The Paris Review is a quarterly English language literary magazine established in Paris in 1953 by Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton. In its first five years, The Paris Review published works by Jack Kerouac, Philip Larkin, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, Terry Southern, Adrienne Rich, Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Jean Genet, and Robert Bly.
The Review's "Writers at Work" series includes interviews with Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Thornton Wilder, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, William Carlos Williams, and Vladimir Nabokov, among many hundreds of others. The series has been called "one of the single most persistent acts of cultural conservation in the history of the world."
The headquarters of The Paris Review moved from Paris to New York City in 1973. Plimpton edited the Review from its founding until his death in 2003; Lorin Stein has been editor since 2010.
An editorial statement, penned in the inaugural issue by William Styron, stated the magazine's aim:
The Paris Review hopes to emphasize creative work—fiction and poetry—not to the exclusion of criticism, but with the aim in mind of merely removing criticism from the dominating place it holds in most literary magazines. […] I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they're good.
The Review's founding editors include Humes, Matthiessen, Plimpton, William Pène du Bois, Thomas Guinzburg and John P. C. Train. The first publisher was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. Du Bois, the magazine’s first art editor, designed the iconic Paris Review eagle to include both American and French significance: an American eagle holding a pen and wearing a Phrygian cap.
The magazine’s first office was located in a small room of the publishing house Éditions de la Table ronde. Other legendary locations of The Paris Review include a Thames River grain carrier anchored on the Seine from 1956 to 1957. The Café de Tournon in the Rue de Tournon on the Rive Gauche was the meeting place for staffers and writers, including du Bois, Plimpton, Matthiessen, Alexander Trocchi, Christopher Logue and Eugene Walter.
The first-floor and basement rooms in Plimpton's 72nd Street apartment became the headquarters of The Paris Review when the magazine moved from Paris to New York City in 1973.
Philip Gourevitch was selected by the Review's board of directors as George Plimpton's successor in 2005. Under Gourevitch's leadership, the Review began incorporating more nonfiction pieces and, for the first time, began regularly publishing a photography spread. The Paris Review also announced, in 2006, the publication of a four-volume set of Paris Review interviews. The Paris Review Interviews, Volumes I-IV were published by Picador from 2006–2009. Gourevitch announced his departure in the fall of 2009, citing a desire to concentrate more fully on his writing.
In 2007, an article published by The New York Times supported the claim that founding editor Matthiessen was in the CIA but stated that the magazine was used as a cover, rather than a collaborator, for his spying activities. In a May 27, 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Matthiessen stated that he "invented The Paris Review as cover" for his CIA activities. Mattieseen maintained that the Review was not part of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an organization used by the CIA to sponsor an array of literary magazines; but the record shows The Paris Review benefited financially from selling article reprints to CCF magazines.
Lorin Stein was named editor of The Paris Review in April 2010. He oversaw a redesign of the magazine's print edition and its website, both of which were met with critical acclaim. In September 2010, the Review made available online its entire archive of interviews.
In October 2012, The Paris Review published an anthology, Object Lessons, comprising a selection of twenty short stories from The Paris Review's archive, each with an introduction by a contemporary author. Contributors include Jeffrey Eugenides (with an introduction to a story by Denis Johnson), Lydia Davis (with an introduction to a story by Jane Bowles), and Ali Smith (with an introduction to a story by Lydia Davis). It promises to be an "indispensable resource for writers, students, and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer’s point of view". As Stein explains:
Some chose classics. Some chose stories that were new even to us. Our hope is that this collection will be useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique. Most of all, it is intended for readers who are not (or are no longer) in the habit of reading short stories. We hope these object lessons will remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give.
On October 8, 2012, the magazine launched its app for the iPad and iPhone. Developed by Atavist, the app includes access to new issues, rare back issues, and archival collections from its fiction and poetry sections—along with the complete interview series and the Paris Review Daily.
In November 2015, The Paris Review published its first anthology of new writing in more than fifty years, The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. This collection includes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from the last five years of the magazine under Lorin Stein’s editorial direction. Including writing by well-established authors like Zadie Smith, Ben Lerner, and John Jeremiah Sullivan, as well as emerging writers like Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Angela Flournoy, The Unprofessionals emphasizes “contemporary writers who treat their art not as a profession, but as a calling.” Of these writers, Stein explains in the preface:
For all their differences, they share a commitment to realism c. 2015, when one of the hardest things to represent believably is a voice that speaks on the page, one individual to another. That commitment, that complicity, has little to do with the writing profession as it’s generally taught and practiced, and everything to do with why we read.
The current staff of The Paris Review includes Nicole Rudick (Managing Editor), Dan Piepenbring (Web Editor), Caitlin Youngquist (Assistant Editor), Sadie Stein (Contributing Editor), Robyn Creswell (Poetry Editor), Charlotte Strick (Art Editor), John Jeremiah Sullivan (Southern Editor), Adam Thirlwell (London Editor), Antonin Baudry (Paris Editor), Jeffery Gleaves (Digital Manager), Jessica Calderon (Development & Events), Janet Gillespie (Finance Manager), Irina Aleksander (Advertising & Promotions), and Andrew Jimenez (Circulation Manager). Their goal is to rededicate the magazine to its original mission of promoting "fiction, poetry, belles lettres, essays".
