The Long-Awaited TPR Challenge Post

The Paris ReviewYep.  That's the one.  And oh, yeah.  There's this little jewel box: the 4-volume box set of The Paris Review Interviews.  You know you want them.  Or perhaps you didn't know they existed.  Click here.  You'll want them, too.  Or perhaps you already own them.  Or perhaps you pined after them for quite some while but didn't want to plunk down the chunk of change and then you stumbled across them on a publisher's table at a conference for $3 a piece.  That's $12 for the set. Or was that just me?

What is it about this set?  Well, it offers candid insight into the minds of writers - something few of us can resist.  It captures these authors often in their prime - when they were making those important ideas come to life for the first time.  And it is funny and captivating and thought-provoking.  That last part I'm just kind of making up because even though I got these things for a song back in the spring, I have not yet laid them bare.  I read the first interview of Volume IV (with William Styron) as part of our Paris in July experience, but that's it.   And though it was funny and captivating and thought-provoking, I did not want to just sit down and read these interviews back-to-back.  They strike me as something to be savored slowly and, like certain food and drink, in an appropriate pairing.

What could be more appropriate than reading an interview in conjunction with a work (or works) by the interviewee?  Hence, the TPR (The Paris Review) Challenge.  I am challenging myself (and anyone else who wishes to join me) to read each of the 64 interviews alongside some work by the writer being interviewed.  I've made some guesses or assumptions about what and when I'd like to read each, and the only thing I've decided for sure is that I'm not going to go in any strict order.  Here's my list:

Vol. 1
Dorothy Parker - collected stories and poems
Truman Capote - Breakfast at Tiffany's and/or The Grass Harp
Ernest Hemingway - collected short stories or True at First Light (both already on my TBR shelf)
T. S. Eliot - rereading The Wasteland and 4 Quartets
Saul Bellow - Henderson the Rain King or  ...Augie March (both Modern Library Top-100)
Jorge Luis Borges - ??
Kurt Vonnegut - Deadeye Dick
James M. Cain - The Postman Always Rings Twice (ML Top100)
Rebecca West - The Fountain Overflows or ??
Elizabeth Bishop - collected poems
Robert Stone - Dog Soldiers
Robert Gottlieb - since he discovered and edited Heller's Catch-22, (another ML Top100 I haven't read), I'll probably read this, but he also has a non-fiction Forcing the Spring which sounds interesting
Richard Price - Clockers or ??
Billy Wilder - film - The Apartment
Jack Gilbert - Monolithos
Joan Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking

Vol. 2
Graham Greene - The Heart of the Matter (ML Top100)
James Thurber - The Wonderful O (children's) and collected works
William Faulkner - reread The Sound and the Fury
Robert Lowell - collected poems
Isaac Bashevis Singer - collected stories ??
Eudora Welty - reread The Robber Bridegroom or One Time, One Place (photography)
John Gardner - Nickel Mountain
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Love in the Time of Cholera
Philip Larkin - collected poems
James Baldwin - Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (already on my TBR shelf)
William Gaddis -  A Frolic of His Own (already on my TBR shelf)
Harold Bloom - Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds
Toni Morrison - A Mercy or Jazz
Alice Munro - Lives of Girls and Women or Friend of My Youth
Peter Carey - Parrot and Olivier in America (Booker longlist)
Stephen King - Under the Dome or ??

Vol. 3
Ralph Ellison - Going to the Territory
Georges Simenon - ??
Isak Dinesen - Out of Africa
Evelyn Waugh - A Handful of Dust or Scoop (ML Top100s)
William Carlos Williams - In the American Grain (August non-structured book group - see here for info)
Harold Pinter - ??
John Cheever - The Wapshot Chronicles (ML Top100)
Joyce Carol Oates - ??
Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea (ML Top 100)
Raymond Carver - A New Path to the Waterfall (poems)
Chinua Achebe - Anthills of the Savannah or No Longer at Ease
Ted Hughes - collected poems or children's books?
Jan Morris - Last Letters from Hav or essays
Martin Amis - Time's Arrow
Salman Rushdie - Luka and the Fire of Life (YA release Nov 2010)
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead (ML Top100)

Vol. 4
William Styron - Lie Down in Darkness (on my TBR shelf - will return to Styron last)
Marianne Moore - selected poems
Ezra Pound - The Cantos
Jack Kerouac - Desolation Angels or Visions of Cody
E. B. White - essays or The Trumpet of the Swan
P. G. Wodehouse -??
John Ashbery - Notes from the Air or collected poems
Philip Roth - Portnoy's Complaint (ML Top100)
Maya Angelou - Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie (poems)
Stephen Sondheim - lyricist - Plautus farces with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
V. S. Naipaul - A House for Mr. Biswas or A Bend in the River (ML Top100s)
Paul Auster - Sunset Park (Nov. 2010 release)
Haruki Murakami - What I Talk about when I Talk about Running (sometime before the 9/25 halfmarathon I'm registered for)
Orhan Pamuk - Snow or My Name is Red
David Grossman - To the End of the Land (Sept 2010 release)
Marilynne Robinson - Gilead (currently reading - 1st to fall!)

Sigh.  I'm exhausted just from typing it all.  But that's the "plan," and I encourage you to join me on this somewhat unguided tour.  Here's what I know will shape up in the near future: M. Robinson, W.C. Williams, H. Murakami, D. Parker, D. Grossman.  Beyond that remains to be seen.  I would love your advice or input on those spots where I haven't decided.  Some I'm just not familiar enough to know what I'd want; others have so many good ones that I want recommendations.  So hit me with your ideas or let me know if you'd like to join in.  It should be an interesting little frolic!


  1. WOW. This is certainly a collection of some pretty fantastic authors! I am very impressed, and I'd love to share the journey with you, but my upcoming schedule doesn't permit me a chance to fit this into it...I don't think? Let me take a look and think about it!

  2. Just to be clear, I have no scheduled completion date. I figure it will take me at least a year, but it could be longer than that. It's just something I plan to plug away at as time allows. The first few will move pretty quickly, but after that . . . we'll see.

  3. I am all over this although I am not sure how I will make this work yet. Thinking, thinking. Great idea!

  4. Wow, you're doing ALL of them? Awesome. I've read all the Volume IV interviews & am currently plugging away on Ashbery's Notes from the Air, so that will be my first contribution...don't think I'll commit to doing all these pairings, since I know there are a few authors here I don't like (*cough*KEROUAC*cough*), but it sounds like such fun; I'll definitely participate to some extent!

  5. Frances - The best thing about this "challenge" is that it is so amorphous. It can really be so many things to so many people. But I think I will provide a heads up in chunks (like I have done with the first five or so here), so people can join in if they so desire . . . or laugh and point at my lunacy if that's a better fit.

    Emily - There were only a few authors that I wasn't excited about, and Kerouac was one of them. I've read On the Road, and I wasn't all that excited about going another round with him, but I'm keeping my mind open.

    All - No suggestions yet? I thought for sure a few of you would recommend a Borges. Perhaps we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

  6. I think I'd be really interested in the Hemingway piece as well as Dorothy Parker and, not to mention, Isak Dineson! Ooh, but there's also Williams Carlos Williams, too!

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