Paris Review throws a cozy party, drinks in ‘Writer’s Reference’ section

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Rain outside McNally Jackson. ()
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Writers and literati packed into McNally Jackson in Soho for the Paris Review winter issue release party last night. The bookstore’s basement—recently remodeled to accommodate large events and looking perfectly rustic-chic—seemed filled to capacity. The rain couldn’t keep people from downing the complimentary booze and poring over the new issue.

A miniature stage was set up before the crowd (between the “Ideas” and “Religion” shelves). Beside the microphone stood a small table adorned with the winter issue and a junk-shop vase filled with flesh flowers.

Lorin Stein, editor of the Paris Review and man about town, opened the event with a raffle: T-shirts for lucky audience members, along with tote bags and a special-edition Moleskine notebook embossed with the Paris Review logo (Stein seemed understandably jazzed about the Dorothy Parker quote printed inside it).

“All this is the launch of the Paris Review’s winter issue,” he said. “It has already set a record at McNally Jackson for selling the most copies in two days. I was pondering over this with one of the employees. I thought it was because Jeffrey Eugenides’ name was on the cover. She thought it was because there wasn’t a weird half-naked baby on the cover.” (The magazine’s fall issue had the half-naked baby.)

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A brief excerpt from a new translation (by Rachel Klein) of Clarice Lispector’s 100 Years of Forgiveness was read; it's a chronicle of the author’s semi-erotic obsession with stealing roses. The second and final reader was the clear audience favorite, not least for having some seasonal appeal. Paul Murray read—in his lovely Irish brogue—from his story That’s My Bike! a rousing and hilarious Dublin-set piece about a man named Chips’ quest for Christmas gifts for his family. Stein noted that it was the first Christmas story to be published in the magazine. “At least, the first that I know of. Even if we did do issues, Christmas would not be one of them.”

The reading ended with another raffle and encouragement for the audience to check out the Paris Review Holiday Auction online. Currently there are 30 items up for grabs, valued between $50 (a 1992 copy of the Paris Review autographed by Lorrie Moore) and $15,000 (“supporting a Paris Review writer” for a year). If your budget falls somewhere in between, there’s always brunch for 10 catered by Russ & Daughters, or high tea with Jon-Jon Goulian. The proceeds from the annual event, which ends on Dec. 11, benefit the magazine.

Once formally told that dispersal was imminent, congregants streamed to the drinks table for a last glass of wine. (Drinks were served in the “Writer’s Reference” section.) The hominess of McNally Jackson gave an unexpected small-town vibe to the event, which perhaps should not be that surprising: The same serious readers and aspiring writers often attend literary events at bars and bookstores in the neighborhood. Stein invited all to continue the celebration at Sweet & Vicious, and a few dozen followers marched out of the bookstore and into the night. “That was short and sweet,” a man said as he opened his umbrella.