Redux: If You Can Hoe Corn for Fifty Cents an Hour …



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.



Yesterday was Labor Day, so this week, we bring you Jim Harrison’s Art of Fiction interview, Richard Yates’s short story “A Wrestler with Sharks,” and Henri Coulette’s “The Blue-Eyed Precinct Worker.”

Jim Harrison, The Art of Fiction No. 104
Issue no. 107 (Summer 1988)

If you can hoe corn for fifty cents an hour, day after day, you can learn how to write a novel. You have absorbed the spirit of repetition. When you look at my wife’s garden you understand that; the beauty of the garden—the flowers and the vegetables—that’s how an artist is in his work. And I think the background that at first nonplussed me—that rural, almost white-trash element—stood me in good stead as an artist, in the great variety of life it forced me into, the hunger to do things.



A Wrestler with Sharks
By Richard Yates
Issue no. 13 (Summer 1956)

Nobody had much respect for The Labor Leader. Even Finkel and Kramm, its owners, the two sour brothers-in-law who’d dreamed it up in the first place and who somehow managed to make a profit on it year after year—even they could take little pride in the thing. At least, that’s what I used to suspect from the way they’d hump grudgingly around the office, shivering the bile-green partitions with their thumps and shouts, grabbing and tearing at galley-proofs, breaking pencil-points, dropping wet cigar butts on the floor, and slamming telephones contemptuously into their cradles. The Labor Leader was all either of them would ever have for a life’s work, and they seemed to hate it.



The Blue-Eyed Precinct Worker
By Henri Coulette
Issue no. 31 (Winter–Spring 1964)

Our shadows burst forth, monstrous and alien.
There, on the far rim,
are the houses of the rich.
It is the dinner hour, and they eat
prime rib of unicorn or breast of phoenix.
It is another precinct …


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