The Old Soak is a hauntingly one-note character, and one wonders exactly what about his alcoholism made him such a bankable franchise. Imagine the pitch meetings that followed: “He’s a lush, see? He wants to booze it up, but he can’t, because of that cursed eighteenth amendment!” Yuks ensue, contracts are signed, and everyone has a glass of whiskey.
Posts Tagged: Paris Review
Over at the Paris Review, Dan Piepenbring talks about James Wright’s famous epiphanic poem Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota, in conjunction with Ann Beattie’s new story Yancey, and the general discussion and controversy of the poem’s famous last line: “I have wasted my life.”...more
This year marks Dante’s 750th birthday. But on what date should The Rumpus host our purgatorio-themed party? More importantly, what was Dante’s zodiac sign?
If you’re a fastidious reader of The Divine Comedy and your horoscope, you should know the answer without a date: Dante’s journey to the Underworld is a classic Gemini move....more
As a first time novelist, I thought it would be fun to read what people had said about my book [on Amazon]… One of them said that it read like an MFA exercise. And that really hurt, because it was an MFA exercise.
Over at the Paris Review, in an interview with Leanne Shapton, Julavits answers each question with an eBay auction listing. What listing would you choose to answer the query, “What sort of highly valuable or beloved object would you feed to a shark to save your life?” Hopefully not your copy of Women in Clothes, coedited by Shapton, Julavits, and Sheila Heti....more
That gratuitous attention to detail may explain why these scenes jump out at readers, but it doesn’t explain Knausgaard’s minor obsession with shit.
In response to the news that Nintendo and Netflix may be developing a Legend of Zelda TV series, Ted Trautman at the Paris Review blog examines the character development and narrative structure (or lack thereof) of video games and wonders if it’s possible for a video game to tell a good story....more
Although Victor Hugo is best known for his novels, the author had an avid interest in the visual arts as well. However, Hugo didn’t publish his visual artwork, fearful that his drawings might interfere with his literary projects. According to his son’s notes about his father’s process, Hugo would often complete his drawings “with a light shower of black coffee” directly onto the paper....more
All that is nonsense though. Write what you like. If you haven’t facts make up with lyricism.
In 1892, Anton Chekhov sent a letter to V. A. Tihonov including a fictitious 200-word bio. 123 years later to the day, the letter has been translated into English by Constance Garnett over at the Paris Review....more
With the help of math and computers, a University of Nebraska English professor has been plotting the basic shapes of novels (spoiler: there are six), but this time in a new way. Instead of focusing on plot as action, Matthew Jockers is tracking the positive or negative charge of words to reveal plot as emotional movement....more
After a Times article last March criticized Spain (and its literary establishment) for failing to unravel the mystery of the precise location of Miguel de Cervantes’s grave, a reinvigorated search may have finally yielded results. Cervantes was buried in Madrid’s Trinitarias convent, but the specific site was not marked (or not marked well); the discovery of a casket with the initials M....more
(adj.); bearing or bringing cold; from the Latin frigus (“cold”)
There’s no denying it, as much as we might wish to: the Northern Hemisphere is in the midst of the coldest part of the year. We temper the icy storms with romantic images of thick woollen scarves and roaring fires and leftover roasted chestnuts, but the cold truth of the matter is, it’s frightfully frigiferous out there....more
And when you report back to your own daily world after experiencing the strangeness of a world sort of recombined and reordered in the depths of a poet’s soul, the world looks fresher somehow.
To pay homage to the passing of Mark Strand last Saturday, The Paris Review opened its archive and published a manuscript page of the poet’s “A Piece of the Storm,” as well as some interview quotes and a poem from 1992....more
In essence, the American Book Awards are to the National Book Awards as New Coke is to Coca-Cola Classic, i.e., a complete fucking disaster, one that all parties involved would prefer to forget.
