Monday, January 11, 2010

Paris Review-y

Word people will say anything.

Philip Gourevitch: To ask a Paris Review-y first question--[parenthetical digression regarding the nature of such questions, and one I did not write down]--what made you want be a writer?

This he asked of Richard Price, at a Barnes & Noble live interview this evening. Price is so seasoned, and, I wager, so good with dialogue, that he dropped one memorable sentence after another. He spoke the way many writers write people speaking (Jersey City is a "total throw-and-go city," "I just wanted to eat the whole world," "They let you into the house of their life"). He spoke the way one entering the world of letters would imagine that people in that world speak--which, in the main, they do not. What might have come off as fey or potted from a man with less street cred came off simply as sexy.

I have never actually read Richard Price's work, by the way (though I've made the attempt). Just not my thing. He did laud Last Exit to Brooklyn, which is a book I liked a very long time ago, difficult as it was. (I believe James Purdy was also a fan of Selby's novel.)

At any rate: It was striking that Gourevitch used the locution. It is not one I would have guessed he would use.

I will only add that The Paris Review--or, rather, a party in the 1980s at George Plimpton's apartments--showed me firsthand what kinds of freedom could be found in the world of letters. New York appeared downright beautiful in a way I had never seen. Of course, I was a tourist to that world, not an inhabitant, and the view changes once you move in. (There are some people still here who embody that party, and that place, and that time.) I don't even know if I would call that party a Paris Review-y party, but it was certainly a party at George Plimpton's.

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