The first sentence of Stephanie Danler’s riveting debut novel is perhaps more an injunction than an imperative: “You will develop a palate.” Over the 355 pages of Sweetbitter, the narrator, twenty-two-year-old Tess, encounters a number of appetites. She arrives in New York City during the heat wave of 2006 and applies for a job at a prestigious Manhattan restaurant. The manager, a man, stares at her just a little too long—the black sundress, the pilled cardigan wet with sweat—and we sense that her education will soon begin. Oysters, Pinot Noir, lines of coke at the bar. “The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter.” Read More
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
Our Spring Revel was this Tuesday, and we have the pictures to prove it.
Hundreds convened at Cipriani 42nd Street to honor Lydia Davis with the Hadada Award. She received it from her high school classmate Errol Morris—“We played in the high school orchestra together,” she explained, “and he played the cello, and I played the violin. And I don’t know how well he played the cello, but I know I didn’t play the violin very well. So we were promising young musicians together.” Morris expressed a particular fondness for her essay on translating Madame Bovary, calling it “one of my favorite things ever.”
Davis’s speech was entirely improvised—or nearly entirely. She’d found herself “scrawling little notes in very small handwriting on a jiggling train” to New York, she said. Her husband, Alan Cote, attempted some encouragement, she told the crowd: “ ‘You know, Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the train.’ And I told him, Yes, that was probably easier.”
John Guare took the stage to award Chris Bachelder the Terry Southern Prize for Humor. Bachelder regaled the crowd with a story of the Review’s fact-checking prowess—suffice to say he’ll never again forget which pole the penguins come from. (Hint: not the North Pole.) He told us,
One of the paradoxes of the writing life is that, as you gain experience, you actually have fewer paths forward, and fewer habitable stances, and one stance that I find currently habitable is a kind of grave playfulness. And that’s a stance, among others, that The Paris Review supports and has always supported. And I think you can take that from a guy wearing a suit holding a model airplane.
David Szalay received the Plimpton Prize for Fiction from Rachel Kushner. “He may be new to me, and to the pages of The Paris Review,” she said, “but he’s a fully developed writer, whose wisdom, skill, and precision, whose sardonic wit, all come through wonderfully, leaving no awkward seams of labor or vanity.”
Take a look at the photos below—and we hope to see you next year!
Photos by Clint Spaulding / © Patrick McMullan / PatrickMcMullan.com Read More
Every April, at our Spring Revel—you have your ticket, don’t you?—the board of The Paris Review awards two prizes for outstanding contributions to the magazine. It’s with great pleasure that we announce our 2016 honorees, David Szalay and Chris Bachelder.
The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 award given to a new voice from our last four issues. Named after our longtime editor George Plimpton, it commemorates his zeal for discovering new writers. This year’s Plimpton Prize will be presented by Rachel Kushner to David Szalay for his novellas Youth, from issue 213, and Lascia Amor e siegui Marte, from issue 215.
The Terry Southern Prize is a $5,000 award honoring “humor, wit, and sprezzatura” in work from either The Paris Review or the Daily. It’s named for Terry Southern, a satirical novelist and pioneering New Journalist perhaps best known as the screenwriter behind Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider. Southern was a driving force behind the early Paris Review, as is amply demonstrated in his correspondence. This year’s Southern Prize will be presented by the playwright John Guare to Chris Bachelder for his comic masterpiece The Throwback Special, a novel serialized in our past four issues.
Recent winners of the Plimpton Prize include Wells Tower, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Emma Cline; Elif Batuman, Mark Leyner, and Ben Lerner have received the Southern Prize. The Review began awarding prizes to its contributors in 1956. Click here for a full list of past winners, including Philip Roth, David Foster Wallace, Christina Stead, Denis Johnson, and Annie Proulx.
Congratulations to Chris and David from all of us at the Review! We look forward to seeing you at this year’s Revel, on April 5 at Cipriani 42nd Street.
