lookihaveopinions

Tag: the paris review

Today, of all days

“On the day Brett Kavanaugh was voted into the Supreme Court despite multiple, very credible accusations of sexual misconduct, I left my apartment. I went around town, running errands while trying not to cry. I walked along Market Street. A man catcalled me. ‘Are you fucking kidding me,’ I said, flaring brave, for once, with fury. ‘Today, of all days.’

“It was late afternoon and I was on a crowded street, but even so, when I saw his face go rigid, I was terrified. I wished I hadn’t said anything. I walked away as fast as I could.”

—R. O. Kwon (x)

I wonder if that man knew what she was talking about. Probably not, right? It probably never occurred to him that catcalling makes you sound like a rapist. Even if it did, he probably wouldn’t make the connection between his own boorishness and the confirmation of a justice. Who knows, he may not even pay that much attention to the news. He may have the luxury of thinking the news doesn’t have much effect on his life. His face probably went rigid because he was taken aback, even embarrassed, to be mysteriously confronted by someone he thought was nothing to him, an unexpected human being, somebody he had angered and hurt. Maybe he’s been shaken. Maybe he won’t do it again.

I’m tagging this “failures of human connection” despite it being a situation where, on one side, a connection is hardly possible, and on the other side, it’s hardly even conceptualized.

Is it wrong, or sad, that I devote so much more thought to this man’s psychology than he has given it himself? Is it wrong, or sad, that I devote so little to the woman’s—and that I have so little need to?

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On Henry James and that thing he does

“He splits hairs until there are no longer any hairs to split, and the mental gesture becomes merely the making of agitated passes over a complete and disconcerting baldness.”

—Rebecca West (x)

Short story: “The Conversion of the Jews”

“The Conversion of the Jews,” by Philip Roth

Appeared in The Paris Review (issue 18, Spring 1958), online for subscribers here; collected in Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short StoriesPDF here

5406 words

A charming story of a child suddenly attaining power and not knowing what to do with it. Stories about children can do this really effectively—show the tension between a child’s need for personal power and their helplessness in the adult world.

According to this, The Paris Review got this story from the slush pile. Goodbye, Columbus was Roth’s first book.

On ricochet vision

“I often use the metaphor of Perseus and the head of Medusa when I speak of science fiction. Instead of looking into the face of truth, you look over your shoulder into the bronze surface of a reflecting shield. Then you reach back with your sword and cut off the head of Medusa. Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual.”

—Ray Bradbury (x)

I suppose short story writers want to do both

“Novelists want to flood, poets want to distill.”

—J. D. McClatchy (x)

On taste

“Taste is the expression of the pleasure a person takes in his own inner perplexities and satisfactions.”

—J. D. McClatchy (x)

Short story: “The Tragic Tale of the Baron and His Wife”

“The Tragic Tale of the Baron and His Wife,” by Witold Gombrowicz, translated by Tul’si Bhambry

Appeared in the Paris Review, Spring 2016, No. 216, at one time published online but now only excerpted; recommended by Longform; recommended by Biblioklept

1,628 words

Darkly funny.

The same Witold Gombrowicz who wrote “Lawyer Kraykowksi’s Dancer.”

Short story: “This is the Story”

“This is the Story,” by Craig Morgan Teicher

Appeared in the Paris Review, issue no. 216, spring 2016 (purchase), readable online

405 words

I’m tempted to use this as an outline, though the story it outlines is, I think deliberately, rather trite and literary. The last line hints at the futility of it all.

Kazuo Ishiguro on writing as a child

Ishiguro: I went to the local state primary school where they were experimenting with modern teaching methods. It was the mid-sixties, and my school rather complacently had no defined lessons. You could muck about with manual calculating machines, or you could make a cow out of clay, or you could write stories. This was a favorite activity because it was sociable. You wrote a bit, then you read each other’s things, and you read out loud.

I created a character called Mr. Senior, which was the name of my friend’s scoutmaster. I thought this was a really cool name for a spy. I got into Sherlock Holmes around then in a big way. I’d do a pastiche of a Victorian detective story that began with a client arriving and telling a long story. But a lot of the energy went into decorating our books to look exactly like the paperbacks we saw in the shops—drawing bullet holes on the front and putting quotations from newspapers on the back. “Brilliant, chilling tension.” —Daily Mirror.

Interviewer: Do you think the experience affected you as a writer?

Ishiguro: It was good fun, and it made me think of stories as effortless things. I think that stayed with me. I’ve never been intimidated by the idea of having to make up a story. It’s always been a relatively easy thing that people did in a relaxed environment.

—the Paris Review‘s Art of Fiction No. 196

Short story: “At the Zoo”

“At the Zoo,” by Caitlin Horrocks

Appeared in Issue No. 188 of the Paris Review, Spring 2009 and online here; collected in This Is Not Your City (Sarabande Books, July 2011)

4,709 words

This is good.

The story is set up so that we first wonder if the mad scientist is secretly the grandfather, then eventually discover that he doesn’t seem to know anything about it. And then—memory loss? Time travel? He doesn’t seem forgetful. It’s a mystery.