tv Charlie Rose PBS August 17, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PDT
>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with jeremy stoppelman, the founder of yelp. >> one way to look at it is, it's just worth of mouth, amplified. we set out to create a new yellow pages, a better way for finding local businesses. and so, just like wikipedia, it's open to all comers. anyone can come on to the site, write a review of their favorite local business, and all of that local knowledge can then be searched over so you can find just about any business that you want. you know, here in the states just about any city and increasingly throughout the world you can find the best local businesses by turning to yelp. >> rose: and as "the paris review" celebrates its 60th birthday, we talk with author james salter and mona simpson and editors john jeremiah sullivan and lori stein. >> if you wrote about sex the way jim writes about sex that we published and if you wrote about
parents and children the way mona has written for us in non- fiction, you would be a sociopath because you'd be spilling the beans on someone very close to you, starting with yourself. but when you put in the fiction or poetry, it's different; you're allowed to tell truths that there's no other way to tell. >> rose: yelp and "the paris review" when we continue.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: jeremy stoppelman is here. he is co-founder and c.e.o. of yelp. it's a web site and mobile yap dedicated to user reviews. he formed it in 2004. they received $1 million from their former boss. in 2009, google reportedly offered half a billion dollars for the company but after steve jobs called him personally to advise against the deal, stoppelman turned them down. it was the right move. since its i.p.o. in 2012, yelp's
stock price has soared. it now has a market capitalization of $3.2 billion. i'm pleased to have jeremy stoppelman at this table for the first time. welcome. >> thanks for having me. >> rose: oh, boy, i don't know to start. i mean, tell me what yelp does, that's where we can start. >> one way we can look at is it's worth of mouth, amplified. we set out to create a new yellow pages, a better way for finding local businesses. and so, just like wikipedia, it's open to all comers. anyone can come on to the site, write a review of their favorite local business and all of that local knowledge can be searched over so you can find just about any business that you want. you know, here in the states just about any city and increasingly throughout the world, you can find the best local businesses by turning to yelp. >> rose: and did you do that finding that there was an unmet need that, in fact, this kind of service notwithstanding yellow pages was not there? >> yeah, it all goes back to 2004.
it was the summer i joined max's little incubator, m.r.l. ventures, and we were looking for the next big thing on the consumer web, what was going to be the next big internet idea. and in the first month i got sick and i wanted to go see a doctor. and so i did a search online to see what doctors were near me, who was good. and the thing that struck me is, i couldn't find a great doctor. there was no information that would lead me to a great doctor. i went to insurance web sites, there was a little bit of directory information, and that just stuck with me. it's like, i should be able to know who the best doctor in the city is there. should be some resource where people are talking about sharing this information. and so that was the source of passion that began this whole adventure. >> rose: there you go. you said there's a need that's not met. so what did you do next? >> well, we started thinking about the problem. and so, chatting with my eventual co-founder russ simmons one day it was max's birthday lunch and we were talking about it... >> rose: the famous max levchin?
>> paypal co-founder. and we were trading around ideas about how to solve the problem. and we thought you know what? if you asked me for a recommendation, if somehow there was a service where i could say "i need a recommendation and here's my friend," and you would reply with that recommendation, suddenly that can starting aggregating a lot of this useful information. suddenly you have word of mouth coming online being on the internet and becoming searchable. and so that was a bit of an ah- ha moment. maybe we can create a service around asking friends for recommendations. and that was the spark that got us started. so we left that lunch. we were really excited. we thought we solved it. we were jumping up and down. >> rose: you and russell and max? >> just me and russ, our little idea. and after the lunch, we pitch max and he's not actually as excited. he's like, "yeah, that sounds interesting. let's sleep on it. talk to me tomorrow." and so, we did and came back the next day, we were just as excited, and max said, "all
right, go build this thing." and we set out to do it. >> rose: how much funding did you get? >> a million dollars. >> rose: what was your experience before that? what brought you to the point of being able to take this idea and make it happen? >> i was a computer engineering student, university of illinois, similar to some of my friends like max levchin. so i ended up getting recruited to silicon valley and before long found my way to x.com which was started by elan musk. and that's where i learned the ropes, starting writing code, building software, consumer internet stuff. and that company merged with confinity and really became paypal. so i had this incredible ride with paypal over three and a half years, went from engineer into engineering management and ultimately left as v.p. of engineering after ebay acquired the company.
