the Fun Stuff, featuring James Wood on drums) will be performing, too. Read More
Readers of the Review know that the Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier is one of our favorite young directors. (See Issue 203 for a discussion of his first two features, Reprise and Oslo, August 31st.) His new English-language debut, Louder than Bombs, stars Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne, and Jesse Eisenberg. Last week we caught up with Trier and Eisenberg for a conversation that ranged from Knut Hamsun to The Karate Kid to David Foster Wallace. We also talked about the making of Louder than Bombs. Read More
Our Winter issue takes you north, to an unusual conference in Oslo with John Jeremiah Sullivan, Elif Batuman, Donald Antrim, and filmmaker Joachim Trier. In addition to the proceedings of the first Norwegian-American Literary Festival, this December we bring you new fiction from James Salter, Tim Parks, and Rachel Kushner, poems by Linda Pastan, Ben Lerner, and Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), an interview with Susan Howe, and much more.
Here’s Joachim Trier on literature and film:
In Norway we have a great tradition of writing literature, whereas cinema … historically this is not our strength. A Norwegian friend of mine interviewed Don DeLillo and asked him, “What do American writers talk about, when they hang out casually?” DeLillo said, “We talk about movies.” I felt so proud!
… and Donald Antrim on the fantastical:
When I began writing in earnest, I wrote stories that were modeled on the stories I thought I should write. The stories were about my family, mainly, about my alcoholic mother and about being her son, but they weren’t successful. They were dutifully written and they failed … I went into a depression over this. I didn’t know what to do. I got out of the funk eventually, through the fantastic, through making up other worlds.
… and Elif Batuman and John Jeremiah Sullivan on false starts:BATUMANMy editor at The New Yorker was like, Why don’t you just skip the whole part where you do all the wrong things and just do the right thing.SULLIVANThank you. Thank you, editor.BATUMANAnd then he was like, Of course I’m just joking. He wasn’t joking!
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The best films scramble your brain, changing you slightly. You emerge from the dark with new, blinking eyes, adjusting to a different world. It’s why for many of us a good movie is a small miracle, worthy of devotion. So far, Norwegian director Joachim Trier has made two such small miracles, Reprise and Oslo, August 31st. Two sharp films that, when I saw them, settled down into some small part of me, changing the way I thought about youth, ambition, and the meaning of life, if only for a night.
I suspect the films of Trier speak particularly to anyone with literary ambitions, anyone who knows what it’s like to be besotted by a work of art and anyone who wants to create something strong and beautiful and true. The director has an uncanny eye for the worries of sad young men afflicted with dreaminess about art and ideas, the same sort of disease written about in Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer or Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. His exuberant, French New Wave–influenced debut, Reprise, is the story of two boyish twenty-something writers wrestling with literary ambitions and madness. Reprise is charming, formally daring, and focused on youthful folly; in Oslo, August 31st, the folly is over, and it’s time for the morning after.
The enthusiasms of our Southern editor (plus a fact-checking query from issue 201) have sent me back to Urne-Buriall, Sir Thomas Browne’s 1658 essay on the “sundry practises, fictions, and conceptions, discordant or obscure” surrounding funerals and the afterlife: “Why the Female Ghosts appear unto Ulysses before the Heroes and masculine spirits? Why the Psyche or soul of Tiresias is of the masculine gender; who being blinde on earth sees more than all the rest in hell; Why the Funerall Suppers consisted of Egges, Beans, Smallage, and Lettuce, since the dead are made to eat Asphodels about the Elyzian medows? Why since there is no Sacrifice acceptable, nor any propitiation for the Covenant of the grave; men set up the Deity of Morta, and fruitlessly adored Divinities without ears? It cannot escape some doubt.” —Lorin Stein
“If beauty is defined as a composite quality encompassing both extraordinary sensoriality and exemplary human behavior, then possibly the most beautiful flower shop in the world is located in Vienna’s low-key-but-hip 4th District.” So begins The Flower Shop: Charm, Grace, Beauty & Tenderness in a Commercial Context, which is a little hard to describe to those unfamiliar with the work of author Leonard Koren. It’s a profile of Vienna’s Blumenkraft, told through sepia-toned photographs and text, but it’s also more than that. You learn how a flower shop functions, from the selection of the wares to caring for flowers to arranging, and you get to know the staff and experience the challenges and triumphs of running a small business and of trying to bring something beautiful, unique, and ephemeral into the world. It ends up being a much bigger story than that of one florist, however lovely. —Sadie Stein
New Order, “Leave Me Alone.” I’m not sure how I’ve never discovered this masterpiece of new wave mellow-dee. Perhaps it’s been sitting on the toadstool of my mind, elbow on knee, hand on chin, waiting for the perfect moment to ring out. As a fan of New Order’s calmer music—“Regret,” “Love Vigilantes,” “Ceremony (Single Version)”—“Leave Me Alone” ranks high in its moody solitude. Bernard Sumner rolls the song along slow at first, but the urgency in his voice picks up as his “character” becomes more frustrated in his inability to escape the company of others. The lyrics keep in line with New Order’s usual sexual despondence:
From my head to my toes
To my teeth, through my nose
You get these words wrong
You get these words wrong
You get these words wrong
I just smile.
There are so many reasons to be excited about art this year—great gallery and museum shows all around the country. Lucky Chicagoans are catching the tail end of a Claude Cahun exhibition and are a month into the Art Institute’s display of their newly acquired Dawoud Bey collection. The twenty-five black-and-white photographs are comprised by Bey’s “Harlem, U.S.A.” series, which was first shown more than thirty years ago at the Studio Museum in Harlem. If you’re not in Chicago, I recommend the handsome catalogue—the photographs are worth extended viewings, and his images of the Manhattan neighborhood’s denizens stand alongside the work of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and James Van Der Zee as definitive American portraits. —Nicole Rudick
My favorite movie of the last five years is probably Reprise, by the Norwegian director Joachim Trier. I loved its sense of humor and its sense of possibility. Trier used the devices of the nouvelle vague, not with irony or nostalgia, but as if they were brand new—as if Oslo today were Paris circa 1964. Most of all I loved Anders Lie’s performance as a brilliant writer in the grip of a life-threatening depression. Oslo, August 31, which was released last week in New York, has all of these things, too, including Lie as a recovering addict who thinks he will never piece his life back together. Despite the similarities, Lie’s performance in Oslo is full of surprises. I can’t think of a movie actor my age who is more fun to watch. —L.S.