Friday, September 30, 2016

Hemingway / The Art of Fiction

Ernest Hemingway
Poster by T.A.
Ernest Hemingway

The Art of Fiction 

No. 21

Interviewed by George Plimpton

Spring 1958
The Paris Review No. 18

You go to the races?

Yes, occasionally.

Then you read the Racing Form ... There you have the true art of fiction.

—Conversation in a Madrid café, May 1954

Ernest Hemingway writes in the bedroom of his house in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. He has a special workroom prepared for him in a square tower at the southwest corner of the house, but prefers to work in his bedroom, climbing to the tower room only when “characters” drive him up there.
The bedroom is on the ground floor and connects with the main room of the house. The door between the two is kept ajar by a heavy volume listing and describing The World’s Aircraft Engines. The bedroom is large, sunny, the windows facing east and south letting in the day’s light on white walls and a yellow-tinged tile floor.
The room is divided into two alcoves by a pair of chest-high bookcases that stand out into the room at right angles from opposite walls. A large and low double bed dominates one section, oversized slippers and loafers neatly arranged at the foot, the two bedside tables at the head piled seven-high with books. In the other alcove stands a massive flat-top desk with a chair at either side, its surface an ordered clutter of papers and mementos. Beyond it, at the far end of the room, is an armoire with a leopard skin draped across the top. The other walls are lined with white-painted bookcases from which books overflow to the floor, and are piled on top among old newspapers, bullfight journals, and stacks of letters bound together by rubber bands.
It is on the top of one of these cluttered bookcases—the one against the wall by the east window and three feet or so from his bed—that Hemingway has his “work desk”—a square foot of cramped area hemmed in by books on one side and on the other by a newspaper-covered heap of papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets. There is just enough space left on top of the bookcase for a typewriter, surmounted by a wooden reading board, five or six pencils, and a chunk of copper ore to weight down papers when the wind blows in from the east window.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

William Faulkner / The Art of Fiction

William Faulkner

William Faulkner

The Art of Fiction 

No. 12

Interviewed by Jean Stein

Spring 1956
The Paris Review No. 12

William Faulkner was born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, where his father was then working as a conductor on the railroad built by the novelist’s great-grandfather, Colonel William Falkner (without the “u”), author of The White Rose of Memphis. Soon the family moved to Oxford, thirty-five miles away, where young Faulkner, although he was a voracious reader, failed to earn enough credits to be graduated from the local high school. In 1918 he enlisted as a student flyer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He spent a little more than a year as a special student at the state university, Ole Miss, and later worked as postmaster at the university station until he was fired for reading on the job.
Encouraged by Sherwood Anderson, he wrote Soldier’s Pay (1926). His first widely read book was Sanctuary (1931), a sensational novel which he says that he wrote for money after his previous books—including Mosquitoes (1927), Sartoris(1929), The Sound and the Fury (1929), and As I Lay Dying (1930)—had failed to earn enough royalties to support a family.
A steady succession of novels followed, most of them related to what has come to be called the Yoknapatawpha saga: Light in August (1932), Pylon (1935), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Unvanquished (1938), The Wild Palms (1939), The Hamlet(1940), and Go Down, Moses, and Other Stories (1941). Since World War II his principal works have been Intruder in the Dust (1948), A Fable (1954), and The Town (1957). His Collected Stories received the National Book Award in 1951, as didA Fable in 1955. In 1949 Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Recently, though shy and retiring, Faulkner has traveled widely, lecturing for the United States Information Service. This conversation took place in New York City, early in 1956.

Mr. Faulkner, you were saying a while ago that you don’t like interviews.

