Redux: The Marketing of Obsession



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.


“Barneys was more than a department store,” issue no. 239 contributor Adrienne Raphel reminisces in a new essay on the Daily. “A glowing spiral staircase, white as milk, wound its way through the store—the Guggenheim, but make it fashion.” This week, we’re unlocking an Art of Fiction interview with the bard of postwar American consumerism, Don DeLillo, as well as Zadie Smith’s story “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets,” Mary Ruefle’s account of shopping—as in shoplifting—at Woolworth’s in “Milk Shake,” and a series of photographs taken of Paris’s legendary market, Les Halles, in the sixties.

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The Art of Fiction No. 135
Don DeLillo


Frank Lentricchia refers to you as the type of writer who believes that the shape and fate of the culture dictates the shape and fate of the self.


Yes, and maybe we can think about Running Dog in this respect. This book is not exactly about obsession—it’s about the marketing of obsession. Obsession as a product that you offer to the highest bidder or the most enterprising and reckless fool, which is sort of the same thing in this particular book … And in Libra, of course—here we have Oswald watching TV, Oswald working the bolt of his rifle, Oswald imagining that he and the president are quite similar in many ways. I see Oswald, back from Russia, as a man surrounded by promises of fulfillment—consumer fulfillment, personal fulfillment. But he’s poor, unstable, cruel to his wife, barely employable—a man who has to enter his own Hollywood movie to see who he is and how he must direct his fate.

From issue no. 128 (Fall 1993)


Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets
Zadie Smith

“A corset,” she repeated, and raised her spectacular eyebrows. “Could somebody help me?”

“WENDY,” yelled the voice behind the curtain, “could you see to our customer?”

The shopgirl sprung up, like a jack-in-the-box, clutching a stepladder to her chest.

From issue no. 208 (Spring 2014)


Milk Shake
Mary Ruefle

I tried her milk shake, I told her what I had done, the vanilla shake came, and we salt-and-peppered that one, too, and afterward we were bored, so we went shopping—we were in Woolworth’s after all—though by shopping we meant shoplifting, as any lonely bored thirteen-year-old knows. Vicki stole a tub of the latest invention, lip gloss, which was petroleum jelly dyed pink, and I stole a yellow lace mantilla to wear to Mass on Easter Sunday, though I never wore it to Mass; I wore it to confession the Saturday before, confessing to the priest that I had stolen the very thing I was wearing on my head.

From issue no. 216 (Spring 2016)


Les Halles Photographs
Harold Chapman

Les Halles Centrales de Paris—the Central Market of Paris—is in 1967 enjoying only an apparent reprieve. In decreeing its removal, the public powers have long since signed its death sentence. But this eight-hundred-year-old mastodon, despite its advanced age, retains a strange vitality, and does not seem so easy to move around. Its transfer to Rungis, originally anticipated for 1966, has raised many and difficult problems, not all of which have been solved. So it is still with us, at the heart of Parisian life.

From issue no. 40 (Winter–Spring 1967)


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