In March, The Paris Review launched The Art of Distance, a newsletter highlighting unlocked archive pieces that resonate with the staff of the magazine, quarantine-appropriate writing on the Daily, resources from our peer organizations, and more. Read Emily Nemens’s introductory letter here, and find the latest unlocked archive pieces below.
“ ‘To engage your humor and your emotions, that’s quite a trick,’ T. C. Boyle says in his Art of Fiction interview. ‘I’d like to think that I’m able to do that, to keep the reader off balance—is this the universe of the comedy or the tragedy? or some unsettling admixture of the two?—to go beyond mere satire into something more emotionally devastating, and gratifying. If that ain’t art, I don’t know what is.’ Paris Review humor aspires to strike that balance, pull off that trick: taking all the emotional and intellectual and aesthetic requirements of literary storytelling and throwing in what E. B. White calls ‘the sly and almost imperceptible ingredient’ of durable humor. This week, enjoy some levity on us. I think we could all use a few belly laughs.” —EN
I first fell for E. B. White as a little girl, upon reading Charlotte’s Web. I loved him again when, at the conclusion of my first editing job, at the Metropolitan Museum, my boss gave me Maira Kalman’s illustrated Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. I became a fan a third time when I realized White was Roger Angell’s stepdad: What were their dinner conversations like? Lively, based on some action-packed passages in his Art of the Essay interview. Punctuation has never been so threatening (“Commas in The New Yorker fall with the precision of knives in a circus act, outlining the victim”), nor children’s capacity for new vocabulary so vivid (“Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net”). Also not grandiose, based on his modest assessment of success (on reviving Strunk’s Elements of Style: “It cost me a year out of my life, so little did I know about grammar”) and his utter devotion to Katherine White. He also discusses midcentury satire, recaptioning cartoons, and other funny things in a charming, casual way that the interviewers George Plimpton and Frank Crowther describe as having the “off-hand grace” of an improvising dancer. I call it a fourth arrow in the heart. —EN Read More