The reason I don’t like interviews is that I seem to react violently to personal questions. If the questions are about the work, I try to answer them. When they are about me, I may answer or I may not, but even if I do, if the same question is asked tomorrow, the answer may be different.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grace Paley / The Art of Fiction

Grace Paley
Poster by T.A.
Grace Paley

The Art of Fiction 

No. 131

Interviewed by Jonathan Dee, Barbara Jones, Larissa MacFarquhar

Fall 1992
The Paris Review No. 124

When Grace Paley visits New York, she stays in her old apartment on West Eleventh Street. Her block has for the most part escaped the gentrification that has transformed the West Village since Paley moved there in the forties. The building where Paley lived for most of her adult life and where she raised her two children by her first husband, the filmmaker Jess Paley, is a rent-controlled brownstone walk-up with linoleum hallways. Mercifully spared mid-career renovations, Paley’s apartment retains the disheveled, variegated look of an apartment with children. Paley now lives in Thetford, Vermont with her second husband, poet and playwright Robert Nichols, but we arranged to speak with her in New York. We met her on the street outside her apartment—she was returning home from a Passover celebration with friends elsewhere in the city. We recognized her from half a block away—a tiny woman with fluffy white hair in a brown overcoat.
People often ask Grace Paley why she has written so little—three story collections and three chapbooks of poetry in seventy years. Paley has a number of answers to this question. Mostly she explains that she is lazy and that this is her major flaw as a writer. Occasionally she will admit that, though it is “not nice” of her to say so, she believes that she can accomplish as much in a few stories as her longer-winded colleagues do in a novel. And she points out that she has had many other important things to do with her time, such as raising children and participating in politics. “Art,” she explains, “is too long, and life is too short.” Paley is noticeably unaffected by the pressures of mortality which drive most writers to publish. Donald Barthelme scavenged her apartment for the stories that made up her first book, and her agent says she periodically raids Paley’s drawers and kitchen cabinets for material. Her first collection of stories, The Little Disturbances of Man, did not appear until 1959, when Paley was thirty-seven. Since then she has published just two collections of stories (Enormous Changes at the Last Minute in 1974 and Later the Same Day in 1985) and three collections of poems—Leaning Forward (1985). New and Collected Poems(1992) and Long Walks and Intimate Talks (1991). Though Paley is better known as a short-story writer than as a poet, her stories are so dense and rigorously pruned that they frequently resemble poetry as much as fiction. Her conversation is as cerebral and distilled as her prose. The oft-noted Paley paradox is the contrast between her grandmotherly appearance and her no-schmaltz personality. Paley says only what is necessary. Ask her a yes-or-no question, and she will answer yes or no. Ask her a foolish question, and she will kindly but clearly convey her impatience. Talking with her, one develops the impression that she listens and speaks in two different, sometimes conflicting capacities. As a person she is tolerant and easygoing, as a user of words, merciless. On politics Paley speaks unreservedly and in earnest, on writing, she is drier, more careful.
Grace Goodside was born in the Bronx in December 1922, seventeen years after her parents immigrated to New York and one year after the invention of the sanitary napkin (as she notes in her poem “Song Stanzas of Private Luck”). Her father, Isaac, was a doctor who learned English by reading Dickens and was, like her mother, Mary, a committed socialist. The family spoke Russian and Yiddish at home and English to the world with a Bronx twang that remains one of the more noticeable signs of Paley’s attitude towards the establishment. Writing has only occasionally been Paley’s main occupation. She spent a lot of time in playgrounds when her children were young. She has always been very active in the feminist and peace movements. She has been on the faculty at City College and taught courses at Columbia University, and until recently, Sarah Lawrence College.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Babies in boxes reveal extent of ongoing crisis in Venezuela

Newborns in cardboard boxes in Venezuela.

Babies in boxes reveal extent of ongoing crisis in Venezuela

A photo of six newborns in improvised cribs in a hospital has quickly gone viral

Caracas 26 SEP 2016 - 11:04 COT

A photograph has become the perfect testament of the scarcity Venezuelans are enduring. Six sleeping newborn babies in cardboard boxes in Domingo Guzmán Lander Hospital in Anzoátegui state (eastern Venezuela) provide a quintessential portrait of the current crisis in the oil-producing country. The picture has worn down the Nicolás Maduro administration’s efforts to beat back reports of total collapse. The image, taken on a cellphone, has quickly gone viral on the internet.

