Ready to Launch
The new offices of The Paris Review are in a loft on West 27th St., just down the block from the building where Sleep No More takes place. It’s an open space, with high ceilings and tall windows–a classic Chelsea loft. Dramatic enlargements of covers of the magazine are hung on the walls, over desks strewn with books and journals. Several bookcases dominate the center of the room. They are filled with every issue of the magazine, in chronological order, the more recent copies stacked neatly in colorful rows. Vintage typewriters dot the shelves, like punctuation. A couple of stuffed birds sit high above, atop the bookcase. Copies of newer books sit on the highest shelves, waiting to be reviewed, or read.
In the middle of the room is a pool table, because of course. An impressive sitting area, more a living room than an office, is furnished with large rugs and couches, armchairs, and ottomans. The bathrooms (3 of them) are in a back hall, tastefully decorated with art and white tile and candles. I know all of this because I was there last week, attending the launch party of their Summer 2013 issue. So was this guy, this guy, and allegedly, this guy.
I wish I could remember more details about the office, but there was also an open bar, fully stocked, and quite a crowd, making me much less inclined to explore. Also, there was the small fact of my social anxiety, especially at a literary event. I can’t help it–anytime I attend a reading, a book party, or anything else remotely related to the lit “scene,” I freeze up and become as insecure as a 13-year-old with a bad haircut. It’s as though I feel like I’m not worthy to be at these events because I’m not a published writer or a high-powered editor or a well-known blogger. True, I happened to be with 3 friends who have impressive jobs with very well-known publishers and one friend who is publishing his first novel and edits the Ploughshares blog. I was in good company. It wasn’t an exclusive party by any means. I am a regular reader of the Paris Review and a lapsed subscriber. I had just as much a “right” to be there as anyone else. So why did I feel so out of place and uncomfortable?
I asked my friends if they felt the same way. They didn’t. Honestly, it was a really fun party and I had a great time. I chatted with a few new people and even ran into a former colleague. I just can’t seem to get over this idea that the literary scene is like one big competition to see who can drop the most impressive names in one conversation…even though I know most of the people there were just as insecure as I was, when you get right down to it.
When it comes down to it, I have to face the reality that one of the major reasons I feel out of place among writers is because I am not a writer. Or, at least, not in the sense that I want to be, which is that I take it seriously and make time to write and submit stories and pieces for publication. Which I don’t. I’ve made some important steps toward my goals this year (namely, that I’ve been writing again), but I have yet to finish anything that I’m satisfied with and I have yet to make the habit of writing every day and I have yet to submit anything. If anything, all of these parties and events and “scenes” move me that much closer to realizing my goals, and in the end, that’s worth some discomfort. While I may never be published in the Paris Review, someday I want to be able to say “I was there. And I had a great time.”