Redux: Three for Dad

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.

With Father’s Day around the corner, we bring you our 1976 Art of Fiction interview with Stanley Elkin, where he credits his father with having influenced his shoptalk writing style; Benjamin Percy’s story “Refresh, Refresh,” in which a troubled teen awaits a message from his old man, who is stationed in Iraq; and Louise Erdrich’s poem “Birth.”

Stanley Elkin, The Art of Fiction No. 61
Issue no. 66 (Summer 1976)

INTERVIEWER

Your characteristic style is, I think, distinguished by its oral quality. Could you comment on the sources of this style? Your father …

ELKIN

I was a very attentive listener to my father’s stories and to my father’s shoptalk . . . this may be the real source of my style. All shoptalk, the specialized jargon of a closed universe, fascinates me. Whenever I hear it, wherever I hear it, I’m thunderstruck.

Refresh, Refresh
By Benjamin Percy
Issue no. 175 (Fall/Winter 2005)

My father wore steel-toed boots, Carhartt jeans, and a T-shirt advertising some place he had traveled, maybe Yellowstone or Seattle. He looked like someone you might see shopping for motor oil at Bi-Mart. To hide his receding hairline he wore a John Deere cap that laid a shadow across his face. His brown eyes blinked above a considerable nose underlined by a gray mustache. Like me, my father was short and squat, a bulldog. His belly was a swollen bag and his shoulders were broad, good for carrying me during parades and at fairs when I was younger. He laughed a lot. He liked game shows. He drank too much beer and smoked too many cigarettes and spent too much time with his buddies, fishing, hunting, bullshitting, which probably had something to do with why my mother divorced him and moved to Boise with a hairdresser and triathlete named Chuck.

Birth
By Louise Erdrich
Issue no. 111 (Summer 1989)

When they were wild
When they were not yet human
When they could have been anything,
I was on the other side ready with milk to lure them,
And their father, too, the name like a net in his hands.

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