Infant mortality in Venezuela has climbed from 0.02% in 2012 to 2.01% in 2015

The government’s initial reaction has led to widespread criticism. Anzoátegui Governor Nelson Moreno said: “There’s no bad faith in that. If they are going to use a little box, they handle that little box with great creativity. They decorate it well, fix it up like a layette, and place it there, next to the mother.”
Yet the photograph is a true depiction of the consequences of the Venezuelan crisis. In August, the United Nations Rapporteur for Health expressed concerns about the rising rate of infant mortality in Venezuela, which climbed from 0.02 percent in 2012 to 2.01 percent in 2015. Last year, there were 243,638 births, and 4,903 of those newborns died, according to the Venezuelan Health Ministry. Doctors say infant mortality is on the rise because hospitals lack 85% of the medicines they need and they do not have enough supplies to meet minimum sanitary conditions.

The IMF estimates that inflation in Venezuela could reach 720% by the end of the year

As the medical crisis worsens, some say the Maduro administration has hit back against those who have reported such problems. Manuel Ferreira, director of human rights in Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the Venezuelan coalition of opposition groups, says Domingo Guzmán Lander doctors have faced intimidation for taking the picture. The Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS), the group that manages the hospital, blamed a doctor for placing the infants in boxes. According to the government, there were seven incubators available last week. “The institute will take the appropriate administrative actions for this kind of mistake and will collaborate if other institutions need to make pertinent investigations,” IVSS president Carlos Rotondaro said. According to Tomás Guanipa, a congressman in the opposition, doctors suspected of sharing the photo were summoned to meet with the Venezuelan national intelligence service.

Cardboard coffins

Scarcity has become a normal part of daily life in Venezuela. The Maduro government’s failed economic policies and falling oil prices only make the crisis worse. Economic projections are discouraging. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela could reach 720% by the end of the year while its economy continues to rely heavily on dropping oil prices and imports. Economic woes serve to add to the social drama. Boxes are not only used to make up for a shortage of incubators in hospitals. Many families that cannot afford the high cost of wooden and brass coffins bury their dead in cardboard caskets.
The idea came from Barquisimeto, a city in the state of Lara, in midwest Venezuela. “Right now death impoverishes a lot. The green casket is economical and affordable for Venezuelans who do not have the money to spend at that time,” says Elio Ángulo, an urn designer.
English version by Dyane Jean François.


Cover Story / The Book of Bruce Springsteen

Cover Story: The Book of Bruce Springsteen

For 50 years, the rock icon has turned his struggle into songs, his unrest into performance. Today, as he wraps up a top-selling tour and publishes a 500-page memoir, he is coming to terms with life out on the wire.



About an hour before every concert, Bruce Springsteen draws up a set list of 31 songs, written in big, scrawly letters in marker ink and soon thereafter distributed to his musicians and crew in typed-up, printed-out form. But this list is really just a loose framework. Over the course of an evening, Springsteen might shake up the order, drop a song, call a few audibles to his seasoned, ready-for-anything E Street Band, or take a request or two from fans holding handwritten signs in the pit near the front of the stage. Or he might do all of the above and then some—as he did on the first of the two nights that I saw him perform in Gothenburg, Sweden, this summer.

That night, at the last minute, Springsteen jettisoned his plan to open with a full-band version of “Prove It All Night,” from his 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and instead began the show solo at the piano with “The Promise,” a fan-beloved Darkness outtake. Eight songs in, he again went off-list, playing a stretched-out, gospelized version of “Spirit in the Night,” from his first album, 1973’sGreetings from Asbury Park, N.J., which he followed with “Save My Love,” a sign request. Onward he went with tweaks and spontaneous additions, to the point where, by the time the show was over, it was past midnight and Springsteen, a man approaching his 67th birthday, had played for nearly four hours—his second-longest concert ever.

“Yikes!” said Springsteen with mock alarm when I relayed this fact to him the next day, at his hotel in the Swedish port city. “I’m always in search of something, in search of losing myself to the music. I think we hit a spot last night where I was trying some songs we hadn’t played in a while, where maybe you’re struggling more. And then suddenly”—he snapped his fingers—“you catch it, and then, once you do, you may not want to stop.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Angelina Jolie / My Medical Choice

Illustration by Loren Capelli

My Medical Choice

By Angelina Jolie
Los Angeles, May 14, 2013

MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.

