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The Best Interviews in The Paris Review

In 1953, three American ex-pats (Harold “Doc” Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton) decided to start a magazine that would promote, as the author William Styron confirmed in the first issue, “the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they’re good.” The spring issue of the Paris Review is out now, so we decided to make a list of notable interviews in the venerable literary quarterly. The best of “the art of fiction” contains writers from the past 58 years of its publication; they all have a way of commanding the page that is entirely their own, and this quality is reflected in each author’s interview style. Nabokov is authoritative yet bemused, Didion has a terse way of speaking that is plagued with anxiety, and Vonnegut is playful, despite the conversation about the bombing of Dresden. And, as the publication date for The Pale King approaches, we realized the Paris Review missed its chance to interview David Foster Wallace. We can only imagine how the late author would have approached the conversation. Would there have been footnotes? We hope so.

1. Jonathan Franzen in Issue 195

Stephen Burn interviews Jonathan Franzen in the second issue of Lorin Stein’s tenure as editor last winter. Franzen says, “Layer by layer, I built up the masks. Like with papier-mâché, strip after strip, molding ever more lifelike features, in order to perform the otherwise unperformable personal drama.”

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