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The Green Room, Summer 1987


ISSUE:  Summer 1987

The 1980’s have hardly been an epic era of American liberalism. Reaganism and rightism have reigned supreme; Falwell and his ilk have damned all who hold the truths of Darwin to be self-evident, much less anyone who might have a word to say in favor of humanism. The decade in which greed has sometimes seemed synonymous with good has also witnessed the emergence of a new political breed—those intellectuals, largely centered in New York, for whom liberalism is a god that failed and conservatism the new dogma and deity. They are known as the neoconservatives, and their views have been much on parade recently in American periodicals. Yet, as Sanford Pinsker notes of the neoconservatives, whatever their politics, whatever their philosophy, whatever their power, there is no question about their favorite sport: the name of the game is liberal-bashing. Or, as Mr. Pinsker puts it, “the plain fact is that bashing the liberal is still what gets the creative juices flowing.”

What got Mr. Pinsker’s creative juices flowing was, he said recently, “anger, pure and simple.” Noting that he has been “a non-political English professor for a very long time,” he added, “If mad Ireland hurt Yeats into poetry, then mad Americas hurt me into polemical prose.” For the past two decades Mr. Pinsker has been a member of the faculty of Franklin & Marshall College, where he is now a professor of English.

For Ernest Hemingway the great American novel was Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, the centennial of whose publication the nation celebrated two years ago. Still, even if the party is over, Huck Finn, in the words of Stephen Railton “remains an occasion to rise to. No American book poses a greater challenge to the adults, whether teachers or parents, who preside over our children’s experience of it.” As to the question of whether Huck Finn is racist, Mr. Railton has an ambivalent reply: “Yes and no; no and yes,” But, he argues in his essay, “the reason to make it required reading is that it is the perfect occasion to confront the meaning and consequences of racism.”

Mr. Railton is an associate professor of English at the University of Virginia. His book Fenimore Cooper: A Study of His Life and Imagination was published by Princeton in 1978. He is currently completing a study of the authors of the American Renaissance.

A short story writer who is working on her first novel, Ashley Mace Havird began a new and time-consuming occupation in June. The occupation: motherhood. “The birth of her first child is now being followed by the publication of her second story in VQR. An earlier story of hers, “The Burial Ground,” appeared in the Spring 1982 issue of VQR. Both stories are set in Mrs. Havird’s native state of South Carolina.

With the publication of Peter Harris’s essay on “Three Poets in Mid-Career,” VQR not only introduces a new author, but also publishes the inaugural installment of what Mr. Harris envisages as an annual “Poetry Chronicle.” In it, he will—as he was unable to do this year because of a shortened timetable— undertake “an extensive survey of a given year’s work in poetry,” striving “for the middle realm between the amplitude of an essay and the economy of a review.”

Mr. Harris is an Associate Professor of English at Colby College in Maine and a Melville scholar. A poet himself, he is a recent MFA graduate of the Warren Wilson College Program in Writing. In his current essay he examines the respective new books of Thomas Lux, Gregory Orr, and Laura Jensen.

Greg Kuzma lives with his wife and two children in Crete, Nebraska and for the past 15 years has been a member of the faculty at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. A previous VQR poet, he has published numerous collections of poems, the most recent being Of China and Of Greece, a Sun Books publication.

A resident of Gainesville, Florida, Sidney Wade has published poems in The New Yorker, Shenandoah, and Grand Street, as well as other publications.

Michael McFee has recent poems in The New Yorker and in Poetry Magazine. He was the visiting poet this past academic year at Cornell University.

Peter Desy is an Associate Professor in the English Department of Ohio University in Lancaster. He has poems forthcoming in Kansas Quarterly, The Literary Review, Yankee, and Modern Poetry Studies.

Jay Parini is a novelist, poet, short story writer (see his VQR story “Astray in the Suburbs,” Summer 1986), and critic. He is a member of the English faculty at Middlebury College in Vermont, and his second novel, The Patch Boys, was published last fall by Henry Holt.

Michael Dennis Browne teaches at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. His most recent collection of poems, Smoke from the Fires, was published by Carnegie-Mellon in 1985.

John Bovey is no stranger to VQR readers, having made his debut as an author in this journal in the Winter 1975 issue with an article about what he called “The Golden Sunshine,” that sunshine being “the practice of exchanging handouts abroad for contributions at home.” Mr. Bovey has also been a regular contributor of short stories, and he has twice received the Emily Clark Balch Prize for the best story published in a calendar year. Since he had a distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service, it is not surprising that many of Mr. Bovey’s stories, including his current one, are set in foreign locales and involve American diplomats.

Howard Wolf is a Professor of English and Associate Chair at SUNY/Buffalo where he has taught since 1967, after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan that year. His books include The Voice Within: Reading and Writing Autobiography, Forgive The Father: A Memoir of Changing Generations, and The Education of a Teacher: Essays On American Culture.

Stuart James, a resident of Denver, learned his VQR story had been accepted for publication shortly after returning from a trip east to Charleston, South Carolina last fall about which he wrote: “I have been to Charleston for, of all things, a reunion of my WW II B-17 crew. I’m frightened to death of reunions, but this one turned out better than I expected.” Mr. James served as first pilot on a Flying Fortress out of England in 1944, and his story is a direct result of that experience. He is an emeritus professor at the University of Denver, having taught there in the English department since 1957. The recipient of a Ph. D degree from the University of Washington at Seattle, he modestly observes: “I got what education I have, late, after the war, Hitler, in a round-about way, having made that education possible for me in the form of the GI Bill.”

Taking a raft down the Grand Canyon was quite a departure for Marie Borroff, whose usual habitat is “the place where Louie dwells,” in New Haven at Yale University. Ms. Borroff is the William Lampson Professor of English at Yale and has published poetry in this journal and elsewhere.

A member of the English faculty at Emory University in Atlanta, Greg Johnson has written a critical study, Emily Dickinson: Perception and the Poet’s Quest, which was published in 1985.

Elizabeth Langhorne is the author of Monticello: A Family Story, which Algonquin Books published this spring.

Edward L. Ayers holds a Ph. D. in history from Yale University, and is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia. He is working on a social history of the South during the 1890’s.

Burling Lowrey retired last year as an English professor at the University of Maryland, terminating his teaching career “so that I can finish a number of literary projects that have been on the back burner for too long. Henceforth you can just refer to me as an essayist and critic.”

Paul Roazen is a professor of social and political science at York University in Toronto. His latest book Helene Deutsch: A Psychoanalysts’s Life appeared in 1985.

A specialist in international affairs, André G. Kuczewski is a member of the administration and policy studies faculty at McGill University in Montreal.

Robert Mason is scarcely a stranger to the world of Senator Jesse Helms, being, like Helms, a native North Carolinian, and the Tarheel state figures large in Mason’s new book, One of the Neighbors’ Children.

Paul Barolsky is Chairman of the McIntire Department of Art at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Walter Pater’s Renaissance and Infinite Jest: Wit and Humor in Italian Renaissance Art.

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