Toward the end of the session, Josef Breitenbach asked James Joyce if there were some special pose or gesture that he would wish recorded. Joyce thought for a moment, and raised his hand to his forehead. Then he let the hand pass over his eyes, covering them. When the hand cradled his nose and chin, Joyce indicated that this was the pose, and Breitenbach pressed the shutter.
From the portfolio “Ten Portraits” in Paris Review's Winter 1983 issue.
Vilhelm Hammershøi, Støvkornenes Dans I Solstrålerne (Dust Motes Dancing In Sunbeams), 1900.
The color gray is no one’s color. It is the color of cubicles and winter camouflage, of sullage, of inscrutable complexity, of compromise. It is the perfect intermediate, an emissary for both black and white. It lingers, incognito, in this saturated world.
I am never lonely and never bored. Except when I bore myself, which is my definition of loneliness—to bore oneself. It makes a body lonesome, that. Today I am very bored and very lonely. I can think of nothing better to do than grind salt and pepper into my milk shake, which I have been doing since I was thirteen, which was so long ago the very word thirteen has an old-fashioned ring to it, one might as well say Ottoman Empire. Traditionally, thirteen is an unlucky number. Little did I know at thirteen that I was on the road, by a single action, to loneliness and boredom. My friend Vicki and I were sitting at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s, waiting for the milk shakes we had ordered—hers chocolate, mine vanilla—when she got up to go to the ladies’ room. The chocolate shake came while she was gone and as a joke I sprinkled salt and pepper on it, because I was, though I didn’t know it, young and callous and cruel. Vicki came back, she took the paper off her straw, she stuck her straw in her milk shake, she sucked through the straw for what seemed an eternity, and then she swallowed, which seemed like forever. This is the best milk shake I have ever had. That’s what she said, though she didn’t say it as much as she sighed it. The best shake I’ve ever had. In such sudden and unexpected ways does boredom begin. I tried her milk shake, I told her what I had done, the vanilla shake came, and we salt-and-peppered that one, too, and afterward we were bored, so we went shopping—we were in Woolworth’s after all—though by shopping we meant shoplifting, as any lonely bored thirteen-year-old knows. Vicki stole a tub of the latest invention, lip gloss, which was petroleum jelly dyed pink, and I stole a yellow lace mantilla to wear to Mass on Easter Sunday, though I never wore it to Mass; I wore it to confession the Saturday before, confessing to the priest that I had stolen the very thing I was wearing on my head. Why not? I had nothing else to confess. Playing a mean trick on my best friend, even one that turned out all right, didn’t seem worth the bother. What bothered me was that the priest seemed bored by my confession; I had thought to shock him, but it was he who shocked me, as I had so little experience of adult boredom. He gave me three Hail Marys and closed the screen. What was happening? I had shocked myself by stealing the mantilla and then confessing it, but bored the priest, whose boredom now shocked me, though it would bore me later, years later, when lip gloss was as common as clover, when the idea of Catholic women covering their heads was antiquated, when priests were suspected of being callous and cruel and the combination of salt and sugar was a raging trend, served in all the swank joints and upscale places. But, as I said, I am never lonely and never bored, and if today is an exception, it is the age-old exception of every day, for every day turns into tomorrow, and tomorrow turns into today, and today into yesterday, and I confess there is very little any of us can do to change it.
Ben Lerner discusses his first book of poetry, “The Lichtenberg Figures.” Part of “The Paris Review”'s “My First Time” video interview series.
“My First Time” is a video series in which we invite authors to discuss the trials of writing and publishing their first books. Consider it a chance to see how successful writers got their start, in their own words—it’s a portrait of the artist as a beginner and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.
This installment stars Ben Lerner, poet and novelist. While an undergraduate at Brown—and later as an M.F.A. student—Lerner wrote the cycle of fifty-two sonnets that would become 2004’s The Lichtenberg Figures. At the time, he and roommate Cyrus Console were, says Lerner, “always writing under the sign of crisis ... now when I look back, we had a kind of really intense practice.” He discusses the process of imposing form, his thematic inspirations, and the challenges of taking one’s place in the creative universe. “With the first book, you don’t really know if you can do it. You have a kind of constant anxiety about whether or not you have something to contribute to the conversation. And that anxiety—it can ruin your life, but it’s also really generative. Like, it’s a kind of discipline.”
This series is made by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling; we’re delighted to collaborate with them. Be sure to watch the previous interviews in the series:
Já não me bastava esta notícia sobre a Biblioteca Digital Fernando Pessoa. Passo a citar:
«Na página do projecto podemos ler que muitas das páginas disponíveis contêm "anotações, comentários, traduções e outros diversos tipos de textos em prosa e em verso, para além de desenhos, horóscopos e exercícios caligráficos. Estas páginas, que em número quadruplicam o número de autógrafos pessoanos à guarda da Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (BNP), são decisivas para revisitar a vida e a obra de Fernando Pessoa. A sua biblioteca, composta por mais de 1300 títulos (mais da metade deles em língua inglesa), é um autêntico repertório de fontes e de escritos."»
Agora há também esta novidade sobre a Paris Review. E passo novamente a citar:
«Mr. Stein’s most radical act since taking over from Philip Gourevitch is visible only on the 57-year-old magazine’s crisply redesigned Web site, theparisreview.org. He’s made the entire run of The Paris Review’s storied interview series, previously almost impossible to find in electronic form, available there, free for the browsing. If there’s a better place to lose yourself online right now, I don’t know what it is.»