Redux: Nothing to Grind



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.

Fran Lebowitz, ca. 2011. Photo: Christopher Macsurak.

This week at The Paris Review, we’re getting easily distracted, writing slowly, and leaving our desks. Read on for some literature that shares these same concerns: a 1993 interview with Fran Lebowitz, Sigrid Nunez’s short story “The Blind,” and Gevorg Emin’s poem “The Block.”

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A Humorist at Work: Fran Lebowitz
Issue no. 127 (Summer 1993)


What did you do during those five years before you started writing the book?


I sulked. Sulking is a big effort. So is not writing. I only realized that when I did start writing. When I started getting real work done, I realized how much easier it is to write than not to write. Not writing is probably the most exhausting profession I’ve ever encountered. It takes it out of you. It’s very psychically wearing not to write—I mean if you’re supposed to be writing.



The Blind
By Sigrid Nunez
Issue no. 222 (Fall 2017)

Where were you going? Nowhere in particular. No errand, no appointment. Just strolling along, hands in pockets, savoring the street. It was your thing: If I can’t walk, I can’t write. You would work in the morning, and at a certain point, which always came, when it seemed you were incapable of writing a sentence, you would go out and walk for miles. When you came back, you would sit down again to work, trying to hold on to the rhythm that had been established while walking. And the better you succeeded at that, the better the writing.

Because it’s all about the rhythm, you said. Good sentences start with a beat.



The Block
By Gevorg Emin
Issue no. 57 (Spring 1974)

For two months
I have not written
a word.

My voice, a low
grumble, disturbs
our quarter

like the rumble
of the millstone
which having nothing to grind
grinds itself.

—Translated from the Armenian by Diana Der Hovanessian


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