At some stage this spring The Paris Review hopes to have its seventh spring revel to raise funds for the magazine. It has been many years since the Review held its last fund-raiser {on a decrepit side-wheeler steamer moored at the South Street Seaport in New York)— mostly because the occasions, although as many as a thousand revelers have attended, have not made enough money to substantiate the considerable effort that has gone into staging them. At the fifth revel, for example, which was held in 1969 on the grounds of an abandoned church on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island), two pianos placed out in a grove of trees were destroyed in a late night rainstorm; almost all the profits from the revel were paid to a piano rental company. The final tally showed that the proceeds turned over to the magazine amounted to fourteen dollars.

It has always been a tradition to use a considerable amount of ingenuity and imagination to dress up the occasion to make it memorable for those who come. This spring the intent is to have the function in a New York nightclub discotheque called Area, The place is distinguished from its many rivals in the city by a number of features. First of all, throughout the club are a number of vitrines or diorama windows set into the walls of a maze of corridors, so that in the gloom one often has the impression of wandering through an aquarium. Some of the vitrines are large enough to put on a scene involving two or three people, or. for that matter, with giant tuna if Area wished to fill the vitrines with seawater. Second, every month or so Area picks a “theme” (“Science Fiction,” “The Automobile,” “Suburbia” are among those they have done do far) which is reflected by various stagings set up in these aforementioned vitrines.

During the month in which The Paris Review hopes to have its revel, the people who run Area are considering (actually on the recommendation of the Review) the theme “Great Moments in Literature.” In truth, the Area entrepreneurs are somewhat leery of the concept — “We’re not quite sure there’s enough there, are we?”

In the hope of persuading Area that the theme “Great Moments in Literature” is viable and appropriate (certainly for the night of the Review’s revel), the staff of this magazine offered help with various proposals which might be designed for the club’s vitrines. These follow— a series of story boards {to use an advertising term) that have been illustrated charmingly on our behalf by Roz Chast. The individual ideas have been listed under the heading “Proposal” together with their disposition, a final decision made either by the Review staff or the Area people.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL; Marcel Proust shown dipping his madeleine cookie into his tea. circa 1909, the famous mnemonic act which produced a rush of childhood memories culminating in the noted madeleine episode of Swann’s Way and providing the framework for Remembrance of Things Past.

REJECTED: Too obscure. Not enough action.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: Colette in bed spanking one of her cats.

REJECTED: No historical evidence that Colette ever did spank one.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: Herman Melville sitting in his den, bent over his writing desk, occasionally scratching his ear with a quill, and trying to come up with the first line of Moby Dick. On a large scroll of paper the viewer can see through the vitrine window that he has crossed out “Call me Harry,” “Call me Lucas,” “Call me Charlie,” “Call me Jake,” “Call me Buck,” etc. etc.

REJECTED: Too esoteric. Too confusing to revelers and party crashers unaware of the classic’s first line.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: A twilight scene in the drawing-room of William Makepeace Thackeray’s home in Kensington, His youngest daughter looks up from a book she has been reading and asks her father, “Papa, why do you not write books like Nicholas Nickle by?”

REJECTED: Question too tough. Besides, what Thackeray replied was never recorded by Lord Tennyson, who was a witness to the scene.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: The scene at Bread Loaf Writers Conference when Archibald MacLeish’s poetry reading was interrupted by Robert Frost who, after whispering loudly. “Archie’s poems all have the same tune,” lit fire to a handful of mimeographed papers to disrupt the proceedings.

REJECTED: New York City fire laws prohibit. Besides, possibility of soggy matches and the actor playing “Frost” unable to get fire started.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: A diorama devoted entirely to a succession of famous literary fights: Alexandre Dumas (pere) losing his trousers in his first duel; Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the wrist in Brussels; Hemingway and Max Eastman wrestling in Max Perkins’ office; Theodore Dreiser slapping Sinclair Lewis in the Metropolitan Club; the “Night of the Tiny Fist” when Norman Mailer hit Gore Vidal in the eye at Lally Weymouth’s salon; etc, etc.

REJECTED: Too large a contingent necessary backstage to put on such a massive number of brouhahas; labor costs prohibitive. The order of combatants might get mixed up, so that viewers standing in the corridor would be startled to see Max Eastman shot in the wrist by Verlaine, and so forth.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

REJECTED: Problem of getting a minor admitted to Area.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL; Zane Grey on the porch of his home in Altadena, California, harnessed in a sport-fishing chair with the fishing line attached to a distant and spirited cow—the way in which Grey simulated far inland his beloved deep-sea fishing... a strenuous habit which eventually caused his death on October 23. 1939.

REJECTED: Too difficult to construct the set within the diorama, especially the distant and spirited cow.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: On a treadmill within the vitrine Gerard de Nerval, the 19th-century exotic, is walking the lobster (on a pale-blue ribbon leash) from which he hoped to learn “the secrets of the deep.” After an hour or so of tread milling and not having heard a peep from the lobster regarding the secrets of the deep, or anything else for that matter, de Nerval sets a pot on a small brush fire and, preparing the lobster with a nice herbal sauce (3 to 4 lbs. fresh minced green herbs; parsley, chervil, and tarragon or parsley only), he tucks a napkin under his chin and falls to.

REJECTED: Antianimalarian. Also not historically accurate; there is no evidence that de Nerval ever ate his pet lobster. Fire laws once again a problem.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: “All happy families are alike; but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own fashion”—Tolstoy.

REJECTED: Small Area diorama would be too crowded, thus rendering all the families obviously unhappy.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: The scene following the lunch given by Carson McCullers in Nyack, NY, in 1959 at which Isak Dinesen, Marilyn Monroe, and her husband. Arthur Miller, were asked to tap dance on the marble-topped dining room table.

REJECTED: McCullers’ proposal was declined by all those at the table; thus any recreation lacks visual excitement.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: The scene at Turgenev’s home at the moment that the visiting Tolstoy falls asleep before the author’s eyes after reading a few pages of Fathers and Sons. {1861).

REJECTED: Not enough action. Too ho-hum. Observers unfamiliar with the story might assume that Tolstoy was falling asleep over his own book.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: Rupert Brooke being bitten on the lip by a mosquito while serving with the Royal Naval Division on Skyros... the infection which eventually caused his death from blood poisoning.

REJECTED: Difficult to find a mosquito large enough to be identified by the people in front of the vitrine. A dummy mosquito, made of wire, say, would tend to overpower “Rupert Brooke,” and make it look as though the poet were under attack by a buzzard, or a fugitive from a low-budget sci-fi movie.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: Henry James being hissed off the stage after taking an opening-night bow at the debut of his first (and last) play, Guy Domville.

REJECTED: Might leave viewers with the wrong impression of Henry James. Leon Edel would be upset. Also, vegetables might go bad.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: Thomas Wolfe and James Joyce not meeting while passengers in the same car touring the battlefields of Waterloo.

REJECTED: Too Static; not enough for “Wolfe” and ’Joyce” to do. Also too difficult to fit a car in a vitrine at Area, much less the battlefields of Waterloo.

 

undefined

PROPOSAL: The death of Emile Zola in his sleep from inhaling smoke from a clogged chimney.

REJECTED: Easy enough to depict (by covering the viewing window with smoked cellophane), but likely to confuse the audience, which might assume the vignette was not yet prepared (or out of order) and because of this leave the revel in a huff.