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This week at The Paris Review, we’re dwelling on endings, finishes, and closures. Read on for Pat Barker’s Art of Fiction interview, Reinaldo Arenas’s short story “The Parade Ends,” and Adrienne Rich’s poem “End of an Era.”
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Pat Barker, The Art of Fiction No. 243
Issue no. 227, Winter 2018
What I would say is that if you’ve got a strong ending, basically you’ve got the book. If you know you’re working toward something that you think works, you’ll get there, somehow, no matter how awful it is struggling with what’s going on in the middle. It’s much harder to bring a book to fruition when you have a very good sound beginning that then peters out into nothing. Books stand or fall really on their endings. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a good novel that has a weak ending.
The Parade Ends
By Reinaldo Arenas
Issue no. 80, Summer 1981
Life, above all, life in spite of everything, life however it is, even without anything, even without you (and in spite of you) amid the din that rises now, amid the shrieks and the songs, for they’re singing, singing again, and no less than the national anthem. Life, now, while I pursue you over the excrement to the sound of the notes (or shouts) of the national anthem, holding you as justification and refuge, as an immediate solution, as sustenance, the rest (what is the rest?) we’ll see about later.
End of an Era
By Adrienne Rich
Issue no. 27, Winter–Spring 1962
This morning, flakes of sun
peel down to the last snowholds,
the barbed-wire leavings of a war
lost, won, in these dead-end alleys.
Stale as a written-out journalist,
I start to sort my gear.
Nothing is happening. City, dumb
as a pack of thumbed cards, you
once had snap and glare
and secret life; now, trembling
under my five grey senses’ weight,
you fall and flatten
queasily on the table.
Baudelaire, I think of you! Nothing changes,
rude and self-absorbed the current
dashes past, asking nothing, poetry
extends its unsought amnesty,
autumn saws the great grove down.
Some voices, though, shake in the air like heat.
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