>> rose: so-called paypal mafia. >> i'm part of the paypal mafia, yeah. fortunately it's not violent. >> rose: are you on the famous picture? >> i am. i have a mustache, and i'm in the background in a track suit. >> rose: so yelp was about an idea. was it also in a sense saying this is a way we can make money or is it let's give this a good try? >> for me it was always about the consumer experience. that's the thing that gets me excited. so i wanted to solve the problem. we felt like if you're able to connect people with great local businesses, people are coming to a site to find businesses, those are transactions, there will be a business model there. so we didn't spend a ton of time in the very early days focused on the business model, we spent it on how do you create a destination where people want to contribute all this. >> rose: people want it. >> exactly. >> rose: cheryl sandberg from facebook said, "local is the holy grail of the internet." explain to us what all of you
mean by "local." >> so local is, there's all of these businesses out there. in the u.s., it's somewhere between 10 and 20 million. so just tons and tons of little businesses, and they all spend a lot of money on advertising, most of which is currently offline. and so, if you add up all of those dollars in the u.s. it's something like $100 billion is spent annually on local advertising by businesses. and so, that gets a lot of companies excited. particularly big companies, which is where a lot of the interest comes from when you hear facebook talking about it or google talking about it. >> rose: so what happened to groupon? >> you know, i think it came out with a product that got a lot of consumer attention, but i think if you're looking at the market, it's still bouncing around. groupon is a company that's out there. >> rose: changed executives and that kind of thing. what's interesting, though, lots of companies face the question
as you did: do i keep it private and then go public, or do i accept the merger that will give me more money than i've ever seen? what went into your decision to say, "no, i'm not going to take google's offer"? >> these things are always complex. there's very complex dynamics that are ever happening. for me, my focus is how can yelp be the most successful company. and so, we took venture money and as someone that takes venture capital you have to consider these thing as they come. you have to have the conversation, it's your fiduciary responsibility. and we looked what the we had on the table and in the end it just didn't make sense. we felt like we were building a strong independent company. >> rose: it would be more valuable later. >> we felt like everything was working. we still could spread our wings and fly even higher. and that's worked out so far. >> rose: but groupon made a different decision. they had a big offer, too, and said no but it turned out in the end it would have been better to
have accepted the offer. and sometimes it works out it's better to accept the offer because you'll get resources that will help you go to where you want to go. it's a hard decision. >> rose: there's examples like youtube where if you remember that one, paypal mafia company where there was a lot of lawsuits that were coming in from various media companies because they had a lot of content that maybe wasn't necessarily legal. and google stepped in and saved the day. provided the cover that they needed. and so there can be opportunities like that where it really makes sense. >> rose: michael luka of harvard business school said, "typically the pushback about yelp is what does some college kid know about restaurants? people tend to assume that crowd-sourced information so erratic that it's impossible to extract meaningful signals from it. but that's not true." you've heard that before. >> i've heard that, yeah. there's a lot of ways to try and dismiss the user base or the power of yelp or the medium of yelp, but the demographics are off the charts.
they're 22 to 50 as far as contributors, the people contributing. >> rose: and they're most influenced by first experience? >> well, this is a great demographic, they're highly educated. they're high income, and age- wise probably average is somewhere in the mid-30s. so it's not just young folks mouthing off about mcdonald's or something like that. it's actually like consumers in major urban metros that are talking about businesses. some of them are doctors and lawyers and bankers. we actually bring these people together every few weeks for parties that we... we have this yelp elite squad, and we bring them together and they get to meet each other and it's working just like you and me. >> rose: before i get to that part of this. why the name yelp? >> well, yelp, help, yellow pages. kind of goes together. but when we first heard the name it was proposed by one of the
folks in max's incubator. and that was... that was working with us and when we heard the name we were worried about it because we thought it has a negative connotation. a yelp is a cry for help. so we weren't quite sure. but there was... >> rose: did you test it or something >> no, there was a guy that came up in your max live chin interview, scott banister who's in this incubator occasionally and he heard the name and he lit up and he was like "this is your name. you have to take this name. i'm going to buy it for you right now." >> rose: and it's a name people remember. everybody remembers yelp. >> yeah, yelp help. it works. >> rose: so mobile comes along and gains increasing acceptance and usage and technology more sophisticated. that's nothing but bonanza for you. >> yeah. i mean, it was scary when it came. >> rose: why was it scary? >> well, for me, it felt like we're back at the starting line.
