Lorin Stein's 'Paris Review' book picks
The new editor of The Paris Review recommends six books associated with the acclaimed magazine's past
Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Short Stories by Philip Roth (Vintage, $15). Roth sometimes pooh-poohs his first book. Nobody else does. Its magic is undiminished. The title story appeared in the Review in 1958. So did “The Conversion of the Jews,” without a cover line—who knew from Philip Roth?
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace (Norton, $15). “Little Expressionless Animals”—the first story of Wallace’s first collection—appeared in the Review in 1988. Featuring Alex Trebek, Merv Griffin, and Pat Sajak as characters, it later freaked out the legal department at Viking Press (they canceled the book), but for a generation of young readers it defined the postmodern short story.
Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton (Grove, $14). First published in 1982, the “oral biography” of Factory girl and Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick—written by two of the best interviewers the Review ever had—invented a genre. This is the interview (and the edit) as a work of art.
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $13). Publishers are always wishfully describing things as “a novel of erotic obsession.” In 1968 George Plimpton was lucky enough to find the real deal for his fledgling Paris Review Editions—the story of an American man and a Frenchwoman, and a writer who can’t get their love affair out of his head.
Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson (Vintage, $16). Simpson was a Paris Review editor when she published her 1986 debut, a road novel—featuring a 12-year-old girl and her mother—that earned (really earned) comparisons to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A chapter had appeared in the Review the year before.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (Picador, $14). Before it became a novel, this elegiac, enchanted, very funny tale of suburban self-destruction was published in the Review as a 20-page story. With its first-person-plural narrator and its near-hallucinatory nostalgia for lost youth, “The Virgin Suicides” introduced the most Virgilian of contemporary writers.