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The Paris Review

The Paris Review Winter 2020

The Paris Review publishes the best fiction, poetry, art, and essays from new and established voices, and the Writers at Work interviews offer some of the most revealing self-portraits in literature.

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United States
The Paris Review Foundation, Inc.
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
dear reader,

Months before world events made 2020 a remarkable—and remarkably difficult—year, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and I had a conversation about something that happened in 1997. That year, The Paris Review dedicated its Spring issue to the theater. The team assembled a tall stack of Art of Theater interviews and held a contest for verse drama. (According to George Plimpton, plenty of submitters were unaware of the verse stipulation, but the editors considered their work all the same, and lucky for us: one of the winners was a young Martin McDonagh.) They published three plays and five interviews, and a magazine that fairly adamantly avoids themed issues had, if not a theme, then an organizing principle for the quarter. As 2020 began to take its unfortunate shape, I called Branden again. While The…

20 min
an excerpt from help

CLAUDIA RANKINE CHARACTERS NARRATOR Writer, professor at prestigious university, fifties WHITE MEN 1–20 Men are all wearing some kind of suit SETTING Liminal spaces of airports and airplanes TIME 2020 ACT 1 SCENE 1 The Narrator speaks to the Audience. NARRATOR I’m here—not as I— but as we— a representative of my category— The approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population known as Black women. Within this category, there are a lot of names for me. In fact, Hortense Spillers, a Black woman and friend to all Black women, said, Let’s face it. I am a marked woman, but not everybody knows my name. “Peaches” and “Brown Sugar,” “Sapphire” and “Earth Mother,” “Aunty,” “Granny,” “God’s Holy Fool,” a “Miss Ebony First,” or “Black Woman at the Podium.” Ultimately, whatever name you use, all of them begin with the letter n. Neighbor could be one. Nominal one. Miss Named another. Miss Nomer. Now, what are…

3 min
d. h. tracy

THE NEW NEW NORMAL It is desirable that as little happen as possible.An aristocrat said this, knowing (I hope) it was hopeless.Inevitably,sporadically (like clockwork,unlike clockwork), somethinggoes thlunk into the pond of you,and the normal expires.Your contract/lease/tour/term was up. You moved across town.The guests departed, or you got a diagnosis.The new normal feels like fresh linen, a little,even when bad. The new normal monkeys finicallywith the sublives where you dream and mate and work; the new normaltweaksthe way you think about the future, light jazz, incarceration, and vegetablecream cheese;about the toupee of dust on the top of the fridge (care, don’t care),about fixing things or tossing them,about the relative merits of an enchanted forest and Rantoul in broaddaylight.Striving and coasting, hating and forgiving.The new normal has backdoor access to all of this,for…

8 min
the puppet theater

GYÖRGY DRAGOMÁN Olgi says she’s going to take me somewhere and show me something I’ve never seen before. We walk through a door into an inner courtyard, then from there into another one, then into a third one, where there is a wire fence. Olgi knows where the fence can be lifted, she picks it up, holds it, I slip through, then I hold it up while she slips through the fence. We are now in front of two large iron doors. No matter how much I ask Olgi where she’s taking me, she doesn’t answer, all she says is that I won’t regret coming. We are about to see something we’ve never seen before. She places the palm of her hand on the iron door painted blue and beats out a…

5 min
cynthia zarin

FOUR HOURS IN FRANCE We look at the map. When we arrive in France from King’s Cross the fields are striated with barbed wire and it is raining. At the station in Lille we contented ourselves with two mediocre sandwiches from a stand and a visit through the back to Notre-Dame de la Trielle. We had our bags, so took turns, circling around to the great doors of the church and admiring the stained glass and the general feeling of use and mishap. Newspapers left in the stalls, where someone had come in to read or to get out of the rain. Across from the church, a woman leaning out of the window smoking, the smoke curling above a window box filled with fuchsia geraniums. I thought: I will never see…

1 min
brian tierney

YOU’RE THE ONE I WANNA WATCH THE LAST SHIPS GO DOWN WITH Dr. Redacted will tell me not to tell youthis, like this,in a poem: how it’s all right, love, that we don’t loveliving. Even actors don’texactly love the spotlight they move through,as your sister, the actor,has told us; they just need to be litfor narrative motionto have meaning. As such it iswith artifice and embarrassmentthat I move through fearto you, tonight, where I had dreams,a short nap ago, about linesof poetry I struck throughwith everyday blues, month aftermonth, in dreamafter dream; an attemptI guess to forget, if I could: defeatsometimes is defeatwithout purpose. The news, at least, tells methat much. I know now,in fact, we don’t have to be brave,not to survive a nightlike any we’ve looked ontogether, seeing blue-tinted…