2007, iphone launches, 2008 you have the launch of the app store. and while we were building our apps for the launch of the app store, i was thinking to myself here we are, we're successful, we're doing great on the web, but what with if we don't get it right on mobile? that could be disastrous. day one, nobody has advantage, we have to build a killer app. >> rose: it reminds me of... in a different way, different size, facebook has the same way. how do you advertise on mobile, and for a long time the advertising community or the market held back until they proved that they could monetize advertising on mobile. >> yeah, i think there was differing degrees of focus on mobile for various companies. some could argue that facebook wasn't as focused on mobile as early as they should have been. that was some of the criticism that was out there in the press. for us, we realized since we had local contact there's no better
place to use that than on the go. so having a device in your hand that has a g.p.s. located that can say this is where i am what's around me and marrying that up with local businesses, that's a killer app on the phone. >> rose: do you worry about anybody who's big? i'm thinking google, i'm thinking apple, i'm thinking -- i mean i'm thinking amazon or google might say they've just showed us a great revenue stream for us and we can take all of our resources and do their job better than they can. >> that's not a new idea. ( laughs ) that certainly occurred to google probably in 2005, so we've been competing with them for eight years. >> rose: how do you be competitive? how do you make sure being first and being there and having first bite at that apple is sustainable for you? >> i think the most important advantage is focus. all the best employees... all the best employees at yelp work
on one thing, which connecting people with great local business. we think about one problem. at google, there are a lot of problems. they have these web search thing, thehave android, they have local, they have maps. there's a lot going on and so there's a lack of focus. that's one advantage. motorola, they have to worry about motorola. so that's one piece. the other piece is that, from the beginning, we focused on the consumer and tried to figure out how do you compel people to contribute all this word of mouth. how do you get it online? we realized the way to do that is fostering and growing communities in cities across the country and across the world. so in every community we're bringing together people online and off line that love to share this information. and that hasn't been replicated by anybody. >> rose: then there's a question about the reviews that you provide and how you weigh those and people say... especially the people that are being judged, how do you weigh this? how accurate is it? how fair is it? >> i find it accurate.
i would put it other folks out there. if you go and find a four and a half star business in new york that has 70-plus reviews you're pretty much guaranteed that's going to be a great experience, so i encourage you to try that out. >> rose: 70-plus reviews -- >> 70 plus reviews at four and a half stars, business is doing pretty good. that's what i think. so having quantity of reviews is part of it. having a rating attached to an in-depth review is part of it. knowing about the reviewer themselves, their identity is part of it. when you join yelp, you tell us about yourself, you fill out a profile, you have social networking elements. and we also try to protect against the bad stuff with a review filter. so what that's doing is gathering all sorts of signals about how people are using and contributing on the site and deciding which reviews are the ones consumers should rely on and which ones we're not so sure about, and we set aside the ones we're not so sure about. so north of 20% of our content
isn't on the page business page, it's in a filtered reviews. >> rose: when will you be profitable? >> we certainly intend for that to be the case sometime soon. we haven't put a date out there. but we just came off a great quarter, so we're feeling good about that. >> rose: the issue you're spending so much money that it's profitable in growth but also eats into any revenue gains that you might have? >> when you're growing a revenue growth over the year around 69%, when you're growing that fast, you're investing money into the business. >> rose: and maximize the possibilities. >> yeah, there's a huge opportunity out there. is we have something like north of 60,000 customers paying right now out of millions that could be paying us. so we feel like we're a drop in the bucket when it comes to opportunities so we should be spending noun go after that if we see opportunities. >> rose: do you grow bying a acquisition? >> we have.
