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The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 17, 2006
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Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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You won't be able to get their rueful, witty, snappish, and thoughtful voices out of your head. Here is Dorothy Parker, breathtakingly funny, brilliant, and self-deprecating. Truman Capote purring, "I am a completely horizontal author. I cannot think unless I'm lying down." Hemingway, recalcitrant and dismissive, dueling with George Plimpton in a revealing conversation containing the famous iceberg remark about writing: "There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows." As for poets, Donald Hall speaks with an urbane T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Spires with a bemusedly frank Elizabeth Bishop. Here, too, is an astonishing conversation with the erudite and gentlemanly Jorge Luis Borges, who speaks of Old Norse, Henry James, and the color yellow, and flinty Kurt Vonnegut remembering the bombing of Dresden and telling bad jokes. Several hundred of the Paris Review's justifiably celebrated literary interviews are available online, but these 16 exceptional slices of literary history belong in the form the interviewees devoted their lives to, namely a finely made book, always at hand, always compelling. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“The Paris Review books should be given out at dinner parties, readings, riots, weddings, galas -- shindigs of every shape. And they're perfect for the classroom too, from high schools all the way to MFA programs. In fact, I run a whole semester-long creative writing class based on the interviews. How else would I get the world's greatest living writers, living and dead, to come into the classroom with their words of wisdom, folly and fury? These books are wonderful, provocative, indispensible.” ―Colum McCann, novelist and Hunter College professor
“I have all the copies of The Paris Review and like the interviews very much. They will make a good book when collected and that will be very good for the Review.” ―Ernest Hemingway
“At their best, the Paris Review interviews remove the veils of literary personae to reveal the flesh-and-blood writer at the source. By exposing the inner workings of writing, they place the reader in the driver's seat of literature.” ―Billy Collins
“A colossal literary event--worth the price of admission for the Borges interview alone, and of course the Billy Wilder, and the Vonnegut, and and and and . . . Just buy this book and read it all.” ―Gary Shteyngart
“The Paris Review interviews have the best questions, the best answers, and are, hands down, the best way to steal a look into the minds of the best writers (and interviewers) in the world. Reading them together is like getting a fabulous guided tour through literary life.” ―Susan Orlean
“The Paris Review interviews are of course a genre unto themselves. We read them hoping the subjects will somehow betray themselves and pass their secrets for writing on to us. Although this never happens, the interviews bring us a little closer to understanding genius. This stellar collection of them is as good a place as any to start.” ―John Ashbery
“I have been fascinated by the Paris Review interviews for as long as I can remember. Taken together, they form perhaps the finest available inquiry into the 'how' of literature, in many ways a more interesting question than the 'why.'” ―Salman Rushdie
“The Paris Review's Writers at Work series is thrilling and terrifying, in part because the writers in the interviews are not technically at work. But nonetheless! here are their wise secrets, their funny stories, their habits, dubious opinions, financial complaints--these glimpses comprise an engaging and important literary record.” ―Lorrie Moore
“Nothing is lonelier or riskier than being a writer, and these interviews provide writers at all stages the companionship and guidance they need.” ―Edmund White
“The Paris Review interviews have always provided the best look into the minds and work ethics of great writers and when read together constitute the closest thing to an MFA that you can get while sitting alone on your couch. Every page of this collection affords a ludicrous amount of pleasure.” ―Dave Eggers
“The Paris Review interviews are objects of wonder that formed my first and fiercest impression of what it was to be an author. I still ascribe any vivid remembered quote to their pages, even when it didn't appear there.” ―Jonathan Lethem
“The Paris Review is one of the few truly essential literary magazines of the twentieth century--and now of the twenty-first.” ―Margaret Atwood
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process these interviews will have you riveted. I expected some ego and
posturing and there is a bit but most of the authors are amazingly honest....even
Hemingway as he picks and chooses what he wants to discuss. Most delicious is
when these writers give their take on fellow writers. Here's an example from
Joan Didion, "There's a passage by Christopher Isherwood in a book of his called
`The Condor and the Crows', in which he describes arriving in Venezuela and
being astonished to think that it had been down there every day of his life."
Dorothy Parker says, "And I thought William Styron's `Lie Down in Darkness' an
extraordinary thing. The start of it took your heart and flung it over there."
Best of all are their observations:
"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, xxxx
detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it."
"But novel writing is something else. It has to be learned, but it can't be
taught. This bunkum and stinkum of college creative-writing courses! The
academics don't know that the only thing you can do for someone who wants to
write is to buy him a typewriter."
James M. Cain
"I had begun to lose patience with the conventions of writing. Descriptions
went first; in both fiction and nonfiction, I just got impatient with those long
paragraphs of description. By which I do not mean--obviously--the single detail
that gives you the scene. I'm talking about description as a substitute for