A cultural news roundup.
I know that I am not alone in sometimes craving nothing more than a nice, long browse through the self-help section of the bookstore. But I know that I’m alone in admitting it to The Paris Review! My question is, do you know of any authors writing in the self-help genre who have elevated the form and who you would qualify as literary?
Let your self-help freak flag fly! I’ve already had occasion to recommend Love and Limerence, by the late Dorothy Tennov. It’s a book about what to do if you find yourself in love. This is my favorite self-help book, and I think about it often. An informal poll of The Paris Review office reveals that everyone has been telling us to read The Artist’s Way (“you can skip the spiritual parts”) but that none of us has read it.
I used to frequent Chumley’s and the Cedar Tavern. (I even went to the Algonquin once, thinking that it would be a glamorous throwback, but it turned out to be a tourist trap.) Lately even the White Horse Tavern is overrun with investment bankers. It’s awful. What is the ideal place to spend a few hours drinking—and still feel a hint of New York’s rich literary past—this fall?
It may be a little low on mystique, but if you’re in the Village and want to drink in the company of writers, you can’t go wrong with Cafe Loup. It’s crawling with them—and there’s always plenty of extra martini in the shaker. If you’re hungry, order the fries. In Boerum Hill, writers—those who can still make the rent—tend to congregate at the Brooklyn Inn (a bar that features in Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn). I’ve never been to Scratcher, in the East Village, except when some writer was having a party there—but I’m told it’s hard to tell the difference. If you’re headed uptown, there is always the Carlyle, a perennial tourist trap that happens also to have a wonderful bar, one celebrated in several poems by Frederick Seidel, including “For Holly Anderson.” Read More
Seventy-three-year-old Ishmael Reed has been a major figure in American letters for more than four decades. In April, Dalkey Archive published Juice!, Reed’s first novel in more than fifteen years. Juice! tells the story of a struggling African American cartoonist whose personal and professional life is disrupted by the media frenzy surrounding the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Earlier this summer, Reed, who is based in Oakland, California, responded to some of my questions about his latest work.
Juice! is your first novel since 1993. What inspired you to write another novel after all these years?
I began this one as soon as I heard about the murders. I was vacationing in Hawaii, and the murders ruined my vacation. The media went berserk over the murder of Nicole Simpson, the kind of ideal white woman—a Rhine maiden—one finds in Nazi art and propaganda, murdered allegedly by a black beast. It was a story that reached into the viscera of the American unconscious, recalling the old Confederate art of the black boogeyman as an incubus squatting on top of a sleeping, half-clad white woman. It was also an example of collective blame. All black men became O. J. The murders ignited a kind of hysteria.
Juice! does not have a conventional structure. The novel incorporates courtroom documents, television transcripts, and pieces of visual art. It also plays around quite a bit with time. What gave rise to the novel’s peculiar shape?
I try to experiment. Writing a conventional novel would be boring for me. In this novel, I added cartoons. Cartoons were probably my introduction to storytelling as a child, because on Sundays we got The Chattanooga Times, and I’d read the funnies. A publisher wanted to publish Juice! but decided that the cartoons weren’t up to par. So, at the age of seventy, I studied at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco, and the cartoons improved so much that I now do political cartoons for The San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, City Brights. Read More