Our Spring Revel was Tuesday. Did you miss it? Don’t worry: we had the foresight to bring a photographer. Read More
We’re sad to learn that Robert Silvers has died, after a brief illness, at the age of eighty-seven.
It is hard—both painful and disorienting—to imagine the world without him. The New York Review of Books, which he founded with the late Barbara Epstein during the newspaper strike of 1962, and which he continued to edit until his death, was an experiment whose like we will never see again. And it has remained exactly what it was from the beginning: a journal of criticism and ideas that can speak on equal terms to scientists, poets, philosophers, novelists, and politicians, but in prose the common reader can understand. Read More
In recent years, I’ve taken to buying the oldest issues of The Paris Review, despite the fact that the entire run is now available digitally right here on the website. There’s a certain joy in paging through the actual paper, the names within both familiar and unfamiliar, the styles waxing and waning with the years, sometimes bringing to them a level of obscurity that feels utterly lost. But other times, there might come a name I don’t recognize, and with it a story or poem that draws me toward something essential, something I didn’t know I needed.
For me, James Leo Herlihy was just such a surprise. I still don’t really know how to say his last name without sounding like an idiot, and this alone may have provided reason enough for me to read the first piece of his I encountered in a crumbling physical copy of The Paris Review’s ninth issue, Summer 1955, and titled, perhaps fittingly (or not), “A Summer for the Dead.” Read More
In memory of Paula Fox, who died last week at age ninety-three, we’re looking back at a series of essays published on the Daily in 2013, when Fox received The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize for lifetime achievement.
First, Tom Bissell has the story of how, as a twenty-four-year-old editorial assistant, he brought Fox’s masterpiece, Desperate Characters, back into print:
W. W. Norton, the house that employed me, had encouraged me to come up with “ideas” for the paperback committee, which at the time felt like a huge honor. Correction: it was a huge honor. I had a few ideas, most of which, I was gently informed, stank. But one didn’t.
- Listen, before I break the bad news, I want to say something: we all love hunks. No one is saying that hunks are bad, or that you don’t deserve a hunk in your life, let alone your fantasies. It’s just … are you sitting down? … Mr. Darcy was probably not a hunk, if we’re being honest. I know, I know, you’ve been turning the pages of Pride and Prejudice imagining Colin Firth for years now—we all have—that guy’s cut from fucking marble. But two professors have generated “the first historically accurate portrait” of Mr. Darcy and—think about it—why would he be a hunk? He was a gentleman, not a laborer! Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura writes, “The ‘real’ Mr. Darcy would have been pale and pointy-chinned, and would have had a long nose on an oval, beardless face. His hair, strangely, would have been white. And he would have been slightly undernourished, with sloping shoulders—‘more ballet dancer than beefcake,’ according to one of the authors … A real-life Mr. Darcy in that era would have been a ‘far cry from muscular modern-day television representations’ portrayed by actors such as Mr. Firth, Elliot Cowan and Matthew Macfadyen, the study concluded.”
- Alexander Nazaryan stopped by our office to talk about literature in the age of Trump, and to go spelunking in our back issues: “Diving into the digital archive, as I did, is a bracing reminder of the artist’s duty in times of national crisis—and there were very few times in the Review’s first two decades when the nation wasn’t in crisis … Thus you have William Styron publishing an excerpt from his hotly debated The Confessions of Nat Turner, a novel of racial violence for a nation fighting over race anew; Edward Hoagland’s short story “The Witness” (1967), written from the perspective of a young man in New York ‘full of minority sympathy’; the poet Ted Berrigan, writing in 1968, in the bleakest days of Vietnam: ‘The War goes on & / war is Shit’; David Lehman admitting in 1995 that he’d never liked the towers of the World Trade Center, but after they were bombed in 1993, he suddenly came to appreciate “the way the tops / of the towers dissolve into white skies / in the east when you cross the Hudson”; the violent silhouettes of slavery life by artist Kara Walker, published in the Review in 1999, seven years before her career-making solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.”
Anyone who wades into The Paris Review’s files—particularly material from the early days in Paris, in the 1950s—enters a kind of historical haze. It’s difficult to separate the fact from the fiction, the magazine’s real history from its lore. Reliable records are hard to come by. Certain documents, contracts in particular, are nonexistent.
The first time I met Willa Kim, she rescued me from such a haze. Read More