The Paris Review takes a look at the brief, dark moment when the National Book Awards tried to re-brand themselves....more
Smart was known, with his “disturbed mental state,” for his loud, feverish, constant praying, and you can read some of that catatonia in Jubilate, with its litany of “for”s and its incantatory quality.
Over at the Paris Review, Dan Piepenbring introduces us to Christopher Smart, an interesting, unknown poet from the XVIII century who is featured in the Public Domain Review‘s very first print anthology, the newly published The Book of Selected Essays, 2011-2013....more
The sound you hear when you put ice cubes into warm (but not hot) water—that subtle but quick crackling—is the sound all around you in the summer fjords near glaciers. There is ice everywhere in the water, the size of your fist and the size of small islands, and because the water is only a few degrees above freezing, the ice cracks slowly, abundantly.
For the burgeoning field of Critical Bibliography, “the study of the physical characteristics of books and the process of bookmaking,” Rare Book School is the highlight of the year. The Paris Review’s Benjamin Breen reports from the annual conference out of UVA, where old-school book enthusiasts gather to share in the examination of woodcuts, medieval manuscripts, and specimens like a gold-edged copy of Encyclopédie with Diderot’s handwritten notes in the margins....more
The Paris Review blog discovers that in publishing the “sky is always falling.”
Every year is an abysmal year for books and a terrific year for books. Editors no longer edit, except when they do; publishers care only for their bottom line, except when they don’t; the three-martini lunch is always dead, always quietly continuing.
Listing our literary patrons of sex-ed, Leonard Cohen doesn’t immediately come to mind. And yet:
Cohen, who turns eighty on Sunday, is exceptionally good at drawing out those moments of sexual crystallization. It’s a skill that, along with his gravelly voice and poems about women’s bodies, has given him a reputation for being a “ladies’ man.” Judging by the adoring crowds at his shows, it’s a reputation he deserves.
In 1906, aged 21, D.H. Lawrence wrote to his future fiancée Louise Burrows with writing advice after reading an essay on art she’d sent to him. Among many other remarkable lines, the British author told Burrows that “[l]ike most girl writers you are wordy” and suggested not being “didactic; try and make things reveal their mysteries to you, then tell them over simply and swiftly, without exaggerating as I do....more
Over at the Paris Review, Jason Novak has taken up the pen again; this time, he’s turned to authors and their eccentricities. Among his observations:
“Somewhere Hemingway is sitting quietly at his desk. Pouring another bull. And fighting another drink.”
Other targets include Don DeLillo, Jane Austen, Hegel, Nabokov, Heidegger, and the state of Publishing itself....more
The Paris Review has an excerpt from Peter Mendelsund’s book What We See When We Read that questions what we think we know about characters. Mendelsund points out that many of us feel like we know our favorite characters intimately, but when asked about what they look like don’t have specific answers....more
Turns out that both Jorge Luis Borges and Jean-Paul Sartre reviewed Orson Welles’s masterpiece Citizen Kane, and neither of them particularly cared for the film. Needless to say, the director didn’t take this very well.
Head over to the Paris Review to read both of the writers’ critiques of the movie, and Welles’s response....more
This was my first experience of being fictionalized. I still recall the yellow-white flash of queasiness, the mortification: a sense of powerlessness and an utter lack of recourse.
What if a writer friend—or, worse, relative—of yours turned you into one of his characters, maybe in an unflattering way?...more
Let’s dedicate this week to the publications, editors, and benevolent marketing gurus who unleashed a whole bunch of quality FREE short fiction to us. Under the shadow of the FCC’s impending decision as to whether or not net neutrality will continue, these all-you-can-read buffets taste even sweeter....more
The Baffler has a newly designed website, which includes all of its 25 issues, available for free. With so much talk about the New Yorker opening its digital gates this summer, let’s not forget “the Journal that Blunts the Cutting Edge.” If you need some ideas of where to start, Dan Piepenbring has recommendations at the Paris Review....more