We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Angelina Jolie / By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea – Angelina’s Deep Dive into Grief

By Sasha Stone
Posted on November 6, 2015

That Angelina Jolie-Pitt asks us to remove what we know about Brad and Angie from our feelings for a film about a couple embroiled in an emotional tangle is maybe a little naive on her part. They have always used their celebrity to bring attention to the right causes, and for the films they’re involved in – we get parsed versions of their personal life from them, and an often dubious encyclopedia of their personal life from the gossip columns. There are some celebrities who are simply too big, too embedded in our collective minds that that they can never disappear into a role the way most actors can. This would include larger than life personalities like Barbra Streisand, Madonna and now Angelina Jolie. So it is with inevitable overlay of knowledge about the icon that people will watch By the Sea.

Angelina Jolie / By the Sea review – the bedroom as battlefield

Angelina Jolie
By the Sea

By the Sea review – the bedroom as battlefield


Newlyweds awaken Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s sex life in this slow-moving vanity project

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic
Sunday 13 December 2015 08.00 GMT

idely dismissed as a vanity project for its photogenic stars, this serves as the artsy European flipside to Mr & Mrs Smith, the enjoyably brash Hollywood smash-em-up that first spawned the Brangelina behemoth. Where Doug Liman’s 2005 action film found the couple trying to kill each other while falling in love, this finds them trying not to kill themselves while falling out of love. The 70s-set story largely unfolds in a lavish hotel suite in the scenic south of France (actually Malta), where blocked writer Roland (Brad Pitt) hits the bottle when given the cold shoulder by the medicated Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt, also writing and directing). But when attractive newlyweds (Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud) move in next door, a spy hole in the wall awakens dormant desires that blend voyeurism and revenge, with underlying grace notes of grief. There’s a hint of the psychopathy of The Comfort of Strangers or Blue Velvet as these dead souls play Peeping Tom with the living embodiments of their past, but Jolie Pitt is clearly aiming more for the spirit of Bergman, Buñuel or Antonioni. Sadly, away from the war zones of In the Land of Blood and Honey and Unbroken, she becomes somewhat becalmed and we end up more focused on Vanessa’s symbolically entombing Liz Taylor/Sophia Loren wardrobe than the emotional battlefields of the bedroom. As for the couple’s long-withheld secret, its eventual revelation is appropriately anticlimactic.


Angelina Jolie Says Beyond the Sea “first film completely based on my own crazy mind”

Angelina Jolie Says Beyond the Sea “first film completely based on my own crazy mind”

There aren’t many female auteurs who would get as much attention as Angelina Jolie. How many could get the cover of Vogue, for instance? But Jolie is just deciding to be one and because Unbroken made close to $100 million, she certainly has the cred to pull it off. Also, because By the Sea stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in a marriage, there’s a good chance a lot of people will want to see it. The cool thing about it, though, is that she’s expressing herself, auteur style, in a big public way. Any other female auteur making a film about what’s inside her head would be not known unless some critic  pulled her out from obscurity. Can anyone think of the last time that happened? The closest we get is Sofia Coppola who, like Jolie, started life with opportunity and fame. But even she couldn’t command a Vogue cover each and every time she puts out a movie. By the Sea will have its premiere at AFI and perhaps it will have a chance to crack the Oscar race in one or more categories. Right now, no one is predicting it for anything based on Unbroken’s reception. I hope, with this film, we’ll see the artist emerge.

