Redux: Have No Mercy, Gardener



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.

Penelope Lively.

This week at The Paris Review, we’re out in the garden. Read on for Penelope Lively’s Art of Fiction interview, Diane Williams’s short story “Garden Magic,” and Allison Funk’s poem “On Pruning.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to The Paris Review? You’ll also get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door. Or, subscribe to our new bundle and receive Poets at Work for 25% off.


Penelope Lively, The Art of Fiction No. 241
Issue no. 226 (Fall 2018)

If I hadn’t got a book on the go, I don’t know what I’d be doing. Even during the times I’m not actually writing, I’m going over it in my mind, when I’m gardening or the like, wondering whether I’m getting such-and-such a character right or whether there’s a problem here or there.


Photo: SKsiddhartthan. CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.


Garden Magic
By Diane Williams
Issue no. 230 (Fall 2019)

I am in a room with … I am in a room where decisions are unlikely to be thought out, where I lack strong enough character and vital drive to take my dark thoughts and plant them at the right time like spring bulbs.


1897 illustrated seed catalogue. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


On Pruning
By Allison Funk
Issue no. 152 (Fall 1999)

Cut it way back.
Do not be afraid to pinch the first,
the only blossom. The berry cannot thrive
in freedom. Have no mercy,

gardener. Train the tree to a leader
crowned by the uppermost bud.
Make ten o’clock your angle
for the outstretched limbs
of the apple. Prune
when the knife is sharp,
taking care that the scar be neat.
To share the surgeon’s belief in healing,
you must trust what has been taken from you
is a blessing …


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