Redux: Tautology, Tautology



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.

This week at The Paris Review, we’re going back to school. Read on for Elizabeth Bishop’s Art of Poetry interview, Ottessa Moshfegh’s short story “Bettering Myself,” and Melanie Rehak’s poem “Self-Portrait as the Liberal Arts.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to The Paris Review and read the entire archive? You’ll also get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door.


Elizabeth Bishop, The Art of Poetry No. 27
Issue no. 80 (Summer 1981)

The word creative drives me crazy. I don’t like to regard it as therapy … It’s true, children sometimes write wonderful things, paint wonderful pictures, but I think they should be discouraged. From everything I’ve read and heard, the number of students in English departments taking literature courses has been falling off enormously. But at the same time the number of people who want to get in the writing classes seems to get bigger and bigger.



Bettering Myself
By Ottessa Moshfegh
Issue no. 204 (Spring 2013)

My classroom was on the first floor, next to the nuns’ lounge. I used their bathroom to puke in the mornings. One nun always dusted the toilet seat with talcum powder. Another nun plugged the sink and filled it with water. I never understood the nuns. One was old and the other was young. The young one talked to me sometimes, asked me what I would do for the long weekend, if I’d see my folks over Christmas, and so forth. The old one looked the other way and twisted her robes in her fists when she saw me coming.



Self-Portrait as the Liberal Arts
By Melanie Rehak
Issue no. 165 (Spring 2003)


The addition of solitude untrammeled,
one and more and more but always
the inner life astray,
that equation incompatibly private.

The errors unrepenting that will not
come out right.

Tautology, tautology. What I’ve said
in argument cannot be taken away.
I’ve emptied my pockets of change.


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