Okay: This one is really cool: Object Lessons features a bunch of short stories, some you may have read, each with a short lead-in (two-five pages) by another writer. So, we get Jeffrey Eugenides on Denis Johnson, or Ben Marcus on Donald Barthelme, or Lydia Davis on Jane Bowles, or Ali Smith on Lydia Davis. You know what, let me just share the table of contents (review down the line):
Love this passage from William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. Mocking “hipsterism” has been around forever (or at least 50 years):
And by now they were at the door of the Viareggio, a small Italian bar of nepotistic honesty before it was discovered by exotics. Neighborhood folk still came, in small vanquished numbers and mostly in the afternoon, before the two small dining rooms and the bar were taken over by the educated classes, an ill-dressed, underfed, overdrunken group of squatters with minds so highly developed that they were excused from good manners, tastes so refined in one direction that they were excused for having none in any other, emotions so cultivated that the only aberration was normality, all afloat here on sodden pools of depravity calculated only to manifest the pricelessness of what they were throwing away, the three sexes in two colors, a group of people all mentally and physically the wrong size.
Barry Hannah, The Paris Review, homebrewed ale.
Hey! Sex! Nicholson Baker, Dennis Cooper! Lydia Davis, Geoff Dyer (maybe not so sex). You can read the cover. Bolaño didn’t make the cover this time, and the third installment of The Third Reich is kinda skinny, but, sure, hey, another intriguing issue.
From The Paris Review’s interview with Barry Hannah—
But about the guns. When you left Alabama, there was an incident . . .
Yes, I was a tenured professor there, and I was fired. I had just been voted in, but I was too heavily into drinking. I was holding class at home or in my studio and they said, Don’t hold any more classes in your studio. And I said, Well, I will. I brought in an empty pistol once and, as I recall, twirled the chambers to explain six movements in a short story. And that is where the gun—pointing a gun at a student—rumor started, but I never pointed a loaded gun at anybody in my life. Even dead drunk. Never, never. I really don’t like that rumor now because of the school shootings. The world has changed so much. I still love my old .22’s from my youth, for shooting beer cans and rats in the city dump. I love the instrument. It’s just a beautiful, clean instrument—and the history —but I have never had any interest in pointing a gun at a person.
Do you remember what the six movements were?
No. I could make up something, but it would be untrue. There’s just three, anyway: beginning, middle, and end. I was com-plicating something that didn’t need to be any more complicated. At one time I’m sure I had six points in my head and they may have been decent, but I refuse to remember them because they’re not necessary now.
The rumor about pointing the gun was that you were playing your trumpet, trying to get their attention. When that didn’t work, you brought out the gun.
I did play my trumpet in class at Alabama. And at the University of Chicago. Blues solo. Ta da na tee. And I was pretty good sober but real loud and inappropriate in a small chamber. The people at Chicago enjoyed it, but a student complained at Alabama. Still, the trumpet’s a much better idea than bringing a pistol. It’s all alcoholism.
From The Paris Review’s interview with Louis-Ferdinand Céline–
If you could have it all over again, would you pick your joys outside literature?
Oh, absolutely! I don’t ask for joy. I don’t feel joy. To enjoy life is a question of temperament, of diet. You have to eat well, drink well, then the days pass quickly, don’t they? Eat and drink well, go for a drive in the car, read a few papers, the day’s soon gone. Your paper, some guests, morning coffee, my God, it’s lunchtime when you’ve had your stroll, eh? See a few friends in the afternoon and the day’s gone. In the evening, bed as usual and shut-eye. And there you are. And the more so with age, things go faster, don’t they? A day’s endless when you’re young, whereas when you grow old it’s very soon over. When you’re retired, a day’s a flash; when you’re a kid it’s very slow.
Beginning with its next issue, The Paris Review will serialize Roberto Bolaño’s “lost manuscript,” The Third Reich. The Wall Street Journal’ Speakeasy blog has a (very short) excerpt. An excerpt of that excerpt–
“Poor man,” I heard Hanna say.
I asked to whom she was referring; I was told to take a closer look without being obvious about it. The rental guy was dark, with long hair and a muscular build, but the most noticeable thing about him by far was the burns—I mean burns from a fire, not the sun—that covered most of his face, neck, and chest, and which he displayed openly, dark and corrugated, like grilled meat or the crumpled metal of a downed plane.
The Paris Review’s 1956 interview with William Faulkner is amazing. An excerpt–
INTERVIEWER: Then what would be the best environment for a writer?
FAULKNER: Art is not concerned with environment either; it doesn’t care where it is. If you mean me, the best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel. In my opinion it’s the perfect milieu for an artist to work in. It gives him perfect economic freedom; he’s free of fear and hunger; he has a roof over his head and nothing whatever to do except keep a few simple accounts and to go once every month and pay off the local police. The place is quiet during the morning hours, which is the best time of the day to work. There’s enough social life in the evening, if he wishes to participate, to keep him from being bored; it gives him a certain standing in his society; he has nothing to do because the madam keeps the books; all the inmates of the house are females and would defer to him and call him “sir.” All the bootleggers in the neighborhood would call him “sir.” And he could call the police by their first names.
So the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost. All the wrong environment will do is run his blood pressure up; he will spend more time being frustrated or outraged. My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.
INTERVIEWER: Bourbon, you mean?
FAULKNER: No, I ain’t that particular. Between Scotch and nothing, I’ll take Scotch.
Spanish-language blog La fortaleza de la soledad has republished The Paris Review’s interview with Jonathan Lethem. Cool interview–Lethem talks about his hippie parents, going to school with Bret Easton Ellis, explains why William Gibson is the new Thomas Pynchon, and discusses his novels at length. From the interview —
I felt I ought to thrive on my fate as an outsider. Being a paperback writer was meant to be part of that. I really, genuinely wanted to be published in shabby pocket-sized editions and be neglected—and then discovered and vindicated when I was fifty. To honor, by doing so, Charles Willeford and Philip K. Dick and Patricia Highsmith and Thomas Disch, these exiles within their own culture. I felt that was the only honorable path.
The Paris Review interviews David Mitchell in their new issue. An excerpt from their free excerpt:
INTERVIEWER I noticed this sentence in Number9Dream: “The cloud atlas turns its pages over.”
MITCHELL Wow, is that in Number9Dream? Then the phrase was haunting me earlier than I realized. “Cloud Atlas” is the name of a piece of music by the Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was Yoko Ono’s first husband. I bought the CD just because of that track’s beautiful title. It pleases me that Number9Dream is named after a piece of music by Yoko’s more famous husband, though I couldn’t duplicate the pattern indefinitely.
INTERVIEWER The epigraph to Number9Dream is from Don DeLillo: “It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams.”
MITCHELL The best line in the book and it’s not even mine.