Our complete digital archive is available now. Subscribers can read every piece—every story and poem, every essay, portfolio, and interview—from The Paris Review’s sixty-three-year history. Subscribe now and you can start reading 0ur back issues right away. You can also try a free ten-day trial period. Below, Norman Rush recommends a story from our Summer 1996 issue by Guy Davenport.
The other day I realized that the contemporary American writer whose personal journals I most wished I could read before I die was Guy Davenport. In my scan, I included masters in every specialty—poetry, the essay, plays, short and long fictions. It still came out Davenport.
And it was Davenport because of his achievements in fiction. I mean his latter-day fictions. He tried, and then abandoned, the conventional narrative-driven change-of-consciousness short story early in his career while distinguishing himself in poetry, translation, and criticism. Twenty years elapsed, and then he emerged, utterly remade, as a creator of experimental prose works. his stories are unique constructs. They are put together with elegant skill and power and tend toward the unclassifiable. In fact, scrutinous readers may change their minds more than once in the matter of what exactly it is that they are reading: Are these essentially armatures for Davenport’s aphorisms and philosophical asides? Are they primarily demonstrations of the possibilities in the interpenetration of poetic and prose forms (and visual—he sometimes illustrated his pieces). Are they freestanding baubles? In his “inhabiting,” in his writing, of the minds of iconic figures in the history of Western art and thought, is he being obscurely didactic? Is he subtly deconstructing the inner lives of culture heroes like Picasso and Diogenes?—What? Read More