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

Paris Review, Author, George Plimpton, Introduction by , intro. by George Plimpton. Picador $27 (768p) ISBN 978-0-312-42238-7

While this volume's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink title may seem to imply an odd combination of editorial insecurity or pretension, it only takes one spin through the table of contents to know why the editors felt the need for such a busy, bursting name. This astoundingly diverse anthology, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Paris Review, is jam-packed with resonant and provocative work from some of our greatest writers, past and present: W.H. Auden, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Elizabeth Bishop, Truman Capote, William Burroughs, Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan and Alice Munro, to name just a fraction. Rather than relying on critics to illuminate the craft of writing secondhand, the founders inaugurated a series of interviews with the authors themselves, creating what Plimpton, in his introduction, refers to as "a DNA of literature"; several excerpts from those interviews are included here. A look at the eras and themes represented shows that the journal's only abiding mandate has been an evolving brand of artistic humanism, which has morphed and adapted to the changing times. How else can one explain being able to jump with such joy and ease from a hilarious and poignant story by Lorrie Moore to an interview with Ted Hughes about his first meeting with Sylvia Plath, then to Allen Ginsberg's loving, sexually charged poem about the life and death of Frank O'Hara? It is a tribute to Plimpton and his cofounders that the entries in this wonderful book can be read in any order, for the reader will be able to see his or her life reflected on every page. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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