In Which I Am Interrogated by Gay Talese
In between getting ripped off by my ex-husband and getting ripped off by [Anonymous] at [Reference deleted because we reached a settlement], I go once a week to be a “reader” at The Paris Review.
I am the weird 46-year-old reader with all the recent, younger college grads who are interns and the slightly older current MFA students. And the Editors and Senior Editors who are all younger than I.
I was asking them if they knew what Corinthian Leather was, because Corinthian Leather is a big, kitsch, cultural thing from the 1970s, and none of them knew what it was. This was significant to me because I wrote a whole humor bit about Corinthian Leather and submitted to McSweeney’s, who rejected it, and now I’m realizing that they were probably as puzzled at McSweeney’s as all the Readers and Interns and Editors at The Paris Review would have been if they had gotten it.
All of them except me, of course.
So, once a week, I spend lots of money to take a train into New York and then take the 6 train down to Tribeca to spend seven hours straight reading from the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts that The Paris Review gets. I read all day and get paid nothing. Just like everything else in publishing. But I have The Paris Review on my resume.
I’m learning that The Paris Review gets about seven or eight unsolicited manuscripts a day, and publishes about one or two unsolicited manuscripts a year.
I’ve read a lot of bad stuff and a couple of really good things. I hope they publish the good things.
OK, so yesterday they were having a party to celebrate their latest quarterly issue’s release. So I hung out after reading all day while the interns scurried around preparing for this party. They took our scruffy, funky-downtown office and pushed all the desks to the side and covered them with tablecloths. They shoved all the unsolicited manuscripts into cupboards. Then they put out tons and tons and tons of wine and beer and hard liquor and a few tiny little bowls of pretzels and grapes.
Meanwhile, I perused the guest list. OMG! It was a who’s who of the publishing world. I knew that I would probably feel out of place.
I made awkward small-talk with the editors, who until now haven’t had any occasion to say anything whatsoever to me. I am probably old enough to be their mother.
People started arriving and I started drinking red wine (a mistake I think, in retrospect) and doing my best at small talk. Fortunately, the guy that Reads the same day I Read turns out to be a brilliant savant when it comes to film. (His name is Aaron Cutler and he will probably be a famous movie critic some day soon.) And he speed reads. This guy, aged 23, is a genius I am learning.
The party started getting crowded, and Gay Talese appeared with his wife. Now, I am awkwardly standing around, the person that people keep leaving (it seemed that whenever I joined a conversation, people would gradually leave “to get a drink” until I was left alone.) But Gay Talese walked up, introduced himself to me, and started interrogating me. Gay Talese is a famous “immersion journalist,” in case you didn’t know.
I just have to mention here that Gay Talese was wearing the most beautiful suit I have ever seen. It was a beautiful shade of light green. The stitching,
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