Redux: A Secret Mouth

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.

Wallace Stegner.

This week, we bring you Wallace Stegner’s 1990 Art of Fiction interview, Virginia Harabin’s story “Saturday, Sunday,” and Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Memory Cave.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to read the entire archive? You’ll also get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door. 

Wallace Stegner, The Art of Fiction No. 118
Issue no. 115 (Summer 1990)

The whole business of writing is an attempt to arrive at truth, insofar as you can see it, as far as your capacity to unearth it permits. Truth is to be handled gingerly. That’s an egg with a very thin shell. I’m not writing fables—where the moral is literally part of the form. I’m writing something from which the reader is supposed to deduce or induce any moral that’s there. The moral value ought to be hiding in the material.

Saturday, Sunday
By Virginia Harabin
Issue no. 97 (Fall 1985)

Weekends I serve fried chicken to drunks who make jokes about breasts and thighs. The manager comes out about once an hour and tells me to please put my cap back on. It’s brown and orange, made of shiny thick knit, so I take it off again as soon as he’s gone. There are bugs in the shake machine too. This little guy comes in, keeps mumbling about giving me a job, looking all foreign, dark-eyed and meaningful. But I wave him away because we get that all the time.

Memory Cave
By Yusef Komunyakaa
Issue no. 144 (Fall 1997)

A tallow worked into a knot
of rawhide, with a ball of waxy light
tied to a stick, the boy
scooted through a secret mouth
of the cave, pulled by the flambeau
in his hand. He could see
the gaze of agate eyes
& wished for the forbidden …

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