Redux: The Runner Trying to Disappear



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.

The author at his jazz club, Peter Cat, in 1978.

This week at The Paris Review, we’re tuning in to the Olympics and thinking about feats of athleticism. Read on for Haruki Murakami’s Art of Fiction interview, Ottessa Moshfegh’s short story “The Weirdos,” Gary Gildner’s poem “The Runner,” and Leanne Shapton and Charlotte Strick’s art portfolio “Swimming Lessons.”

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, choose our new summer bundle and purchase a year’s worth of The Paris Review and The New York Review of Books for $99 (that’s $50 in savings!).


Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182
Issue no. 170 (Summer 2004)


How is your typical workday structured?


When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.


Photo: Comitetul Olimpic si Sportiv Roman. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


The Weirdos
By Ottessa Moshfegh
Issue no. 206 (Fall 2013)

He had a theory about how to stay in shape. It was to tense your body vigorously during everyday activities. He walked around with buttocks clenched, arms rigid, neck and face turning red. When I first moved in, he ran up the stairs with my suitcase, then stared down at me as though I would applaud. And once, when he saw me glance at his arm, he said, “I’m basically an Olympic athlete. I just don’t like to compete.” He had a crudely drawn tattoo of a salivating dog on his shoulder. Underneath it was written, COMIN’ TO GETCHA!


Photo: National Media Museum, UK. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


The Runner
By Gary Gildner
Issue no. 58 (Summer 1974)

Show the runner coming through the shadows,
show him falling into a speckled rhythm,
and then show the full expression of light,
there, where the trees quit and the road
goes on alone, marked by the moon-glazed gravel

Show the runner trying to disappear
where sky and road meet far in the distance,
show him always a step too late,
show a train going by hauling a long silence,
and show the runner leaving the road
where the killdeer starts from a charred stump …


Mária Švarbová, Pool Only for Swimmers, 2016, digitally manipulated color photograph, 19 4/5  X 19 4/5 ”.


Swimming Lessons
By Leanne Shapton & Charlotte Strick
Issue no. 217 (Summer 2016)

When I was little, I would paint water as a low blue stripe along the bottom of the paper. Not much different from the sky—a high blue stripe across the top. Maybe a darker blue. Then I learned how to swim and the waterline moved up, over my head. It became the whole page.


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