- In which Alex Mar gives neo-paganism a try and spends a weekend at a witches’ gathering, only to understand, through her skepticism, the communal appeal: “most humans, once they get in deep enough, will dig in their heels and commit to the value of an experience, because to change their minds and become, instead, openly critical involves a cutting off, a loss, that’s more than most of us want to bear … There’s pressure not to disappoint the group or ourselves, and it colors our individual results, the stories we’ll later tell of circling together. We’re each here, in part, out of a desire to share secrets with the tiniest of in-groups … All religious communities, to some degree, function in this way, bolstered by the collective’s dream of specialness—a specialness spun out of practices whose value can never be verified in the practical world.”
- Karl Wirsum has been making “boldly graphic interpretations of the human form” for more than forty years. Our managing editor, Nicole Rudick, talks to him about art, Harry Kari, and armor: “If you think of football players putting on the shoulder pads and other protective equipment, or a baseball catcher with the mask and the pads. It’s like armor, and armor really appealed to me, the abstraction attached to the human figure … the abstraction of the armor allows for movement and presents a fearsome quality to the wearer’s presence. I think about it as putting on a more stylized version of what’s underneath, which might look more realistic.”
- “Jon was quiet, and when he spoke, he told me that his cousin had been recently murdered. ‘My Aunt Margo used to call him a bad seed … He was an alcoholic, and he was murdered by his best friend after they had spent a day and a half drinking together. You can investigate the psychology of it, but basically my aunt was right: He was a bad seed … He and his friend were in a bar, and then they finally ran out of money, so they went home and continued drinking there, and apparently the friend got it in his head … that my cousin was interested in the friend’s daughter, and that led to violence.’ The details, Jon said, were horrifying. When his cousin was still conscious he was asked whether he wanted to be taken to the hospital, and the cousin said, ‘No, he’s my best friend. I don’t want to get him in trouble.’ ” Rachel Kushner talks to Jonathan Franzen in Santa Cruz.
- I’m eating leftovers for lunch today (tabbouleh, thanks for asking) and so participating in the latest phase of an ever-developing national conversation. Because in America we have a history of caring deeply about our leftovers, except when we don’t: “By the 1960s leftovers were becoming a joke to a lot of people, with a grumbling husband and a mystery casserole playing stock roles. That humor was a direct result of abundance. In the postwar era, a historically anomalous food economy was coming to define American culture, as the cost of food relative to income plummeted and even the poorest Americans were less desperate for calories than they had ever been … [but today] gleaning and scavenging and scrimping have become righteous statements in some quarters. Foraging, meanwhile, has been elevated to high cuisine.”
- It’s rare that an august publication like The New York Review of Books allows novices and first-timers among their ranks. But they’ve let this total nobody named Barack Obama interview Marilynne Robinson, and the guy, even more weirdly, goes all big-picture on the thing, turning it into a dialogue about America and democracy and religion and God knows what else …
From “Kang” through “Music,” pp. 116–140
This is the sixth entry in our Mating Book Club. (Sorry for the wait!) Read along.
This latest portion might be dubbed “The Critique of Pure Boredom,” especially given that our narrator name-drops Kant in the midst of it. Early on, she declares, “One attractive thing about me is that I’m never bored, because during any caesura my personal automatic pastime of questioning my own motives is there for me.”
Lest we doubt her, she goes on to wonder whether the journey she intends to undertake to Tsau is the byproduct of certain deep unconscious maternal longings, or something else. She dismisses any neo-Darwinian and Freudian interpretation of her behavior, wrangles with the question of that behavior in relation to Denoon’s childlessness (interesting, she notes), and the overpopulation problem, plus her sympathy for abandoned children globally. And she winds up wanting her decisions in the realm of relationships to be not only deliberate, but “deliberative,” which is where Kant enters into it. Slow and steady.
Yet in the world outside her head, she’s on a flatbed truck that’s flying at hair-raising speeds for 250 miles, with cornmeal, mail, and a “fiendish shavenheaded adolescent at the wheel.” Read More