The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms

The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms

From Publishers Weekly

In his introduction to this rewarding anthology, critically acclaimed author Powers (Galatea 2.2; Plowing the Dark; etc.) says that reading is the “last refuge from the real-time epidemic.” To that end, the selections gathered here are grouped by how long they offer escape from real time: waiting rooms need long stories, for example, while elevators demand poems. Roth, Munro and Naipaul are among the 46 big-name contributors. In the Planes section, Junot Di
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2 thoughts on “The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms”

  1. Plimpton was on to something with The Paris Review, a fresh venue for new authors, as well as a series of incisive interviews with innovative perspectives and opinions on the writing process. Certainly The Paris Review anthologies are a logical extension of the magazine. This newest anthology is a perfect companion for filling quiet moments, sampling a literary banquet that can be enjoyed incrementally.

    Previously, The Paris Review, a singular literary magazine, published a 50 year celebratory anthology, The Paris Review Book of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, The Art of Writing, and Everything Else in the World Since 1953. This first in the unexpected series was published prior to editor Gorge Plimpton’s untimely death. The anthology was so well received, that Picador created a second volume in the Paris Review Book series, this one for those spare moments waiting for a train, plane, elevator, etc., when the avid reader might steal a moment of mental nourishment or a temporary release from boredom.

    Tucked into a briefcase, this latest Paris Review effort is a welcome addition to reading-on-the-go, with stimulating short stories, poetry and even a novella. The selections are stimulating, carefully chosen and listed under the appropriate sections for each category: planes, trains, elevators and waiting rooms. Using the same premise and a variety of authors, Alice Munro, V.S. Naipaul, William S. Borroughs, Philip Roth and other luminaries that have graced the pages of the Paris Review over the years, the editors have created another unique grouping of talent, guaranteed to please the discerning reader.

    Being a waiting room aficionado, I found enough choices to render me indecisive, reduced to picking favorite authors before experimenting with less familiar ones. I wasn’t disappointed; instead, the stories piqued my curiosity and I began a list of authors for a few greedy hours of uninterrupted reading. If the Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators and Waiting Rooms is any indication of the editor’s picking up where the first anthology left off, I wouldn’t be surprised if Plimpton was guiding their selections, no doubt smiling upon this latest creative endeavor. Luan Gaines/2004.

  2. Richard Powers in his introduction to The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms, tells us readers that “We are living in the middle of an epidemic… infecting us with the contagion of real time”, and “we read to escape – if only briefly – the trap of real time, and then to return and recognize – if only briefly – the times we are trapped in.” Organized by the time that the reader has available at that moment – albeit vast stretches of time to merely seconds – this remarkable anthology delivers the breadth and depth of astute writing that has affirmed The Paris Review as the preeminent literary journal of our time.

    In the section, “Planes” – life’s brief moments to a dynasty of history marks the various stories assembled. Edward P. Jones’s, “Marie”, an elderly SSI recipient is summoned to wait in offices through notices signed by a dead bureaucrat, attacks a receptionist, wards off a mugger with a knife, and confesses her dismal life for a Howard University student onto tapes which are too painful to hear. In Karl Iagnemma’s, “On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction”, Joseph, an ex-PhD. student who mans phones in the TechInfo office, tries to mathematically comprehend the complexity of his love for his ex-PhD. advisor’s daughter, Alexandra who “is stingy with love; she is afraid of ending up like her parent’s, who squandered their love like drunks at a craps table”. After posing a timed marriage ultimatum – accept the proposal prior to graduation, in the end Joseph loses the fickle Alexandra for he can’t conjure the equations to make sense of the range of human emotion.

    In the section, “Trains”, great moments are compacted. In Raymond Carver’s, “Why Don’t You Dance”, a lonely man offers up his belongings in a yard sale to a giddy couple only if they give him the pleasure of conversation and a quick dance. A Brahman wife, desperate for any prayer or religion which will save her dying husband, secretly turns to Christianity for a cure in V.S. Naipul’s, “My Aunt Gold Teeth”.

    Poems predominately mark the section, “Elevators”. Deborah Warren considers mortality and the invented machine “…so frail its breath/depends on something casual as the air/you cruise on, asymptotic to your death?” in her poem, “Airplane”. The exquisite and seductive mistress heroin and the fantastic world and textures it simulates are addressed in Jim Carroll’s, “Heroin”. White rooms, white flowers, and chalky light evoke a supremely disturbing marriage to the lethal drug. Could escape and magic exist underneath the astringent hospital corridors – “through the deserted tunnels linking buildings” – in Lucy Grealy’s wonderful verse, “Ward 10”? A world beyond medical terminology, animal experiments and recovery wards.

    Perhaps the most prolific section of the anthology is “Waiting Rooms” with stories from Rick Moody, Charles D’Ambrosio and Ethan Canin. A year after her death, a brother grieves his sister who was killed in a tragic drunk-driving accident en route to her wedding rehearsal dinner in Rick Moody’s, “The Mansion on the Hill”. Andrew takes a job at a wedding planning agency, ignores the heart-felt advances of a pretend marriage-obsessive c-worker. Andrew excels at the problem-solving, the business of marriage until he spies the man who was to marry his sister, marrying another woman — I no longer knew what marriage meant, really, except that the celebration of it seemed built into every life I knew but my own — it is only then Andrew confronts and moves past his loss. In the absolute star of the collection is the closing story, Ethan Canin’s, “The Palace Thief” where a classics professor meets his moral match in a manipulative senator’s son – their complex and compromising relationship and war of ethics haunts the narrator for over four decades until he once again unites with the boy, now a wealthy baron who seeks to challenge the teacher once again.

    The Paris Review is that experienced Madame, rouged up, filthy-mouthed – she’s seen and done it all. From interviews with Nabokov to Richard Howard, the prose of Alice Munro, William Maxwell and T.C. Boyle – the artisans of the traditional short story form, to the innovative styles conjured by Lydia Davis and Raymond Carver, to the gritty poems of Jim Carroll and the prolific verses of Pinsky, Olds and Larkin, The Paris Review has published the greatest works of the twentieth century and no doubt after the untimely passing of its colorful patron, George Plimpton, the bar for great writing will continue to be raised high.

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