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This review is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

AMERICANS ARE SO NICE The Paris Review. The Poetry Issue, #154, $12.00

George Plimpton has a curiously bifurcated career in American letters. He founded and edits the Paris Review, probably the premier American literary magazine, and participates in other estimably high-brow literary activities. Yet to most Americans, Plimpton is known for his participatory journalism in which he plays a fey, slightly bemused, decidedly WASPy observer of American professional sports. Plimpton has pitched to baseball all-stars, allowed himself to get whacked around by the Detroit Lions, and done a stint in the nets for the Boston Bruins hockey team, among other lucratively comic turns. Plimpton keeps his dual careers apart but some of the puckishness of his career as an amateur sportsman can be seen in his editorship of the Paris Review. Plimpton's preference for semi-detached observing is manifested in the Review's signature feature, its lengthy and probing interviews of writers. Moreover, there is an ironic tone of a certain kind to the Review which suggests the tradition of the gentleman or amateur scholar. A regular column is called 'The Man in the Back Row Has a Question' which asks about just those kind of things which most people are interested in but are intimidated into not asking. In the current, gigantic 'Poetry Issue' the editors provide a parlour game or country house sense of fun (American WASPs are very big at playing games at parties) by soliciting a number of well-known poets to write to titles drawn from the hat of popular and literary culture: 'Jaws', 'The English are So Nice', ...


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