I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Opening Up

Carol Taaffe
The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1 4, Picador, boxed set, $65, ISBN: 978-0312429164 In November, as the latest volume of Paris Review interviews was published, Philip Gourevitch announced that in April 2010 he would step down after four years as editor. The news came not long after Granta, its nearest competitor, appointed its third editor since the departure of Ian Jack in 2007. The success of both magazines was founded on long periods of editorial continuity, and so these upheavals now present a particular challenge. Too much change and the core identity is lost; too little and a platform for new writing becomes a mouldering literary museum. Initially the challenge was most obvious in the case of The Paris Review, which had remained in the control of its founding editor, George Plimpton, until his death in 2003. But Gourevitch quickly created a more streamlined magazine than its predecessor, while also raising circulation. A writer best known for his work on the Rwandan genocide, he hinted that the venerable literary quarterly would be opened up to writing that offered “scrutiny” of the world. Yet his tenure was marked not by a departure from tradition but a reinvention of it, a fact perhaps best illustrated by his treatment of the flagship Paris Review interview. This new four-volume collection, launched soon after Gourevitch’s arrival in 2006, provides an astute reminder of the literary brand. But it is also a powerful statement of what The Paris Review, or any other literary journal, is really about: the business of writing. For over fifty years, The Paris Review has been questioning authors on the art of fiction, poetry, theatre and the short story, with the odd wild excursion into journalism or the musical. In 1991, Harold Bloom even extended its range of interest as far as the art of criticism. The development was slightly ironic for a literary magazine founded on one simple idea: if you have a question about writing, don’t ask a critic. By the time a group of American writers ‑ George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen and Harold L Humes – launched the review in 1953, the “little magazines” circulating in the modernist backwash of literary Paris had become fairly respectable affairs. The shock of the new had long given way to the dry clack of scholarly cadavers. As Plimpton saw it, the contemporary literary magazine was in danger of doing away with literature itself, “smothering it under the weight of learned chatter”. The idea behind The…

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