but not typically. up until recently all of our growth is completely organic. fourth quarter last year we did buy a competitor. >> rose: a european company. >> yeah. and so they were strong in germany, france and the u.k. particularly so now we're in the process of incorporating their content into the site. >> rose: is this a stock deal or cash deal or... >> um, i believe it was part and part. >> rose: when you look at the future, what worries you? are you worried about mobile a little bit? are you worried about competition from big guys? what else do you worry about? >> we always have to worry about what's going to be the next big technological change. when the iphone hit or the rise of the smartphone happened, that worried me simply because i knew that was do over. you know, it had some advantages we were ready for it, but there was no guarantee of success. >> rose: are there people who continue to advertise on yelp saying, well, look, we've got
the bump we need, we don't need go back because we've got the good reviews and we're home free. >> i mean, certainly there are businesses out there that haven't paid us a dime and do fantastic. they're great businesses, they got great reviews day in and day out they're blowing it out of the water. same thing on google where we have great content, we don't pay google anything and we get, you know, north of 100 million people visiting our site, many of which are if google. still, there's people out there that would like additional traffic to their business just like there's web sites that would like additional traffic from google. >> rose: what percentages of the businesses are restaurants? >> i think of the review businesses, it's something in -- somewhere between 20% and 30%. >> rose: therefore, was google's acquisition of zagat troubling for you? does that provide competition you might not have had before? >> every year, every six months to a year there's a reinvention
of what google has been doing in the local space. there's been change after change and i think what that should communicate is that they're struggling and having trouble finding something that works and something they can stick with. google local then they made it google maps then they changed it to google places then they had hot pot then they brought zagat and then they tried fromers and then they sold fromers. so it's constant chaos. if you're winning, it's usually calmer waters. and the think about yelp is we've been doing the same thing for about nine years. we feel pretty comfortable with our position. >> rose: do you believe are you happy being a c.e.o.? >> i'm happy being a c.e.o. so i do believe in founders as c.e.o.s. certainly there's success in the outliers, the black swan companies tend to have founder c.e.o.s, and i think there's
something to that. part of it might be when these major changes happen in the industry like the iphone, like the... when there's a platform shift to really turn the company you need a moral authority. you need to say to everyone stop what you're doing, this is important, this is life or death. >> rose: this is what bill gates did when he turned it around to focus on the internet. >> rose: there was that famous memo. and i think that's something that might be hard for a business executive that was brought in to run the ship kind of in one direction and make it more efficient to really spot that. it can be done. there's examples. >> rose: talk beyond yelp for a few minutes. tell me about the frontier. where do you think it is? what's going on? what are people and incubators talking about? what are all the smart people talking about? even if they're not in the
business, where do they see the combination of forces shaping the future? >> well, i mean, obviously there is still a lot of talk in the mobile arena as things shrink down. >> rose: what's the talk in the mobile arena? >> the smart phone is still central to the conversation. there has been a shift in focus from... over the last i'd say four years, there's been a lot of work done in the consumer arena. some people focused on consumer startups, consumer apps for smart phones and so forth. and now what's happening is a lot of those ideas and technologies are being translated to business. so the hot area now is software that improves and makes businesses more efficient. apps, web sites, things like that. so that's kind of what's in the water right now is less consumer more what we call b-to-b. >> rose: business to business. >> right, business to business. if you look farther out there's other interesting opportunities. there's additional devices being talked about. there's the iwatch.
>> rose: what's iwatch? >> supposedly-- i don't have any special information on this-- supposedly apple is working on a watch or other device that is not an iphone but maybe ties into an iphone. just like google has google glass where they're trying to present information as you're walking about without having to look at your phone. whether that represents an important change, i'm not quite sure. i think it could have useful applications. >> rose: and because so of innovation comes from silicon valley, and now we have some companies in china gaining traction in size and that kind of thing, they tend to be, i'm told... navigate to cheaper products in terms of smart phones and that kinds of things. you know better about this. how is the international market changing? how is the fact that silicon valley has stood alone as the innovation center for technology?
>> i think for the most part it is still is the center. if it's making in roads on less expensive products. that's the sign usually of disruptive innovation. so often very disruptive companies come in with a low cost, maybe lower quality, lower utility products. but continually improve it and improve it until it starts competing with much fancier, much more sophisticated things. >> rose: electronics? >> there's a book, clayton christiansen wrote a book "innovators' dilemma," and he details this in industry and industry. a lot in technology because technology tends to be the fruit flies of companies because their lives are so short. that would be my concern. if there's low cost products that are having some utility that are getting better and better that can...
