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Philip Gourevitch: Editor of the Paris Review

abstract:I met George Plimpton in front of his Paris Review booth at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival back in 2002. A gentle giant, he blended a career of acting (Good Will Hunting) and literary arts as one of three founding members of The Paris Review. He died at the age of 73 in 2003. AbeBooks spoke with the new editor, Philip Gourevitch, and here is what he had to say about one of the world's most respected literary magazines.  


October 21, 2006
"It's a bit like curating a legacy, a legacy with a tailwind," said Gourevitch, who has been at the helm for the last eighteen months. Originally founded in 1953 by the triumvarate: Harold Humes, Peter Mathlessen and George Plimpton, it sought to introduce new authors and poets, as well as showcase the best modern literature.

Literary luminaries the likes of Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth, V.S. Naipaul, Jeffrey Eugenides et al were first published in the Paris Review before making waves elsewhere. In fact of the 178 back issues, several have become collectors' items and are on sale at prices as high as $600 (issue #20 Philip Roth's first appearance in print for Goodbye Columbus.)

Today Philip Gourevich reports that they receive between 15,000-20,000 unsolicited fiction manuscripts each year, not counting poetry submissions, and they still manage to read every one of them. 

“After George Plimpton’s death, nobody was quite sure what to do,” said Gourevitch. “The magazine had been identified with him for such a long time. Nobody wanted it to close but the question was how to continue.

“The spirit of the magazine remains the same. We still focus on new writers and new writing, and we have always been a youthful magazine. It was founded by youthful people and even George remained youthful in his outlook as he got older.

“We have a great tradition but we don’t want to be frozen in the past. We changed the look of the cover and people said, ‘How can you do this?’ But the magazine cover had been changed about 30 times in the past and we actually based our masthead on the original version. We have a new look but it’s a tribute to the original form.

“We also focus on established writers we admire. The whole tradition is to juxtapose discoveries with living masters. For instance, there’ll be a debut poet next to John Ashbery’s newest work. The masters still like to be featured because it’s good to be somewhere fresh.

“The magazine has going for over half a century because it never identified itself with one particularly school, trend, moment or fad. I am optimistic about the future of writing. This is a good time for the written word.  It’s actually a hard time to be representing reality because we  live in a world  that is  in  flux.”



Interview with PG

The Paris Review Interviews

The Paris Review of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Baseball, Travels, The Art of Writing



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