Books by Jim Paul

Released: July 1, 2003

"Engaging, lyrical, and funny, but raced to a Book-of-the-Week ending."
Poet and second-novelist Paul (Medieval in L.A., 1996) depicts two intellectuals who are drawn to Ecuador to discover themselves, each other, and parrots. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

After two rounds of nonfiction (Catapult, 1991; What's Called Love, 1993), Paul offers a novel-cum-essay that makes for a pleasant intellectual browse. Take a plain, unaffected intellectual named Jim, give him a job at a San Francisco art museum, put him on a plane with a female friend named Les for a weekend visit with friends in L.A., then afterward send them home again: and you've got the author's narrative from bottom to top. What happens? Well, nothing. It's just that on the way down, Jim spills tomato juice on his pants— and on the book he's reading, open to a chapter on ``The Triumph of Secularism'' at the close of the Middle Ages. The spill sets Jim to thinking—which he keeps on doing right to visit's end as the plane takes off for San Francisco, leaving the beaches of L.A. behind. The point? Jim has the notion that he's old-fashioned, having a medieval view of life instead of an ``actual'' one—that, for example, he still thinks of the sun as ``rising'' instead of the earth's surface as rotating furiously eastward. Does it matter what—or how—Jim thinks? Maybe not (as he'd be the first to admit), but his doing so makes for a deep dish of brainy historical-cultural entertainment, not only as Jim washes and irons his white pants, goes to dinner and a party with his friends, and to the beach next day, but also as he tells—and ruminates upon- -anecdotes and pivotal tales of thinkers from Ockham to Moses, Galileo to Locke, Newton to Hume, Augustine to Johnson—this last droll gentleman, on a long-ago beach of his own, kicking his famous stone in refutation of Berkeley. A weekend book that's penetrating and pleasant at once—a humanities refresher equally at home on coffee table or in any student's scruffiest backpack. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1993

The rambling story of how Paul (Catapult, 1991), 39, courted a 26-year-old gamine. Paul is a gifted stylist, lilting and sensitive, and here he has the makings of a possibly fascinating story—a romance in which reality beggars fiction. He opens in Paris, where he has taken his love, identified only as ``L.,'' to do...what? Apparently, to make her love him as much as he loves her. The two are already ``going together'' back home and have slept together, but we don't learn that Paul has marriage in mind until we're so far into his hazy tale that we can no longer summon up the sympathy to care about his quest. Using his and L.'s month-long trip to Paris and beyond as his springboard, Paul side-dives into chapter-long descriptions of other, historical passions: Petrarch's worship of Laura; Stendhal's lifelong quest for love (beautifully handled); and the ecstasies of the Song of Songs- -whose history is represented in confusing, oft-repeated snippets. These digressions are interwoven with descriptions of the couple's typically touristlike pursuits: attending the opera, eating and drinking, shopping for clothes, swimming in the Mediterranean, etc. But it doesn't help that Paul makes it difficult to bring himself and L. into sharp focus: He describes himself variously as an artist, writer, camp counselor, and teacher, while L.'s job in life seems to be self-maintenance as a modern-day and mysterious Laura. A raggedly sewn patchwork from a skilled writer who, for the moment, seems to be running out of things to say. (Line drawings.) Read full book review >
CATAPULT by Jim Paul
Released: May 15, 1991

Paul, who has published poems in The New Yorker, makes his book debut with this gossamer-thin take of how he and his buddy built a medieval war machine. One day, while hefting a pink-and-white lump of Red Creek quartzite, a wild fancy strikes Paul ``from some dark corner of my mind''; why not make a stone-thrower, a medieval catapult? He talks his chum Harrya devotee of formal Japanese archeryinto playing along. But how to pay for this crazy project? ``I would call it art and apply for a grant.'' So Paul does, wheedling $500 from the amused authorities at California's Headlands Center for the Arts. Library research and model-making ensue, as Harry and Paul puzzle out the winch, crank, bowstring, trigger, and other parts. The two ``artists'' dither, quibble, mull over siege techniques, prowl through junkyards, try out giant springs, and in general have a boyish good time. Finally, after an arduous construction process that offers the book's best laughs, the weary builders, wearing special pigskin gloves, erect their ominous-looking device on the Pacific shore and shoot rocks into the sea. Lots of digressions, ranging from the nature of iron to the history of Paul's father, fetter the narrative, which never builds much forward thrust. A pleasant diversion, then, but hardly a book to crack the castle walls. Read full book review >