>> rose: where do you get most of the information? does it come from conversations with other people? is it what? >> i would say that's part of the beauty of silicon valley is that you do have this network of very smart people that are all looking at what's next, what's next. so just by being there, you're ahead of the game. i rely on twitter for breaking news these days. i read a lot. that often can provide insights and edge. >> rose: do you tweet a lot? >> i tweet some. mostly retreat. >> rose: and what do you follow because you think it's important for you to know? >> i follow the different journalists that i trust. >> rose: tech journalists or political journalists? >> most of what i'm following on twitter and also entrepreneurs can be insightful. venture capitalists. bill girlly from benchmark
capital writes a blog and he has a tweet that he's written a new blog post. >> rose: how about tech crunch and people like that? >> tech crunch is a bit of a fire hose. it's kind of like press releases coming out and they are kind of definitive source for what's new new company just raised financing, you can always find out about it there. >> rose: great to have you here. thank you. >> thank you for having me. >> rose: welcome to new york. >> thanks, great to be here. >> rose: back in a moment. stay with us. "the paris review" celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. "time" magazine has called it the biggest little magazine in history. among many careers fostered by the literary quarterly are jack kerouac, phillip roth, david foster wallace, george plympton was the first editor of the review. he's the subject of a new documentary called "plympton." here's a look. >> well, the accountant came to me the other day and said "do you know how much this magazine is costing?" he named something that sounded like the national debt! ( laughs ) i couldn't believe it.
but you just... you would feel it if it did collapse or couldn't continue, that you'd lose something worse than a limb. i look at the shelf of those things and each one of them brings back particular memories, and so i have... i have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. i would give up my own writing before i would give up anything in "the paris review." >> i don't think there's any name you could name that we hadn't either befriended or published than "the paris review."
>> rose: three generations of great writers are here today. james salter is the author of six novels. his most recent is "all that is." it was published last year. mona simpson has written five novels. her early fiction was published in the review. john jeremiah sullivan is the southern editor of "the paris review." the "new york times" called his book "pulp head" the best and most important collection of magazine writings since david foster wallis. also lorin stein, the editor of "the paris review." i'm pleased to have each of them here. when you look at that, how proud are you to be associated with this great thing? that whole list of great writers and to be there and to listen to george. take me back to the early times. >> well, it was already a legend when i was first published in "the paris review." that was 1967.
it had been going on for 20 years. almost 20 years. so, actually they published the first short story i ever had published. and he also published the first book that i was really... where i felt i really had written a book. george plympton published it. one of only five books that "the edenre.eview" ever published, it but for me it was wonderful. >> rose: what did it mean to you and what do you think it meant to writers? >> well, it probably meant... to me it meant that i felt i had a place in writing. and i suspect it means that to almost every writer who was published in "the paris review." >> rose: that you had a place. >> yes. >> rose: what was the essence of the beginning?
what made it "the paris review" for peter and george in paris, just reading about the life- style made you want to be there. >> well, the review always had a double life. on the one hand it was a lot of fun and a continuous party. >> rose: exactly. >> on the other hand, it's always been very, very serious and experimental and exciting magazine devoted to finding the best writing in america. >> rose: but william styron wrote something about it. the idea was not to make criticism the focus of a literary magazine. >> that's right. or political arguments or other kinds of... or journalism but instead to focus on what writing they thought was in danger in 1953 which was imaginative writing. fiction, poetry and a certain kind of difficult essay or unusual or unlikely essay. and it's just as much in danger now or even more.
so it's a mission that has been... that if anything matters more now than it did then. >> rose: and why is that? >> why does it matter more now? >> rose: why is it so essential that we have "the paris review"? we should have "the paris review," but why isn't there more of what "the paris review" brings to us in terms of understanding literature? >> that's a very good question. i don't know why there aren't more magazines doing what we're doing. readers seem to love it. we have three times as many readers as we did ten years ago. in a world where we know what's happened to the book stores and the book reviews, we know what's happened to the publishers and there's a gap. there's no one... there are not have more places out there devoted to finding what's new and slightly out of the ordinary. >> rose: and i would argue what writers do. to understand what writer's life is and what they do. >> well, i came to "the paris review" when i was trying to be
a writer myself. so, it was an interesting conundrum. i was in graduate school, and i would come over a couple days a week and sit... the office at that time was not much bigger than this table. it was tiny, and there were four of us there. george lived there. >> rose: oh, yeah. >> and i would just sit and read all day in a chair by the window. the snow would fall down and i would just read these unsolicited manuscripts. it's true that you have three times the readers you used to but you probably also have 20 times the submissions. so many people all over the country are writing these stories and poems and sending them to "the paris review," which that expresses some need that's mysterious and enduring, i think. >> rose: i want to talk about george for a moment. a friend of everybody here. what was it about george that made him perfect for this?
