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 announcing another year of the best deal in town: our summer subscription offer with The New York Review of Books. For only $99, you’ll receive yearlong subscriptions and complete archive access to both magazines—a 38% savings.
To celebrate, we’re unlocking pieces from the archives of both The Paris Review and The New York Review of Books. Read on for Joan Didion’s Art of Fiction interview, paired with her essay “California Notes”; Zadie Smith’s short story “Miss Adele amidst the Corsets,” paired with her talk “On Optimism and Despair”; and T. S. Eliot’s Art of Poetry interview, paired with two uncollected poems.
If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to both The Paris Review and The New York Review of Books and read their entire archives? And for as long as we’re flattening the curve, The Paris Review will be sending out a weekly newsletter, The Art of Distance, featuring unlocked archival selections, dispatches from the Daily, and efforts from our peer organizations. Read the latest edition here, and then sign up for more.
Joan Didion, The Art of Fiction No. 71
The Paris Review, issue no. 74 (Fall–Winter 1978)
Sometimes I’ll be fifty, sixty pages into something and I’ll still be calling a character “X.” I don’t have a very clear idea of who the characters are until they start talking. Then I start to love them. By the time I finish the book, I love them so much that I want to stay with them. I don’t want to leave them ever.
By Joan Didion
The New York Review of Books, volume 63, no. 9 (May 26, 2016)
At the center of this story there is a terrible secret, a kernel of cyanide, and the secret is that the story doesn’t matter, doesn’t make any difference, doesn’t figure. The snow still falls in the Sierra. The Pacific still trembles in its bowl. The great tectonic plates strain against each other while we sleep and wake. Rattlers in the dry grass. Sharks beneath the Golden Gate. In the South they are convinced that they have bloodied their place with history. In the West we do not believe that anything we do can bloody the land, or change it, or touch it.
Miss Adele amidst the Corsets
By Zadie Smith
The Paris Review, issue no. 208 (Spring 2014)
And who was left, anyway, to get dramatic about? The beloved was gone, and so were all the people she had used, over the years, as substitutes for the beloved. Every kid who’d ever called her gorgeous had already moved to Brooklyn, Jersey, Fire Island, Provincetown, San Francisco, or the grave. This simplified matters.
On Optimism and Despair
By Zadie Smith
The New York Review of Books, volume 63, no. 20 (December 22, 2016)
But neither do I believe in time travel. I believe in human limitation, not out of any sense of fatalism but out of a learned caution, gleaned from both recent and distant history. We will never be perfect: that is our limitation. But we can have, and have had, moments in which we can take genuine pride.
T. S. Eliot, The Art of Poetry No. 1
The Paris Review, issue no. 21 (Spring–Summer 1959)
There is all the difference in the world between writing a play for an audience and writing a poem, in which you’re writing primarily for yourself—although obviously you wouldn’t be satisfied if the poem didn’t mean something to other people afterward.
Two Uncollected Poems
By T. S. Eliot
The New York Review of Books, volume 63, no. 1 (January 14, 2016)
Sunday: this satisfied procession
Of definite Sunday faces;
Bonnets, silk hats, and conscious graces
In repetition that displaces
Your mental self-possession
By this unwarranted digression …
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