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This week at The Paris Review, we’re listening to Season 1 of The Paris Review Podcast in anticipation for Season 2. We’ve unlocked archival selections used in Season 1: the Art of Fiction with Maya Angelou, the short story “A Dark and Winding Road” by Ottessa Moshfegh, and Pablo Neruda’s poem “Emerging.”
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I know when it’s the best I can do. It may not be the best there is. Another writer may do it much better. But I know when it’s the best I can do. I know that one of the great arts that the writer develops is the art of saying, “No. No, I’m finished. Bye.” And leaving it alone. I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won’t do that.
My parents kept a small cabin in the mountains. It was a simple thing, just four walls, and very dark inside. A heavy felt curtain blotted out whatever light made it through the canopy of huge pines and down into the cabin’s only window. There was a queen-size bed in there, an armchair, and a wood-burning stove. It wasn’t an old cabin. I think my parents built it in the seventies from a kit. In a few spots the wood beams were branded with the word home-rite. But the spirit of the place made me think of simpler times, olden days, yore, or whenever it was that people rarely spoke except to say there was a storm coming or the berries were poisonous or whatnot, the bare essentials. It was deadly quiet up there.
A man says yes without knowing
how to decide even what the question is,
and is caught up, and then is carried along
and never again escapes from his own cocoon;
and that’s how we are, forever falling
into the deep well of other beings …
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