The Paris Review Interviews, I 16 Celebrated Interviews

The Paris Review Interviews

The Paris Review; Introduction by Philip Gourevitch




Trade Paperback

528 Pages



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A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

How do great writers do it? From James M. Cain's hard-nosed observation that "writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It's not all inspirational," to Joan Didion's account of how she composes a book—"I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm"—The Paris Review has elicited some of the most revelatory and revealing thoughts from the literary masters of our age. For more than half a century, the magazine has spoken with most of our leading novelists, poets, and playwrights, and the interviews themselves have become works of literature, records of the writing life. They have won the George Polk Award and have been a contender for the Pulitzer Prize. Now, Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch introduces a selection of sixteen of the most celebrated interviews. These encounters contain an immense scope of intelligence, personality, experience, and wit from the likes of Elizabeth Bishop, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Rebecca West, and Billy Wilder.


Praise for The Paris Review Interviews, I

"The most remarkable and extensive interviewing project we possess . . . For 50 years The Paris Review has been talking to writers, in one long session, or several sessions, or recurring sessions spaced years apart . . . The Paris Review Interviews, I is a series of excursions, alternately purposeful and capricious, with side trips, stops for tea and mystifications . . . We end up knowing them not as subjects but as fellow day-trippers, and it is they, not the interviewer, who lead the trip."—Richard Eder, The New York Times

"The Paris Review Interviews . . . is a small treasure. The interviews are literary landmarks, and the gossip, humor, ideas and practical advice dispensed are bracing. Each of these conversations . . . are carefully crafted and bring with them something of the heft of literature."—Oscar Villalon, San Francisco Chronicle

"There are so many potential points of entry to The Paris Review Interviews, vol. I—this jewel box of a collection of in-depth chats on the craft of writing—that one hardly knows where to begin. . . . [The] candid comments . . . are well worth the price of admission. . . . [An] indispensable collection."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Utterly absorbing. . . . They are all fascinating and often quite funny."—Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Globe

"The finest series of interviews with anyone published in America—not just irresistible to anyone interested in literature but anyone who responds at all to the Art of the Interview. . . . So many of these are classics of their kind. . . . As the saying goes, they're full of pith and vinegar - funny, profound and poetic and fundamentally unlike any attempted replication elsewhere."—Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News (Editor's Choice)

"For bibliophiles, a glimpse into Ernest Hemingway's work space (the corner of a bedroom in a Havana house), which he offered The Paris Review's George Plimpton, is akin to the Virgin Mary opening up her home in Bethlehem to Cribs. Since its inception in 1953 on a Left Bank barge, The Paris Review has remained a handbook to the literati, and its extensive author interviews are as storied as the magazine itself: Q&A's drawn from a sit-down and correspondence, and, in an unprecedented move, returned to the subject for review and expansion—a format much copied today, from The Believer to Playboy. They've finally been collected in The Paris Review Interviews, vol. I . . . Here, Hemingway talks horseracing; Dorothy Parker reveals a predilection for choosing character names from the phone book and obituaries; and Saul Bellow can't escape the chaos of modern city life—just a few of many insights gleaned from the most influential writers of the 20th century."—Seattle Weekly

"The unguarded moment . . . that's the holy grail for any interviewer trying to discover what makes a writer tick. The Paris Review has a long history of delivering such moments in the author interviews it has conducted over the past half century."—Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

"As The Paris Review Interviews reveals, there is an art to the interview and a value to what it brings. The Review's interview series . . . serves as a kind of public record. . . . In the best interviews, the exchange of question and answer brings the authors to life, as if their voices had been recorded."—The Wall Street Journal

"The Paris Review Interviews, vol. I is the sort of book that makes one anticipate an evening in a comfy chair with a good glass of wine within easy reach."—The Tampa Tribune

"[Read] The Paris Review Interviews I, not only to learn something about writing from the 16 authors questioned but also for Ernest Hemingway's satisfying dismissals of interviewer George Plimpton: 'The fact that I am interrupting serious work to answer these questions proves that I am so stupid that I should be penalized severely.'"Esquire

"The Paris Review Interviews, vol. I, the first of three collections to be culled from more than 50 years of this premier literary journal's quarterly offerings, presents a set of groundbreaking, eclectic, indispensable Q&As with such masters as Elizabeth Bishop, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and Joan Didion that current editor Philip Gourevitch describes in his elegant introduction as 'at once fine entertainments and profound soundings of the writer's soul.'"Elle

"You won't be able to get their rueful, witty, snappish, and thoughtful voices out of your head. Here is Dorothy Parker, breathtakingly funny, brilliant, and self-deprecating. Truman Capote purring, 'I am a completely horizontal author. I cannot think unless I'm lying down.' Hemingway, recalcitrant and dismissive, dueling with George Plimpton in a revealing conversation containing the famous iceberg remark about writing: 'There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows.' As for poets, Donald Hall speaks with an urbane T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Spires with a bemusedly frank Elizabeth Bishop. Here, too, is an astonishing conversation with the erudite and gentlemanly Jorge Luis Borges, who speaks of Old Norse, Henry James, and the color yellow, and flinty Kurt Vonnegut remembering the bombing of Dresden and telling bad jokes. Several hundred of the Paris Review's justifiably celebrated literary interviews are available online, but these 16 exceptional slices of literary history belong in the form the interviewees devoted their lives to, namely a finely made book, always at hand, always compelling."—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



  • The Paris Review; Introduction by Philip Gourevitch

  • The Paris Review was founded in 1953 and has published early and important work by Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, Jeffrey Eugenides, A. S. Byatt, T. C. Boyle, William T. Vollmann, and many other great writers of the past half century. Some of the magazine's greatest hits have been collected in The Paris Review Book of People with Problems as well as The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms and The Paris Review Book of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, the Art of Writing, and Everything Else in the World Since 1953.

    Philip Gourevitch is the editor of The Paris Review, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and the author of A Cold Case and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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