All the fanfare and furor over the actual arrival of the year George Orwell picked as the title for his frightening novel has obscured the fact that 1984 has another significance, this one being historical rather than literary: it is the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. And what began with the guns of August 1914 has haunted modern memory far more and for longer than the vision of a state run by Big Brother. Yet the circumstances that led to the Great War, the causes that sent millions of young men to death in the trenches have tended to be ignored or overlooked by American statesmen obsessed with what might be called a “Munich mentality” in which the events of 1938 seem more germane to our times than those which led to the bloodletting of 1914—18.But, as Sterling J. Kernek emphasizes in his “Historical Reflections on the Dangers Ahead,” the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union is more analogous to the pre-1914 period than to the pre-1939.There are, however, several consoling factors that make the outbreak of another gigantic military conflagration like that of 1914 unlikely in this decade. For one thing, what was for so long the problem of Europe—and the major cause of two world wars—the German problem has been resolved (at least temporarily) by the division of Germany. For another, there is no longer any illusion about the glories of modern war such as that which afflicted the young men who rushed to the colors in 1914.Finally, there does seem to be a realization on both sides of the Iron Curtain that any major war between the superpowers will be the last major war, with the world ending not with a whimper but with a gigantic nuclear bang. These are among the reasons why Mr. Kernek concludes that in the short run we should be “grateful that we are living in a relatively halcyon and golden age.”
A professor of history at Western Illinois University, Mr. Kernek holds academic degrees from three separate parts of the globe: a B.A. in international relations from the American University in Washington, D.C., an M.A. in history from the University of Western Australia, and a Ph. D. in history from Cambridge University, England.
This year is also the ninth anniversary of an event many Americans would prefer to forget: the fall of Saigon in April 1975 and the end of the South Vietnamese government with whom the U.S. had been an ally for 20 years. Now, with almost a decade having elapsed since that disastrous defeat—and more than a decade since the 1973 cessation of direct American involvement in Vietnam—statesmen and historians have begun to ask not only what happened in the only overseas war Americans have ever lost but also why we were there in the first place and how we can avoid getting involved in another tunnel with no light at the end. One of the historians is George C. Herring, who last year participated in symposia on Vietnam held in four different sections of the country. Mr. Herring is a professor of history at the University of Kentucky and a former chairman of the history department there. He is the author of America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950—1975. His other books include Aid to Russia, 1941—1946: Strategy, Diplomacy, the Origins of the Cold War and (with Thomas M. Campbell) The Diaries of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., 1943—1946.
Marvin Bell is a former recipient of the Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry. His latest VQR poems are from his forthcoming book, Drawn by Stones, by Earth, by Things that Have Been in the Fire, due out from Atheneum this spring.
Robert Morgan is a member of the faculty at Cornell University. His poems have recently appeared in such periodicals as The Atlantic, American Poetry Review, and The American Scholar.
Steven Nimtz was born in New Jersey and moved to Hawaii in 1974.He now lives and works in Kailua, HI. His work has appeared in the Hawaii Review, En Passant, the Berkeley Poetry Review and other journals.
Stuart Dybek recently completed a year as a Guggenheim Fellow and has now returned to his teaching duties at Western Michigan University. A long story of his appeared in the Autumn 1983 issue of Antaeus. His books include a collection of poems, Brass Knuckles, and a collection of short stories, Childhood and Other Neighborhoods.
Jack Anderson is a dance critic for the New York Times. His most recent collections of poetry are The Clouds of that Country and Selected Poems. He is currently writing a history of the American Dance Festival.
Lucinda Hughes is not only publishing her first VQR story but her first short story to appear in any publication. “I grew up shuttling between the suburbs of New York and Washington,” she writes, “went to Bennington College in Vermont for a couple of years, and then got a job with a local weekly. A mix of minor jobs, after which I worked for eight years as a feature writer for the old N.Y. World-Telegram. After the Telly died, I found work with the Social Security Administration in Boston, where I live on the back (déclassé) slope of Beacon Hill. I never wrote any fiction until the fall of 1982, when I entered Pamela Painter’s workshop at Harvard.”
A distinguished clergyman and scholar, Nathan A. Scott, Jr. is Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of English at the University of Virginia. His interests are as vast as they are varied, as can be seen from a list of his publications, which include Modern Literature and the Religious Frontier, Reinhold Neibuhr, The Climate of Faith in Modern Literature, Samuel Beckett, Forms of Extremity in the Modern Novel, The Modern Vision of Death, and Three American Moralists: Mailer, Bellow, Trilling.
Joyce Van Dyke received a Ph. D. in English from the University of Virginia in 1980 and subsequently taught English and American literature at Wellesley College before moving to Washington, D.C., where she has begun work on comparative lives of women poets.
Gloria Whelan resides in upstate Michigan. Her recent stories have appeared in the Michigan Quarterly, the Missouri Review, and the Ontario Review, and a novella was published in Redbook magazine. Her Winter 1982 VQR story, “The Dogs in Renoir’s Garden,” was selected for the 1983 O. Henry Prize anthology of short stories.
A frequent VQR contributor, Samuel Pickering, Jr. is a member of the English faculty at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Moral Tradition in English Fiction, 1785—1850 and John Locke and Children’s Books in Eighteenth-Century England.
W. P. (Bill) Kinsella is a graduate of the University of Victoria and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He teaches fiction writing at the University of Calgary. His most recent book is Shoeless Joe, winner of the Houghton Mifflin Literary Award. His other books include Dance Me Outside, Scars, Born Indian, and The Moccasin Telegraph.
Carl N. Degler teaches Southern history at Stanford University. His book, The Other South: Southern Dissenters was recently reissued by Northeastern University Press.
Having devoted his attention to “Charles Dickens and the Law” in VQR’s Autumn 1983 issue, Robert Coles now turns his attention to an American writer whose career was as tragic as Dickens’ was triumphant, the American being F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Jane Barnes is a novelist as well as a critic. Her first novel, I, Krupskaya, was about the wife of the Soviet leader Lenin. Her latest novel, Double Lives, was published by Doubleday in 1981.
David Robinson is an associate professor of English and director of American studies at Oregon State University. He received his Ph. D. degree in American literature from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of Apostle of Culture: Emerson as Preacher and Lecturer.
Susan Mernit teaches writing at Brooklyn College and through Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York. She is the author of two books of poetry and has published in journals such as Parnassus, Confrontation, and American Book Review, Bella, a feature film she wrote, won an award at the Houston International Film Festival in 1983.
Darden Asbury Pyron is the author of Recasting Gone with the Wind and American Culture, published by the University Presses of Florida last year. He was the founding chairman of the department of history at Florida International University, where he has been a member of the faculty since he joined the institution in 1971.
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In VQR’s Winter 1984 issue, the reviewer of Olivier Zunz’ The Changing Face of Inequality: Urbanization, Industrial Development, and Immigrants in Detroit, 1880—1920 inadvertently listed the wrong publisher. The work was published by the University of Chicago Press and is available in both cloth [$43.00] and paperback [$12.50].
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