I’m not one of those people who pretends to read more than I actually I do. So I’m going to admit that I skipped most of the content in the most recent issue of The Paris Review. Is this because I am a lazy reader or is that the content just wasn’t particularly engaging?
I’m going to go with The Paris Review’s summer issue isn’t what it should be. It featured two long interviews with writers I don’t care about (William Gibson and Samuel R. Delany) and the second section of the Roberto Bolano’s serialized novel, “The Third Reich”. Once I have the entire novel I may read it, but too much time passes between issues for me to read each section separately.
One of the items I did enjoy was the poem “Churches” by Kevin Prufer. I’m a self-proclaimed poetry moron, but every now and again I read one that I like. It was a poem that read almost like a very short story about two kids standing in a gift shop in Arizona and the demise of his father.
Another poem, “Arabia,” by Frederick Seidel was more what I’m used to: annoying and contrived. I hate it when poets rhyme unless it’s for children’s books. The last line of the poem is “It looks like spring out there on Broadway meant/Barack Obama to be president.” Really? This is what The Paris Review is publishing these days? Ugh.
There were a couple unremarkable short stories about a drug-induced telephone romance and one about a bitter, divorced man whose daughter hates him. One story I enjoyed was Jonathan Lethem’s “The Empty Room,” a slightly creepy story about growing up in a house where one room is designated as forever empty. The narrator’s father insists it remain empty, but that anyone can use it for whatever they want. In the end, the father’s sanity has dwindled away and the room is used for stranger and stranger purposes.
The art in this issue was from two female artists, Laurel Nakadate and Mika Rottenberg. Rottenberg’s photos and film stills are at least interesting with vivid colors and unattractive people doing normal and sometimes strange things (like smelling flowers, or holding cloth up with toes). Nakadate’s work, however, struck me as being a huge waste of space. She did a series of photos called “365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears” which consists of photos of herself crying. Sometimes she’s naked, sometimes she’s just standing there in a t-shirt, but in all of them she looks like she needs a good slap. The photos are of poor quality and look like a teenager took them with her cellphone for her MySpace page. I’m not a professional art critic by any means, but I just don’t get it.
Needless to say my affection for The Paris Review has been waning lately, and when it’s time to re-subscribe I may decide to pass.