Four months after the death of George Plimpton, The Paris Review announced Wednesday that interim editor Brigid Hughes will permanently run the literary quarterly.
“She has a track record of putting out the magazine. To some extent, Brigid has been doing this job for a very long time, although with a very prominent boss,” says Elizabeth Gaffney, the magazine’s editor at large and a board member of The Paris Review Foundation.
The 30-year-old Hughes takes on a role that Plimpton, who died last fall at 76, assumed with tireless enthusiasm for half a century. In deference to Plimpton, his official title — editor — will not be filled. Hughes has the newly established title of executive editor.
“She seems to be very capable, very devoted,” author Paul Auster said. “And it’s very good to turn over the reins to a young person. I think it will keep the youthful spirit of the magazine alive.”
Founded in 1953, The Paris Review has rarely had more than a few thousand subscribers, but few literary magazines are so prestigious. Writers published early in their careers have included Philip Roth, Jack Kerouac and V.S. Naipaul and the magazine’s celebrated history of interviews include conversations with Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
Hughes is a native of Buffalo, N.Y., who majored in English at Northwestern University and joined The Paris Review as an intern in 1995. She became an editor later that year and was named managing editor in 2000.
Hughes acknowledges she doesn’t the fame or flair of Plimpton, known for such exploits as training with the Detroit Lions in the National Football League and performing as a trapeze artist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. But she promises to continue the magazine’s tradition of finding emerging writers.
“We just published a story by a new author, Yiyun Li, that I consider the perfect Paris Review story,” Hughes said. “We had no idea who she was. She came to this country from Beijing in 1996 knowing no English. Her story was pulled from the slush file.”
In recent years Plimpton’s role was less in managing the magazine’s content than in replenishing its often low bank account. (In 2001, Plimpton said it had dropped to $1.16.)
Gaffney and others say The Paris Review may hire a business manager.
“No one could do what George could. He was wonderful at dining with a Russian millionaire and coming back with a $10,000 donation,” Gaffney said. “In the future, we’ll be less dependent on the fame of our editor and more dependent on the quality of the magazine.”