The Paris Review has a new editor, a new team, a new atmosphere

Front row (from left): Niela Orr, Lori Dorr, Matthew Higgs, Emily Stokes, Sophie Haigney, Jane Breakell and Olivia Kan-Sperling. Back row: Amanda Gersten, Na Kim, Lidija Haas, Jay Graham and Oriana Ullman.
Photo: Victor Llorente

The Paris Review has come a long way since his founding team, “Tall Young Men,” as puts it by Irwin Shaw, a man brought up by the Verification because, according to the first editor-in-chief, he was a “hard-drinking writer with a handsome wife.” The magazine’s early parties included “call girls for decoration,” as Gay Talese noted, a lousy legacy that lingers on the editorial board of Lorin Stein, who resigned in 2017 after reports of sexual misconduct and was replaced by novelist Emily Nemens. Now, under recently appointed editor Emily Stokes, the Verification has undergone a major overhaul, with changes ranging from the cast (it has an almost entirely new editorial team) to the furniture (the office pool table Stein could stand and clink glasses is gone).

The shift can be felt in the Paris Review’s pentagram-led redesign. The book is now smaller and softer, moving away from the glamorous yet forbidding aura of the magazine’s past. “I wanted it to be an exquisite object that wasn’t expensive and felt really classic but not at all nostalgic,” says Stokes. The result is text equally suited to being displayed on a coffee table or stuffed into a jacket pocket. Her team is also small and intimate, she says, which gives her project a “little house feeling”.

That Verification recently held the Spring Revel, its annual fundraiser, which recognized Jamaica Kincaid with a lifetime achievement award. Kincaid is the subject of the Art of Fiction interview with Darryl Pinckney in the Spring 2022 issue, the culmination of seven years of conversations. Stokes had to wrap the interview up gently. “They’re really inefficient,” she says of the interviews. “They are really deep. And they have that patience: an understanding that it’s going to take a lot of time, to be honest.”

Stokes likes to take his time to get things right. The magazine skipped its Autumn 2021 issue to focus on moving to the Chelsea office and implementing the redesign, and emerged from the hiatus with a vibrant watercolor of two red cherries by Rose Wylie on the Winter 2021 cover. According to deputy editor Lidija Haas, the image shows a piece with the magazine’s new ethos as well as the material they are trying to bring in. “The pieces have this captivating quality,” she says, “and you really feel the voice speaking directly to you.”

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Lindsay Lowe

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