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This week at The Paris Review, we’re counting the weekdays. Read on for Richard Powers’s Art of Fiction interview, Gish Jen’s short story “Amaryllis,” and Wayne Miller’s poem “Reading Sonnevi on a Tuesday Night.”
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Richard Powers, The Art of Fiction No. 175
Issue no. 164 (Winter 2002–2003)
In the early eighties, I was living in the Fens in Boston right behind the Museum of Fine Arts. If you got there before noon on Saturdays, you could get into the museum for nothing. One weekend, they were having this exhibition of a German photographer I’d never heard of, who was August Sander. It was the first American retrospective of his work. I have a visceral memory of coming in the doorway, banking to the left, turning up, and seeing the first picture there. It was called Young Westerwald Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, 1914. I had this palpable sense of recognition, this feeling that I was walking into their gaze, and they’d been waiting seventy years for someone to return the gaze. I went up to the photograph and read the caption and had this instant realization that not only were they not on the way to the dance, but that somehow I had been reading about this moment for the last year and a half. Everything I read seemed to converge onto this act of looking, this birth of the twentieth century—the age of total war, the age of the apotheosis of the machine, the age of mechanical reproduction. That was a Saturday. On Monday I went in to my job and gave two weeks notice and started working on Three Farmers.
By Gish Jen
Issue no. 179 (Winter 2006)
In the meanwhile there was Tara’s grandfather in Flushing to think about—Yah Yah, Tara called him.
“He’s going to want you to give him a bath,” she warned. “Just say no.”
“No baths,” promised Amaryllis.
“And he goes to get groceries in Manhattan Chinatown on Wednesdays. Don’t ask why, we’re just glad he still knows when it’s Wednesday. So if you go and don’t see him, that’s where he is.”
“How old is he?”
“How old is he. Ninety-one, we think, though he seems younger. He’s outlived both his kids. He’s more agile than I am. This doctor is always asking him what he eats.”
Reading Sonnevi on a Tuesday Night
By Wayne Miller
Issue no. 172 (Winter 2004)
A film of mist clings to the storm windows
as the thunder gets pocketed and carried away
in the rain’s dark overcoat. A good reading night—
car wheels amplified by the flooded street,
leaf-clogged gutters bailing steadily, constant
motion beyond my walls echoing
my body’s gyroscopic stillness. Sonnevi says
Only if I touch do I dare let myself be touched,
and that familiar and somewhat terrifying curtain
of reading slips around me …
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