>> i wish i could have called him a friend. i didn't know him that well. i got to know him in an unusual way. we were editing each other at the same time. i did one of the interviews for the magazine from the interviewers. as an interviewer and at the same time he was writing something for harper's, actually writing it for louis lapham who was in the intro and i got to work on this great piece about terry southern that he wrote. >> rose: here's an interview i did with him in 1995. here it is, talking about "the paris review." "the paris review," which you started with, who else -- you started with -- >> peter matheson, and the head of the viking press, a novelist called harold hughes. >> rose: you started when? >> 12953. >> 1953. >> rose: all of you were in paris? >> in paris. >> rose: and it was to create -- >> to focus entirely on creative work. on short stories, poetry.
and the only concession to the essay or to criticism would be these interviews that we've had over the years with famous writers. >> rose: hemingway and people like that. that's what got it started, right? >> the first interview was with e.m. forster where i was studying at king's college cambridge. he was a fascinating person to interview because he hadn't written a novel, as far as we knew, since 1924. so when he talked about he had these problems with writing a novel that beset him... >> rose: "the paris review" continues but clearly it's a publication that can always use more money, yes? >> oh, yes! >> rose: i've got that right don't i? >> it's lost money for 42 years! >> rose: (laughs) is that still true? >> absolutely true. >> rose: he told us a wonderful story about hemingway, how he chased him to get him for an interview. i assume that was part of the early history, chasing writers and getting them accustomed to the idea? >> we're still doing it. if we can get cormac mccarthy on
the phone, it will all be thanks to you, charlie. he's said no every six months. >> rose: well, now that you've turned me down, how about "the paris review." are there others like that, that simply don't want to sit? >> a few, i won't name them. >> rose: they come because they want what? what's the experience to coming with "the paris review"? because people like to talk about what they do, don't say in >> well, it's flattering to be asked and if you have no mod desty it's very satisfying. also it's a review in-depth. you get a chance to talk for several days usually to somebody interested in what you're doing. >> rose: so you would think they would want to do that? >> well, a lot of people don't like to appear in public there are people that don't want to be interviewed. >> rose: ( laughs )
tell me about it. >> you writers are very suspicious. >> when george is explaining to his parents what the idea was behind the interviews, he said in the letter, "we're doing an essay in dialogue on technique." but writers, a lot of you are very nervous about talking about your technique because you're afraid of jinxing it. seems that way to me. >> rose: there's also this, i think. so many writers-- and i've interviewed probably more than anyone in terms of-- because i have so much space, so to speak. there are many that say to me in the end i want the work to speak for me. that's who i am. it's in the work. and they don't want to talk about it. now, you were part of the family but you were never on the masthead, correct? >> well, i was the cormac mccarthy of editors. ( laughter ) >> rose: never to be found? >> only one not on the masthead, he had 100 people as associate editors.
i mean, you met him at a party. ( laughter ) >> rose: this is what the first issue said. i had a letter that said "i think "the paris review" should welcome these people into its pages, good writers and good poets and non-ax grinders so long as they're good. is that still the aim? >> that's exactly the same aim. >> rose: make sure they're good and non-ax grinders? >> no other criteria, just that it's the best. >> rose: is most people -- the writers at work the favorite thing they like? is that in the end what people will remember most as they think about all the people that appeared in the pages more than what they have written? what they have said about writing? >> i think it's the kind of magazine you can work your way through in stages. it's fun to read. that's what my mother said.
>> rose: what does she say? >> oh, that you're doing a great job. ( laughter ) there's a discovery that i guess plympton made that if you gave the writers more power over the ways the interview turns out you would learn more about them. they are literary works, in a way. >> rose: what did you mean by that, "give the writers for power"? >> the opposite of a gotcha approach or an unwelcome scrutiny. it's more... you're giving the writer chance to say what he or she really means and... >> and we let them because... >> rose: you think it will make the answer better? >> yes. and they're writers, after all. >> the writer has complete control over what we publish in the interview and that means that we can talk to -- well, hemingway, faulkner. faulkner never gave an interview like the one he gave us. >> rose: do you remember who did it? >> of course. it was gene stein. >> rose: oh!
