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The Biggest Little Magazine in History

To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of The Paris Review, Charlie Rose interviewed several of the many famous writers who have published in the little magazine. The half-hour segment is well worth a watch. Writers featured include John Jeremiah Sullivan (Scott Moringiello has written about Sullivan here; I've written about him here) and James Salter (whose new novel, All That Is, I'll be reviewing in a future column).

About the Author

Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY. His book on poetry and theology in the modernist period is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.



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INTERVIEWER: How about the Beats? Someone like Jack Kerouac, for instance, who died a few years ago?

WODEHOUSE: Jack Kerouac died! Did he?


WODEHOUSE: Oh . . . Gosh, they do die off, don’t they?

Their interviews are basically the best. They were going to digitize all of them, but I guess there was profit to be had.

Interviews are great; many from the past have been published in several paperback volumes: Volume II, Graham Greene, James Thurber, Eudora Welty, Isaac Bashevis Singer, etc..

From the Harold Bloom interview

I think the crucial experiences for me as a reader, as a child, did not come reading the Hebrew Bible. It came in reading poetry written in English, which can still work on me with the force of a Bible conversion. It was the aesthetic experience of first reading Hart Crane and William Blake—those two poets in particular.

How old were you at this point? 

I was preadolescent, ten or eleven years old. I still remember the extraordinary delight, the extraordinary force that Crane and Blake brought to me—in particular Blake’s rhetoric in the longer poems—though I had no notion what they were about. I picked up a copy of the Collected Poems of Hart Crane in the Bronx Library. I still remember when I lit upon the page with the extraordinary trope, “O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits / The agile precincts of the lark’s return.” I was just swept away by it, by the Marlovian rhetoric. ...

Could you give us your opinion of some novelists? We could start with Norman Mailer.

Oh, I have written on Norman a lot. I reviewed Ancient Evenings at some length in The New York Review of Books and I came forth with a sentence that did not please Norman, which I’m still proud of. It was, “Subscribers to the Literary Guild will find in it more than enough humbuggery and bumbuggery to give them their money’s worth.” I had counted up the number of homosexual and heterosexual bumbuggeries; I was rather impressed by the total, including, unless I misremember, at one point the protagonist or perhaps it was the godking successfully bumbuggering the lion. But then Norman is immensely inventive in this regard.

He also talks about TV evangelists, the Yankees, Freud, feminism, MTV, Faulkner, Pynchon, Melville, the Bronx...

And how about this exchange between Terry Southern and the great British novelist Henry Green? (For context, by the time of the interview Green was close to deaf.)


I've heard it remarked that your work is “too sophisticated” for American readers, in that it offers no scenes of violence—and “too subtle,” in that its message is somewhat veiled. What do you say?


Unlike the wilds of Texas, there is very little violence over here. A bit of child killing, of course, but no straight shootin'. After fifty, one ceases to digest; as someone once said: “I just ferment my food now.” Most of us walk crabwise to meals and everything else. The oblique approach in middle age is the safest thing. The unusual at this period is to get anywhere at all—God damn!


And how about “subtle”?


I don't follow. Suttee, as I understand it, is the suicide—now forbidden—of a Hindu wife on her husband's flaming pyre. I don't want my wife to do that when my time comes—and with great respect, as I know her, she won't . . .


I'm sorry, you misheard me; I said, “subtle”—that the message was too subtle.


Oh, subtle. How dull!

Margaret, I snatched those up (even though the PR had already collated most of them in various series throughout the 70s and 80s).

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