In June we started an online arts gazette called The Paris Review Daily. […] But the core of our business, as long as I'm editor, is going to be putting out a paper magazine. […] We want the reader to be absorbed. It's not a thing to skim; it's a thing to read and to really get lost in. It's a refuge.
The Review has been the first to publish various emerging writers who have gone to notable careers: Adrienne Rich was first published in its pages, as were Naipaul, Philip Roth, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Mona Simpson, Edward P. Jones and Rick Moody. Selections from Samuel Beckett's novel Molloy appeared in the fifth issue, one of his first publications in English. The magazine was also among the first to recognize the work of Jack Kerouac with the publication of his short story, "The Mexican Girl", in 1955. Other milestones of contemporary literature, now widely anthologized, also made their first appearance in The Paris Review: Italo Calvino's Last Comes the Raven, Philip Roth's Goodbye Columbus, Donald Barthelme's Alice, Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries, Matthiessen's Far Tortuga, Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides, and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.
Time hailed The Paris Review as "The biggest 'little magazine' in history", and Margaret Atwood said "The Paris Review is one of the few truly essential literary magazines of the 20th century—and now of the 21st".
An interview with E. M. Forster—an acquaintance of Plimpton's from his days at King's College, Cambridge—became the first in a long series of now-legendary author interviews. Now known as the Writers at Work series, the Paris Review interviews quickly became a trademark of the magazine, lauded for their groundbreaking insights into the life and craft of the writer. Despite their venerable history, some of the interviews succeeded almost in spite of themselves: Graham Greene’s interview almost ended before it began when one of the interviewers turned up hungover and threw up in his hat on Greene’s doorstep; Nabokov's was cut short when Jeopardy! came on.
In 1964, The Paris Review initiated a series of prints and posters by major contemporary artists with the goal of establishing an ongoing relationship between the worlds of writing and art—Drue Heinz, then publisher of The Paris Review, shares credit with Jane Wilson for initiating the series. In the half century since its inception, the series has featured many of the leading artists to pass through New York in the postwar decades—from Louise Bourgeois to Willem de Kooning to David Hockney, Helen Frankenthaler, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol.
The series, suspended after George Plimpton's death in 2003, was relaunched in 2012 with a print by Donald Baechler.
Three prizes are awarded annually by the editors of The Paris Review: the Paris Review Hadada, the Plimpton Prize, and the Terry Southern Prize for Humor. Winning selections are celebrated at the annual Spring Revel. No application form is required. Instead, winners are selected from the stories and poems published the previous year in The Paris Review.The Paris Review Hadada: a bronze statuette to be "awarded annually to a distinguished member of the literary community who has demonstrated a strong and unique commitment to literature". The award may go to a writer, reader, editor, publisher, publication, or organization. Past winners include John Ashbery, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, Barney Rosset, William Styron, Philip Roth, James Salter, Paula Fox, Frederick Seidel, and, most recently, Norman Rush.
The Plimpton Prize: $10,000 (and an engraved ostrich egg) awarded for the best work of fiction or poetry by an emerging or previously unpublished writer. Recent winners include Caitlin Horrocks, Wells Tower, Alistair Morgan, Jesse Ball, Emma Cline, and Benjamin Percy.
The Terry Southern Prize for Humor: a $5,000 award honoring work from either The Paris Review or The Paris Review Daily that embodies the qualities of humor, wit, and sprezzatura. The prize is given in memory of longtime contributor Terry Southern.
The Paris Review Spring Revel is an annual gala held in celebration of American writers and writing. The Revel "brings together leading figures and patrons of American arts and letters from throughout New York to pay tribute to distinguished writers at different stages of their careers". Proceeds from the Spring Revel go directly toward the The Paris Review Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by the co-founders in 2000 to ensure the future of The Paris Review.
The 2010 Spring Revel took place on April 13, 2010 and presented Philip Roth with the Hadada.
The 2011 Spring Revel took place on April 12, 2011, chaired by Yves-André Istel and Kathleen Begala. Robert Redford presented the Hadada to James Salter. The 2011 Revel also featured Ann Beattie presenting the Plimpton Prize for Fiction and Fran Lebowitz presenting the inaugural Terry Southern Prize for Humor.
The 2012 Spring Revel took place on April 3, 2012 and presented Robert Silvers with the Hadada.
The 2013 Spring Revel took place on April 9, 2013 and presented Paula Fox with the Hadada.
The 2014 Spring Revel took place on April 8, 2014 and presented Frederick Seidel with the Hadada.
The 2015 Spring Revel took place on April 7, 2015 and presented Norman Rush with the Hadada.
In 2001 the Paris Review became a foundation. The directors of the foundations are: Scott Asen, Clara Bingham, Jeffrey Eugenides, Stephen Gaghan, Mala Gaonkar, James C. Goodale, Lawrence H. Guffey, Drue Heinz, Bokara Legendre, Jeanne McCulloch, Sandy Gotham Meehan, Sarah Dudley Plimpton, Emmanuel Roman, Akash Shah, Robert Silvers, Mona Simpson, Rose Styron, Liza Wachter.