Redux: Eudora Welty, David Sedaris, Sharon Olds



Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

Happy New Year, and welcome to your free weekly holiday in the archives of The Paris Review.

This week, we bring you Eudora Welty’s Art of Fiction interview from our Fall 1972 issue; David Sedaris’s essay “Letter from Emerald Isle,” and Sharon Olds’s poem “The Beetle.”

And why not ring in the New Year by listening to all three in the sixth episode of our podcast, “The Beetle and the Butterfly.” 

Eudora Welty, The Art of Fiction No. 47
Issue no. 55 (Fall 1972)

My father’s father owned a farm in southern Ohio, and my mother’s father was a country lawyer and farmer in West Virginia, and both my mother’s parents came from Virginia families made up mostly of teachers and preachers. Some of these wrote for newspapers or kept journals, though none wrote fiction. But the family influence I felt came from the important fact that they all loved to read and that I was brought up with books. Yet my parents would have been the people they were, people of character, no matter where they were from, and I would have been their child wherever I was born. I’m a native Southerner, but as a writer I think background matters most in how well it teaches you to look around and see clearly what’s there and in how deeply it nourishes your imagination.

“Letter from Emerald Isle,” by David Sedaris
Issue no. 222 (Fall 2017)

Our house on Emerald Isle, The Sea Section, is divided down the middle, and has an E beside one front door and a W beside the other. The east side is ruled by Hugh, and the bedroom we share is on the top floor. It opens onto a deck that overlooks the ocean and is next to Amy’s room, which is the same size as ours but is shaped differently. Unlike Lisa and Paul, who are on the west side of the house and could probably sleep on burlap without noticing it, Amy likes nice sheets.

“The Beetle,” by Sharon Olds
Issue no. 101 (Winter 1986)

When I go to the bathroom I see a beetle in the tub,
black, with a band of stone color
around the center, granite with a trace of
lichen on it, luminous on a damp day,
and I wonder if it’s a death-watch beetle,
and I think of your death,
I wonder if the cancer will take
a long time or a short time
and I wonder if death-watch beetles are the beetles
that eat the dead. I think of you buried,
I think of the beetles that will eat your body, I would like to be one of them …

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