- In 1791, a fifteen-year-old Jane Austen wrote The History of England, a satirical pamphlet “by a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian,” featuring watercolor illustrations by her sister, Cassandra.
- Out of print and in demand: What are the most sought-after books no longer being published? Norman F. Dixon’s On the Psychology of Military Incompetence (1976) leads the list—there’s also “an enthusiast’s guide to building bamboo fly-rods” and Madonna’s Sex.
- Tom Stoppard’s new play is opening at the National Theatre in London. Tickets are very hard to come by—it might be easier just to write your own Tom Stoppard play. Here’s a step-by-step guide. Remember, “what you’re aiming for is intellectual sparring that manages to be tragic and comic at the same time, while alluding to a universal emotional truth and revealing a vast, in-depth knowledge of the literary canon. Basically like the way you think you talk to your oldest friend when you’re both drunk. Do not shy away from paradox and metatextuality!”
- Or maybe you’d rather try your hand at some fiction from Africa. In 2006’s How to Write About Africa, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina advised, “Always use the word Africa or Darkness or Safari in your title … be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention … Africa is doomed.” But in the years since he made those pronouncements, “writing from Africa has flowered, and many of those clichés have been dispelled … This is a fertile moment when young writers are emerging as some of the elders they grew up reading are still at their peak … This cross-generational richness enhances a literature that today ranges from dirty realism and crime thrillers to science fiction, digital serials and graphic novels.”
- One man’s intrepid journey into the craft of hand-making lace: “I had no teacher, and unlike knitting classes in knitting stores, never considered that I could find one even in a metropolis like New York City. Indeed, if you ask employees in yarn stores if they have any tatting supplies, half will not know what you are talking about and say no, and the other half will know what you are talking about but still say no.”
- “It’s about eating lunch. They eat salad and cake. All they do is eat”: in which a two-year-old judges books by their covers.
- “He tends to devoice a lot of the fricatives, but I take that purely as an idiolectal variant”: an (in-depth) interview with the linguist who created Game of Thrones’ multiple languages.
- Fifty authors, including Hilary Mantel, Tom Stoppard, and John Banville, have contributed annotated first editions to an English PEN auction. Which is to say, they can (theoretically) be yours.
- The Henry Miller Memorial Library decamps temporarily to Miller’s hometown of Brooklyn for the Big Sur Brooklyn Bridge festival.
- Ishiguro on film, Tóibín on opera: six novelists on their second-favorite art forms.
We asked, you answered: the thunderous response to our Arcadia ticket giveaway contest made this a tough decision for the panel of judges. The challenge was to write a couplet answering the question “Does Carnal Embrace Addle the Brain?” Entries ranged from the sublime, to the very long, to the ridiculous—with everything (and a lot of adult content) in between. The winners were chosen by an elite panel selected for their expertise—and experience—in brain-addled behavior. Criteria included keeping to couplet form; topical subjects; inventiveness; or anything that made us laugh.
Our winner gets a pair of tickets to Broadway’s Arcadia; our three runners-up will receive ever-chic Paris Review tees.
He made up the apple to hide his depravity.
Testicles dangled. “My God!” he said. “Gravity!”
Brains and dicks are of similar stuff.
One used unrestrained causes horrors enough.
To all police, when on (or off) duty,
Protect, not rape, shirtless, blacked-out booty.
And Our Winner:
Carnal Embrace Turns a King Into a Beggar
And makes a Single Man out of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Congratulations, Guy and thank you all participants for many entertaining (and occasionally alarming) hours! Stay tuned for more competitions in the future …
I’ve been poring over Robert Walser’s Microscripts, a selection from the cache of papers covered in demonically miniaturized handwriting he left at his death. The stories are wonderfully odd, and the book itself is a beautiful object. It includes color reproductions of the manuscripts—often written on the backs of business cards—as well as the deciphered German originals. Walter Benjamin’s afterword praises Walser’s “artful clumsiness,” and I would do the same for Susan Bernofsky’s translation. —Robyn Creswell
I’ve been stealing moments all week to read Katherine Larson’s book of poems, Radial Symmetry. The synthesis of experience and curiosity that Larson no doubt uses in her work as a field ecologist and research scientist is here applied to verse. The natural world has never felt more physical, more alive with tiny movements and infinite textures—and so titillating, as when she writes, “We hear the cactus whisper / pollinate me furry moth.” —Nicole Rudick
Alexander Chee shared an old essay of his on Twitter this morning about being a student of Annie Dillard’s: “You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.” —Thessaly La Force
After seeing a spectacular production of the play on Broadway, I’ve rediscovered Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. It’s a play about love, sex, transcendence (if there is any), and whatever it is that defines the human experience across time and space. But it also reminds us of the beauty and sustaining force of wonder; “it’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” because when all is said and done, “when we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” —Elianna Kan
In Anthony Burgess’s The Pianoplayers, a retired prostitute tells the story of her father, a man who “called himself not a pianist but a pianoplayer.” (No space between piano and player—that was how close he and the piano were.) The entirely fictional yet perfectly matter-of-fact recollection of a difficult father takes the narrative form of a memoir and turns it on its head. Given my absorption in Burgess’s novel, it was an especially interesting week to experience Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron’s memoir of her father, the literary icon (and friend of The Paris Review) William Styron. —Rosalind Parry
Military dogs jumping out of helicopters. Sick. —Natalie Jacoby