>> i wish i could claim to be related to him. >> rose: when you dime the magazine, how did you discover it? >> i was 12, my father gave it to me for christmas in washington, d.c., and i loved it and have been a reader ever since. >> rose: and you discovered it because you were asked to do an interview. >> yes, but before that my first rejection slips as a writer were from "the paris review." and i would... i hung some of them up. >> rose: and the theory also of the magazine is that non-fiction -- i mean that the words of fiction can be, what? i mean, the sense of the creative? what's the... what's the guiding mission behind the sense of enhancing the creative? do you know what i mean? >> it can quite adventuresome both in terms of the voice, the approach, the experimental nature of something, it can be long. it can accommodate a lot of
extreme fiction that may not appear anywhere else. >> rose: if you wrote about sex the way jim writes about sex in the story we that we published "sex and marriage," or if you wrote about parents and children the way mona's written for us, in non-fiction you would billion a sociopath. because you'd be spilling the beans on someone very close to you, starting with yourself. but when you put in the fictional poetry it's different. you're allowed to tell truths that there's no other way to tell. it's too shameful. we get in trouble sometimes for publishing stuff that is too hot, too dirty, too shameful. we're told that we gravitate toward things -- john and i have both been told this-- toward things that are too dark. but i think that that's something nag creative writing exists to do and you can't do in the non-fiction. >> i was thinking of something james salter wrote about having
a place. i relate to that. a magazine is not just an object, it's also a space that writers are projecting into in an imaginative way. and if you take one of those spaces away there's certain things that can't be written. for me, writing for the magazine now, it's been really important. it always was in an abstract way but in a more literal way some of the most stuff i'm interest ed in writing i don't feel like i could do anywhere else. >> rose: it's the perfect forum for you? >> and that you're almost in communication with it somehow. the object is not dictating the form but there's something going on between them. >> rose: it's said the conceit of "the paris review" is that this is what the editors think worthy of reading because think they it's worthy of reading it's
worthy of reading. 6and this is our judgment and we come to this judgment with a certain passion and with a certain discernment. take me back to the lifestyle of "the paris review" when george was in full force. and you can contribute to this, jim. >> i don't know. there's lots of parties. i was... i was kind of shy. >> rose: they had a great pool table. >> exactly. i was i think the first middle- class person who worked there so at one point i went and said "george, we need health insurance." and he said, "well, if you get sick, don't worry about that, we don't need health insurance, if you get sick just give me the bills, give me the doctor bills." and it took some time to actually persuade him that that wasn't the answer. but he was... to his credit, we always came around and was open to that. >> rose: of all the thing that george did, it was clearly the
most important thing to him. >> no doubt. >> rose: walter mitty escapades and everything else. it was -- >> oh, probably unintentionally. >> rose:? if someone comes up to beyond and says this character this fellow plympton, what was he like? what would you say? >> well, i'd say is difficult to describe in a phrase or two. but he was a real gent. he was accessible. he was urbane. and also unflappable. and you liked him very much although you never knew whether you would get to know him or not even as a friend. >> rose: despite all of that, there was a place that you weren't sure you could transcend?
>> well, not a... not a place but a personality, yes. that... i mean, even you play... well, he was... he was terrific. there was something... you can tell when you see him speak he's -- there's something a little bit withheld in him that -- >> rose: you think that was his waspishness? >> i don't know. maybe it was his height. ( laughter ) >> rose: maybe so. but there was also this enthusiasm for life. if you go up to a lane late at night there was george. >> yes. at the bar. >> rose: one thing about george, he was so nice to kids. >> yes. >> rose: i mean, you know that and we know that. i didn't know him hardly at all except as a guest at his parties like everybody else. but he would turn that high beam on you and didn't care who you were and invited us all in. >> rose: and would send you out to do an interview.
