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The Paris Review is an English-language literary magazine based in New York Citymarker. As its name suggests it was founded in Paris in 1953, for "the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe grinders. So long as they're good." It is best known for author interviews, in which the authors tell in their own words the craft of writing and criticisms of their own works; as well as a forum for new and upcoming authors. Prior to 2005 it focused on prose fiction and poetry, after which it also included nonfiction pieces and interviews with nonfiction writers. Some of the best work first published in The Paris Review is now available in book anthology form. The Paris Review awards a number of prizes each year, including the Plimpton Prize, a $10,000 prize awarded annually for the best work of fiction or poetry by an emerging or previously unpublished writer.

History

The founding editors were William Pène du Bois, Thomas H. Guinzburg, Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton and John P. C. Train. The first publisher was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, and the current publisher is Drue Heinz. George Plimpton was the publication's editor until his death in 2003. Du Bois, the magazine’s first art editor, designed its now iconic logo, The Paris Review eagle. It has both American and French significance: an American eagle holding a pen and wearing a Phrygian cap, a symbol of revolutionary France.

The magazine’s first office was located in a small room of the publishing house Les Editions de la Table Ronde. Staff members of The Paris Review were not given keys to the office, so those who worked late would have to climb out of the window, hang from the ledge and jump, often mistaken for burglars by passing gendarmes . Other legendary locations of The Paris Review include a Thames River Grain Carrier anchored on the Seine from 1956 to 1957, where editorial conferences were punctuated by jam sessions by musicians such as Alan Eager, Chet Baker, Peter Duchin, Kenny Clarke and David Amram. For practical reasons the office was soon relocated, owing in no small part to the lack of telephone communication. The Café de Tournon in the rue du Tournon on the Rive Gauche was the meeting place for staffers and writers, including du Bois, Plimpton, Matthiessen, Alexander Trocchi, Christopher Logue and Eugene Walter.

In the debut issue, one of the first advisory editors, William Styron, wrote in an introductory letter to readers:
I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe grinders.
So long as they're good.


Also in that first issue was an interview with E. M. Forster, whom Plimpton knew while studying at King’s College, Cambridge. Forster became the first in a long series of now-legendary author interviews. Plimpton went on to secure an interview with Ernest Hemingway, whom he met at a bar in Paris and who he said was the only person he ever saw buying a copy of the magazine. (This is surprising given the fact that Plimpton’s calling card doubled as a subscription form, which he was known to leave on bus seats and slip into people’s pockets: “No harm done. No harm filling one out.”) The interview series would become a trademark of the magazine, lauded for its groundbreaking insight into the life of the writer and the process of writing. It allowed authors to talk about their own work directly, as an alternative to literary criticism, and they have responded with some of the most revealing self-portraits in literature. Among the interviewees are William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, T. S. Eliot, Lawrence Durrell, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, and Ian McEwan. In the words of one critic, it is “one of the single most persistent acts of cultural conservation in the history of the world.” Although they have a venerable history, some of the interviews succeeded almost in spite of themselves: Graham Greene’s interview almost ended before it began when one of the interviewers turned up hungover and threw up in his hat on Greene’s doorstep.

The magazine's current publisher Drue Heinz shares the credit with the artist Jane Wilson for creating the magazine’s print series. In the early 1960s, Wilson asked a number of her peers to produce posters promoting the magazine in a limited edition of two to three hundred in an effort to raise funds for the magazine. Artists involved included Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning, and Andy Warhol, whose poster was a blow-up of a bill to The Paris Review for two bottles of scotch and one bottle of vodka from an Upper East Side liquor store. Fitting, given that during Plimpton's lifetime The Paris Review was well known for its wild parties in his New York apartment overlooking the East Rivermarker on East 72nd Street, where first-floor and basement rooms in the same building became the headquarters of the magazine since its move from Paris to New York in 1973. These parties were attended (or crashed) by many an aspiring young writer or editor. However, it is for its unmatched literary content that it has been lauded by its readers. Time magazine has hailed it as “The biggest ‘little magazine’ in history,” and Margaret Atwood said “The Paris Review is one of the few truly essential literary magazines of the twentieth century—and now of the twenty-first.”

Throughout its history, The Paris Review has introduced the important writers of the day. Adrienne Rich was first published in its pages, as were Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Mona Simpson, Edward P. Jones, and Rick Moody. Selections from Samuel Beckett's novel Molloy appeared in the fifth issue, one of his first publications in English. The magazine was also among the first to recognize the work of Jack Kerouac, with the publication of his short story, “The Mexican Girl,” in 1955. Other milestones of contemporary literature, now widely anthologized, also first made their appearance in The Paris Review: Italo Calvino's Last Comes the Raven, Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus, Donald Barthelme's Alice, Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries, Peter Matthiessen's Far Tortuga, Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides, and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.

The magazine today

Plimpton died September 25, 2003, leaving managing editor Brigid Hughes to take the reins. It was during this time that The Paris Review was accused by the Underground Literary Alliance of exercising covert influence over the editorial policy of The London Review of Books. An article published by the New York Times in 2007 supported the claim that founding editor Peter Matthiessen was in the CIA but stated that the magazine was used as a cover, rather than a collaborator, for his spying activities. In a May 27, 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Matthiessenstates that he "invented The Paris Review as cover" for himself when a CIA agent.

