The Art of Distance No. 37


The Art of Distance

In March, The Paris Review launched The Art of Distance, a newsletter highlighting unlocked archive pieces that resonate with the staff of the magazine, quarantine-appropriate writing on the Daily, resources from our peer organizations, and more. Read Emily Nemens’s introductory letter here, and find the latest unlocked archive selections below.

“ ’Tis the season of gift giving. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, something else, or nothing in particular, you’re probably finding yourself engaged this month in the process of wrapping and unwrapping presents. For some, gift wrapping is an exercise in achievable perfection—neat corners, perfect creases, tasteful bits of tape in all the right places, a gorgeously appointed bow to top it off. For others (I include myself in this group), it is torture, a comedy of errors that begins with forgetting to measure before cutting the wrapping paper and ends with a finished gift that looks like a lumpy quilt sewn by a baby. But it’s the thought that counts, right? Below, you will find many such thoughts in a series of stories and poems that touch upon the gift-giving season. Read on for fantastical presents, perfect presents, and wrapping disasters. These are gifts that keep on giving, and there is something, I hope, for everyone. Speaking of the gift that keeps on giving, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a subscription to The Paris Review (for yourself or someone else) and TPR merchandise also make great gifts, and while it may be too late to deliver them by Christmas, we have this elegant gift card that you can print out and put under the tree—or wherever you lay your gifts. Happy holidays, happy reading, and stay safe.” —Craig Morgan Teicher, Digital Director

Photo: Tomasz Sienicki. CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.

Joel Stein’s poem “A Gift for You” offers some things that everyone needs but that are very difficult to give.

Andrew Martin’s “With the Christopher Kids” is about, among other things, the trials and tribulations of gift wrapping—“I need paper, tape, and scissors.” Things get more challenging from there.

Ben Okri’s “The Dream-Vendor’s August” only glances at the season of gift giving, but that may be enough for many of us, and what could be a better gift than the correspondence course in this story, which promises to show students how to “Turn Life into Money”?

The narrator of Stephen Dixon’s story “Gifts” goes a bit over the top with his giving …

What’s given in Roberto Bolaño’s poem “My Gift to You” is unusual—“an instant of emptiness and joy”—but is, perhaps, the kind of gift one would expect from a poet.

Finally, I’ll leave you with Susan Stewart’s poem “Pine,” with its hauntingly beautiful image of “The Christmas tree, nude and fragrant, / propped as pure potential in / the corner with no nostalgia for / ornament or angels.”


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