The Paris Review: Bastion of Fine Fiction & Poetry
Founded in 1953 by Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton, the Paris Review is more than just a quarterly journal. It is a literary institution. As stated in the magazine’s inaugural issue, the creators wanted a vehicle to showcase great new fiction and poetry without shifting into literary critique, which was the dominant style of the time. The Paris Review is not un-critical but its focus is a celebration of great writing.
And it’s a celebration like no other, the list of contributing authors is jaw-dropping. It’s a who’s who of great writers in the modern era, people who are recognized by their last name alone - Hemingway, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Mailer, Nabokov, Pinter, Updike, Vonnegut, Waugh, Wodehouse and so it continues. In many instances, the Paris Review was actually the first to publish these authors’ stories making the quarterly the premier place for both high profile and aspiring writers to be published in the 1950s and 60s.
The Paris Review was put together and staffed by a collective of literary aficionados but it was Plimpton, the editor from founding until his death in 2003, who was the driving force behind the magazine’s success. Plimpton was a man with connections - including the Kennedys as well as Harvard and Cambridge alumni - that helped acquire key contributors and interviews in the early days. It also didn’t hurt that Plimpton was a fascinating man. He wrote a number of books; including several where he attempted to compete in various professional sports and then write about his experiences. He did this with the NFL’s Detroit Lions in Paper Lion, the NHL’s Boston Bruins in Open Net, the PGA golf tour in The Bogey Man, and sparred for three rounds with Sugar Ray Robinson while on assignment for Sports Illustrated.
The most amazing legacy of the Paris Review is its legendary interview series. Famous for insights into the lives and minds of their subjects, each interview paints a perfect picture of the author, their surroundings, and mindset at the time. Each one is a little piece of literary history.
It is one of the most collectible literary magazines and is still going strong today.
Back Issues of the Paris Review
Issue 7, Winter 1954-55
Interview with Joyce Carey and drawings by Picasso.
Issue 14, Autumn 1956
Isak Dinesen and Francoise Sagan, and work by W. D. Snodgrass, William Fain & Elizabeth Jennings.
Issue 16, Spring-Summer 1957
Stories by William Fifield, poems by Robert Bly and interviews with Truman Capote and Robert Penn Warren.
Issue 20, Autumn-Winter 1958
Contains Philip Roths Goodbye Columbus which precedes the first book edition, also includes five drawings by Marc Chagall
Issue 23, Spring 1960
An interview with Aldous Huxley plus pieces by Malcolm Lowry and Charles G. Finney
Issue 24, Summer-Fall 1960
Interviews with poet Robert Frost and novelist Boris Pasternak.
Issue 30, Summer 1963
Interviews with Evelyn Waugh and S.J. Perelman.
Issue 31, Winter-Spring 1964
Interviews with Norman Mailer and Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
Issue 34, Spring-Summer 1965
An interview with Simone de Beauvoir and pieces by Basil Bunting, Paul Carroll & Christopher Middleton.
Issue 36, Winter 1966
Work by Saul Bellow, William Styron and Phillip Lamantia.
Issue 39, Fall 1966
Letters from e.e. Cummings to Ezra Pound plus interviews with Harold Pinter and Edward Albee.
Issue 41, Summer 1967
An interview with Vladimir Nabokov and contributions from John Ashbery, Edward Hoagland and Dick Gallup.
Issue 43, Summer 1968
Interview with Jack Kerouac and contributions from John Ashbery and David C. Lehman.
Issue 45, Winter 1968
An interview with John Updike and poems by Frank OHara.
Issue 48, Fall 1969
Interviews with John Steinbeck and E.B. White.
Issue 55, Fall 1972
An interview with Eudora Welty plus work from James Salter, Ed Dorn and Walter Abish.
Issue 69, Spring 1977
An interview with Kurt Vonnegut, plus contributions from William Burroughs, Richard Haas, and Richard Grossman.
Issue 75, Spring 1979
Interviews with John Gardner and Irwin Shaw plus contributions from Seamus Heaney and Andrew Dubus.
Issue 79, Spring 1981
Double-sized 25th anniversary issue with contributions by Hemingway, Faulkner, Rebecca West & David Hockney.
Issue 80, Summer 1981
Interviews with Donald Barthelme and Elizabeth Bishop plus contributions by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Pinsky.
Issue 88, Summer 1983
An interview with Raymond Carver.
Issue 101, Winter 1986
Interview with E.L. Doctorow and contributions from W.S. Merwin and Delmore Schwartz.
Issue 104, Fall 1987
Pieces by Anita Brookner, Peter Taylor, William Kittredge, James Lasdun and Philip Levine.
Issue 117, Winter 1990
Contributions from Margaret Atwood, V.S. Pritchett and Daniel Stern.
Issue 195, Winter 2010
Interviews with Jonathan Franzen and Louise Erdrich.