If By the Sea is fully and completely a film coming from Angelina Jolie’s head it’s going to be interesting. From Vogue:
If her daily life is a large, sociable whirl, Angelina’s new film is an intimate, claustrophobic tale. She wrote By the Sea after her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of cancer eight years ago, and never thought it would see the light of day. She wanted to explore bereavement—how different people respond to it. She set the action in the seventies, when her mother was in her vibrant 20s, and began simply with a husband and wife. She gave them a history of grief, put them in a car, and drove them to a seaside hotel to see how the pair—Roland, a novelist with a red typewriter; Vanessa, a former dancer with boxes of clothes and hats—attend to their pain. Vanessa is frail, tortured, hemmed in. She feeds her mourning a diet of pills and suicidal fantasies. Roland is defeated by the seclusion of her anguish, and drinks. And so it goes on until innocent newlyweds move in next door. . . .
“It’s not autobiographical,” says Angelina, smiling. She shrugs off the fact that celebrity-watchers will have a field day trying to read into this movie. “Brad and I have our issues,” she offers, “but if the characters’ were even remotely close to our problems we couldn’t have made the film.” Yet the film is a deeply personal project, drawn loosely from her mother’s life. Jolie Pitt often talks about the sacrifice her mother made in giving up acting to raise her and her brother, James, after their father, Jon Voight, left. Later Bertrand’s work was cut short as a producer and activist for Native Americans and for the Give Love Give Life cancer organization she founded with her partner, John Trudell. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 49; she died seven years later. “My mother was an Earth Mother and the nicest person in the world,” says Jolie Pitt (pointing out that Vanessa in the movie is not). “But the specific grief came from the woman I was closest to, seeing her art slip away, her body fail her.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mary McCartney / This much I know / ‘My mum sang backing vocals on Let It Be’

Embrace, London, 2003
Photo by Mary McCartney


Mary McCartney: ‘My mum sang backing vocals on Let It Be’

The photographer, 47, on meeting the Queen, fear of flying and whistling really loudly

Shahesta Shaitly
Saturday 24 September 2016 14.00 BST

Photography is like magic to me. I was six or seven when my mum [photographer Linda McCartney] first took me to her dark room in Soho. I remember her placing a piece of white paper into the water bath and a black and white image appearing. I don’t remember what the picture was of: probably my dad, as they’d been on tour.
People would say I only got work because of my surname when I first started out. I’ve been in photography for over 20 years now, and I don’t think people commission me because of my name. At some point, the commissions would have dried up if I didn’t do what I do well.

Stella in Flower Field, Long Island, 2006
Photo by Mary McCarthey

Meeting the Queen was nerve wracking. I was asked to take her pictures at Buckingham Palace to mark her becoming the longest-reigning British monarch last September. It was definitely a moment for me, standing there in a room waiting for her to come in. She’s very switched on, very focused and in control. Which is what you want your queen to be, isn’t it?
Most people feel uncomfortable in front of a camera. They find it very hard to be themselves. Getting a natural expression, rather than someone’s “camera face”, is always my aim.

Kate in boots, 2004
Photo by Mary McCarthey

I can whistle really loudly. You know the two-fingered whistle? That. People are usually really surprised that I can do it.
I’m not a good plane traveller. My mum’s mother died in the first commercial airline crash in America – that big Pan Am flight – so I think knowing that has had quite a big effect on me. I try to rationalise it: there’s more chance of being in a car accident than in a plane crash.

Water Boy, Long Island, 1995
Photo by Mary McCartney

My greatest regret is not having taken more pictures of my family when I first started out. I think when I started I thought, “Don’t be obvious, don’t take pictures of your family,” and now I look back and dearly wish I had.
Interrupting people mid-sentence is my worst habit. I can’t help myself. I get overexcited in the middle of a conversation and I just butt in.

Photo by Mary McCartney

I’m not an angry person. It’s always the last resort to snap. I tend to let things build up and then it all comes out in a big rush, but not very often.
My favourite Beatles song has to be “Let It Be”. It’s the most personal one to me as it references my grandmother Mary, and my mum sang backing vocals on it. We were really close. She was quite a cool chick.

Mary and his fahter Paul McCartney

I don’t like to eat things that have been killed for my plate. When I left home I did try meat and fish, and I liked it, but it didn’t feel good so I stopped again. The environmental impact of eating animals is enough to keep me a vegetarian for life.
I’m always aware of how fortunate I’ve been in life. It’s not something I take for granted at all.