Redux: A Game of Touch Football in a Snowstorm

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.

Don DeLillo, ca. 2011. Photo: Thousandrobots.

This week, we bring you Don DeLillo’s 1993 Art of Fiction interview, the first installment of Chris Bachelder’s novel The Throwback Special, and Greg Kosmicki’s poem “Today.”

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.

 

Don DeLillo, The Art of Fiction No. 135
Issue no. 128 (Fall 1993)

There’s a zone I aspire to. Finding it is another question. It’s a state of automatic writing, and it represents the paradox that’s at the center of a writer’s consciousness—this writer’s anyway. First you look for discipline and control. You want to exercise your will, bend the language your way, bend the world your way. You want to control the flow of impulses, images, words, faces, ideas. But there’s a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger. The best moments involve a loss of control. It’s a kind of rapture, and it can happen with words and phrases fairly often—completely surprising combinations that make a higher kind of sense, that come to you out of nowhere. But rarely for extended periods, for paragraphs and pages—I think poets must have more access to this state than novelists do. In End Zone, a number of characters play a game of touch football in a snowstorm. There’s nothing rapturous or magical about the writing. The writing is simple. But I wrote the passage, maybe five or six pages, in a state of pure momentum, without the slightest pause or deliberation.

 

 

The Throwback Special: Part 1
By Chris Bachelder
Issue no. 213 (Summer 2015)

PROLOGUE: TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY

November 18, 1985—Washington Redskins quarter­back Joe Theismann, thirty-six, suffers a career-ending compound fracture of the right leg on a sack by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor during a telecast of ABC’s Monday Night Football. On first-and-ten from their own forty-six-yard line, early in the second quarter with the score tied 7–7, the Redskins attempt a trick play called a flea-flicker. Theismann hands the ball off to tailback John Riggins, who takes several steps forward and then pitches the ball back to Theismann. Theismann looks to throw a deep pass, but he immediately faces pressure from Giants linebacker Harry Carson. “Theismann’s in a lot of trouble,” says play-by-play commentator Frank Gifford. He steps forward into the pocket to avoid Carson, but Taylor, rushing from Theismann’s blind side, leaps onto his back. Theismann ducks, and as Taylor falls and spins, his thigh strikes Theismann in the calf with enough force to snap the bones of Theismann’s leg. “It sounded like two muzzled gunshots,” Theismann says later. Taylor stands quickly, waving to the Redskins sideline for medical help. ABC decides to show the reverse angle replay twice. “And I suggest,” Gifford says before the replay, “if your stomach is weak, you just don’t watch.” “When you see a competitor like Joe Theismann injured, especially this severely, I don’t think anyone feels good about it,” commentator O. J. Simpson says. Theismann receives an ovation as he is carried from the field at RFK Stadium on a stretcher. “I just hope it’s not his last play in football,” says commentator Joe Namath. Jay Schroeder replaces Theismann at quarterback, and the Redskins defeat the Giants 23–21. Theismann, a former league MVP who had played in 163 consecutive games, never plays again. 

 

 

Today
By Greg Kosmicki
Issue no. 69 (Spring 1977)

Today is beautiful the birds singing
in the trees where they have landed or in the air when
they are going, the sun wrapping its fingers
around the earth like a lover’s nipple
and tweaking, the dirt smells of all the stock car
tracks I have ever been to and of all the fields
I have ever plowed coming up from the ground
and hanging invisible in the air with the grass smell
of all the football fields I have ever had
my face rubbed in, mingling with the heat waves
rising from car bodies in the sun like the heat …

 

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