In 2005, the magazine’s board of directors (the magazine has been a 501 nonprofit since 2000) hired a search committee headed by Robert B. Silvers, the editor of The New York Review of Books, to find a permanent editor. Philip Gourevitch was deemed a fitting successor to Plimpton. Gourevitch had previously garnered accolades as a staff writer at the The New Yorker and as the author of A Cold Case (2001) and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (1998), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. Gourevitch impressed the search committee by proposing that The Paris Review could be “reinvigorated and slightly reconceived for a new century,” while still respecting its extraordinary legacy.

New look

His debut issue, appearing in September 2005, revealed the new look of The Paris Review. Physically, it is taller and trimmer – “a very hot date,” Gourevitch has quipped. Inside, the format has also been revitalized. Gourevitch internationalized the poetry content by publishing more poems by fewer poets in each issue, arranging previously scattered poems into folios and hiring Charles Simic, an emigrant from Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as one of the poetry editors. There is a decided preference for shorter poems in the new Paris Review as reflected by the fact that the Bernard F. Conners Prize for Poetry given by The Paris Review "for the finest poem over 200 lines published in The Paris Review in a given year," has not been awarded since 2004 according to the magazine.

Gourevitch also incorporated more nonfiction pieces and photography, which is now in color, into the magazine. The introduction of more nonfiction into the magazine met with immediate success: the new “Encounter” series has published Q&A sessions with the lower segments of Chinese society, including a corpse walker and a professional mourner; a prisoner trapped in a New Orleans prison during Hurricane Katrina; a Serbian assassin; and Laura Albert, the woman who pulled off the JT Leroy literary hoax. New fiction writers have also been discovered, most notably Benjamin Percy, whose story “Refresh, Refresh” from the Fall/Winter 2005 issue was the lead story in Best American Short Stories 2006 and won the 2007 Plimpton Prize for Fiction. There have also been new interviews with such literary legends as Salman Rushdie, Joan Didion, and Stephen King. In 2006 The Paris Review and Picador published a critically acclaimed volume of Paris Review interviews, selected from over fifty years of Writers at Work interviews.

The Paris Review accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art throughout the year. Submissions are accepted by mail only. They do not accept submissions by electronic mail; submission guidelines are available on the official website.

Contributors

Author interviews include Chinua Achebe, J. G. Ballard, Samuel Beckett, Joseph Brodsky, Italo Calvino, Simone de Beauvoir, Isak Dinesen, Lawrence Durrell, E. M. Forster, Athol Fugard, Gabriel García Márquez, Nadine Gordimer, Henry Green, Graham Greene, Seamus Heaney, P. D. James, Philip Larkinmarker, Malcolm Lowry, Ian McEwan, Paul Muldoon, Haruki Murakami, Les Murray, Vladimir Nabokov, V. S. Naipaul, Harold Pinter, and Derek Walcott.

American authors interviewed include Nelson Algren, Paul Auster, James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Bowles, Christopher Browne, William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, Marianne Moore, Wright Morris, Ezra Pound, Adrienne Rich, Philip Roth, Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut, Eugene Walter and John Edgar Wideman.

Contemporary fiction writers and poets include Miranda July, Ai, Donald Antrim, Alessandro Baricco, Rick Bass, Jim Carroll, Jeffrey Eugenides, Linda Gregg, Mohsin Hamid, Ann Hood, Daniel Kehlmann, Michael McFee, Lorrie Moore, Rick Moody, Mark Rudman, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, and Brenda Shaughnessy.

Critics interviewed include Harold Bloom, John Simon, George Steiner, and Helen Vendler.

For a more extensive list of contributors to the magazine, see the back issue section of The Paris Review's official site.

Other publications from The Paris Review

  • The Paris Review Interviews, Volume 1 (Picador, 2006, Canongate 2007)
  • The Paris Review Book of People with Problems (Picador, 2005)
  • The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, and Waiting Rooms (Picador, 2004)
  • The Paris Review Book of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travel (Picador, 2004)
  • Latin American Writers at Work (The Modern Library, 2003)
  • Playwrights at Work (The Modern Library, 2000)
  • Beat Writers at Work (The Modern Library, 1999)
  • The Writers Chapbook (The Modern Library, 1999)
  • Women Writers at Work (Random House, 1998)


Prizes

The magazine's editors announce these prizes in the Winter issue, with winners selected from stories and poems published in The Paris Review in a given year:
  • Plimpton Prize — $10000 awarded for the best work of fiction or poetry by an emerging or previously unpublished writer.
  • Aga Khan Prize for Fiction — $1000 awarded for the best short story.
  • Bernard F. Connors Prize for Poetry — $1000 awarded for the finest poem over 200 lines.
  • The Paris Review Hadada — a bronze statuette to be "awarded annually to a distinguished member of the literary community who has demonstrated a strong and unique commitment to the craft of writing." The award may go to a writer, reader, editor, publisher, publication, or organization.


References

  1. The Paris Review submission guidelines
  2. The Paris Review Back Issues
  3. The Paris Review: "Prizes", accessed November 2, 2006


External links




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