someone said "i'm reliably informed this magazine comprises four elements, shabby cramped quarters, meager wages, attractive interns of independent means and boundless enthusiasm." that's pretty fair. >> i think that's very fair. and enduring. >> rose: and smart editors. >> he didn't say that. ( laughter ) >> rose: he didn't but that was his reliably informed. but tell me about the parties, too. it's important we understand that this was part of the overall story. the parties that george would give. >> rose: it all seemed to be much of a muchess somehow. >> rose: a much of a muchness? >> just the culture of creating a magazine. he was -- he was at the center of it somehow, wasn't he? >> yeah, and a big community. i mean, a lot of people -- i've been telling lorin that one of the fun things is i sometimes
run people into people who i correspondented writing with students for years and you still have a relationship even if you never took their story. and some of those people turn up at the party. >> rose: and you've rejected them? >> yeah. >> rose: i hate to ask this i'm going to ask it any because it sounds something -- sophomorish. what's the state of literature snowed is in the a good place? because this is the only devoted magazine we can think of. why are you all silent? >> i think it's a great place in sort of the linguistic treasures. we've had all these infusions of idioms from immigrants. we have that going for the english language right now so there's an enormous infusion of new phrases new music in the language.
on the other hand i think we're all waiting to see what's going to happen with this generation who are -- you know, tied deeply to electronics. >> rose: whether they will be something or whether they will lose something because they're tied to electronics? >> whether they will read to the degree that we read and whether the way we get stories will be the way they get stories. >> but that's the fun part is that now we're competing with great t.v., great video games, pornography everywhere and we are trying to make a place for the thing that really matters to us which is writing. and i think that's what gets me out of bed is that fight. it's different from what it used to be. it's a lot of fun. it's a lot of fun. i wish the book business were in a better position to do what we're able to do, what we have the luxury of doing because we lose money and it's just wonderful. readers clearly love it. we love doing it, the writers love it.
there should be more of it. >> rose: in terms of writers who write well about sex, do you know anybody who does it better than... >> i hope you do! >> rose: but my second question is, you know, the old idea that writers should write about what they know. ( laughter ) >> well, everybody knows about sex. i mean, that's nothing special. ( laughter ) >> rose: in looking at this span of your own creativity, would you do anything different when you look back? would you -- what would have made a difference you think now that might -- >> well, a couple of things. i would have started earlier, and i would have eliminated the central part of this center. i was writing for movies for about a decade.
i would skip that. >> rose: why? >> well, it's... it vanishes. it's not something that -- i'd rather have been working. >> rose: and it's much more of a collaborative meeting. >> oh, it's not that so much. i guess i was not good at it. i was not lucky. i perhaps should never have done it. and so that's all. i would pass over that. >> rose: how has the weapon >> rose: how has the web changed the magazine in terms of being able to give it life that you can access so much of it now. >> we sell almost all of our subscriptions off the web site. every week we have 70,000 or 80 people coming to read the stuff we put online. we can put the interviews online everyone can read them for free and hundreds of thousands of people do that a month. so the web's been great for us. but even though what we are doing is putting out a print magazine.
without the web we could don't it this way. it's wonderful. >> rose: in what way would we be lesser without "the paris review" today? >> it's the only magazine of a sizable circulation in this country that is devoted entirely completely, wholeheartedly to literature. not to the news, not to criticism. and readers seem to think that we're giving them the state of literature now. so it's not for me to say -- but as a reader that's what i would have missed if i had folded before we were around. >> rose: what would you add? >> i think creatively for me it would be a personal catastrophe and a lot of writers i know feel a the same way.
>> rose: a personal catastrophe. >> because you're losing, again, one of these essential spaces that you wouldn't be losing. the web thing has been fun i think in part because it brought into it into the present tense a little bit more. and when we talk about the state of literature today it allows us to be forward thinking about that. the state of literature is the next issue. not just this magazine but to others. and that's been -- i think that it will be a betrayal of plympton's legacy to look at it as a nostalgia object or one of reason somehow and the web really broke it out of any chance of that. >> when we gave jen our highest honor a few years ago we were able on the web to ask young writers to write little essays about what his work had meant to them. and i just love that stuff! and we couldn't have done that in print edition.
and this immediate contact with your core writers and readers that day to day, minute to minute and i -- wasn't it fun? >> it was wonderful. it was terrific. let's do that again. ( laughter ) >> rose: this is sunday. this is in the... what year is this? >> '67, i think. >> rose: i'll read you the first paragraph, sir.
that's just good writing, that's what it is. >> with your pretty accent you said "brother" right the first time. >> rose: oh, i did. yes, yes. and this is the current edition. "the paris review." a place you go to appreciate writing and writers. thank you all very much. congratulations on this celebration. thank you for joining us.
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