A retired American diplomat living in Paris, John Bovey returned to his native land last fall. His return aroused the reflections expressed in his eloquent essay, as Mr. Bovey explained in a recent letter: “”Boats Against the Current” is an abbreviated version of a longer work in which I have tried to convey what it is to rediscover one’s own country after an absence of three decades, broken only by home leave from the Foreign Service, by one long assignment in a more coherent if not a happier Washington from 1954 to 1960, and by brief trips after retirement. Being an uprooted Mid-westerner like Fitzgerald, provincial and squeamish like the narrator of The Great Gatsby, I have always admired the splendid passage at the end of the book in which the author describes the lost America of his youth. During my last trip, I was struck by the indifference, in high places and in great cities, to the original ideals of America, so beautifully consecrated still in Cambridge, in Concord, and in Charlottesville and less archaic, I found, than the prevailing cynicism might lead one to believe. Naturally I thought constantly— but without any pretensions to his mastery—of Henry James and the infernal intelligence at work behind the imagery of The American Scene, which remains so startlingly relevant in 1978.”
To most Americans, Boris Pasternak is best known as the author of Doctor Zhivago.His place in posterity, however, is more likely to be among the world’s great poets. The eight poems by Pasternak, appearing here for the first time in English, are taken from his work, My Sister, Life, written in 1917 and published in 1922.The work established Pasternak’s major role as an early Modernist poet. The translation of these poems is the result of a collaboration that has taken place over the past four years between the American poet Mark Rudman and Ukrainian poet and trans lator Bohdan Boychuk, who now lives in New York.”I was particularly curious about My Sister, Life,” Mr. Rudman wrote, “since every mention of it by Russian poets and critics was tinged with awe and tremendous excitement, as though it had revealed to them the other world in this one. . . . But the existing translations of Pasternak’s poetry conveyed none of this wonder to me.”
Beauty has long concerned novelist, poet, and literary critic George P. Elliott, and his VQR essay is a result of this concern. A member of the English Department at Syracuse University since 1963, Mr. Elliott has written four novels, published two volumes of short stories, two books of poems, and two collections of essays. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, Ford Fellow, and a recipient of an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
A young (28) writer whose first fiction was published just two years ago, W. D. Wethehell traces his English connection to the small town of Maryborough, where his parents met in 1944, his mother a U. S. Army nurse and his father an Army captain.”I grew up on stories of wartime Britain,” Mr. Wetherell says.”One of my parents’ scrapbooks pinpoints the small Channel resort where in 1945 they decided upon the names of their eventual son and daughter (names which stuck four or five years later).” The outcome of this English connection is Mr. Wetherell’s-story about wartime Britain, “Spitfire Autumn.”
Norman A. Graebner’s discussion of “Government without Consensus” comes at a time when there is hardly a consensus about any aspect of American policy, domestic or foreign. The Edward R. Stettinius Professor of Modern American History at the University of Virginia, Mr. Graebner has spent 27 years as a teaching historian. His many books include The New Isolationism, Cold War Diplomacy, and Ideas and Diplomacy. Mr. Graebner is spending the current academic year at Queen’s College in Oxford, where he is the Harmsworth Professor of American History, and where he expects to complete a history of American diplomacy.
David Arn took a graduate course in fiction writing at the University of Virginia, where he studied under the noted short story writer Peter Taylor. Married, with one small child, Mr. Arn literally does his writing by moonlight, since he works full-time by day as manager of the men’s section of a large department store. His story, “Blacktail,” is his first to be published in a national magazine,
Paul Roazen is scarcely a stranger to the works of either Freud or George Orwell, and his VQR essay on the two men is part of a larger study of politics and psychology.”I first read 1984 almost 25 years ago,” Mr. Roazen recalls.”For some time now I have made Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” required reading in my course “Psychology and Contemporary Political Theory.” Then a couple of years ago I also assigned 1984, The comparison and contrast between Orwell and Freud seemed so striking that I sat down and read all Orwell’s fiction and non-fiction to be able to elucidate the congruence between their psychologies.” Mr. Roazen is professor of social and political sciences at York University in Toronto.
Carol Muske had her first book of poems, Camouflage, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She has recently completed a second volume and is teaching at the University of New Hampshire.
A former pupil of Allen Tate, Kathhyn Stripling recently received the Anne Sexton Poetry Prize for a sequence of eight poems. Her poetry has also been cited by the Academy of American Poets and has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Hudson Review and The American Scholar. Mrs. Stripling now lives in Cullowhee, where her husband teaches English at Western Carolina University.
Irving Feldman’s last collection of poems, Leaping Clear, was published by Viking in 1976 and subsequently nominated for the National Book Award in poetry. Another volume of Mr. Feldman’s new and selected poems is due out from Viking next spring. Mr. Feldman teaches at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Ai has published one book of poems with Houghton Mifflin entitled Cruelty. Houghton will publish her second book of poems, Killing Floor, next winter. She currently teaches at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Like Messrs. Wetherell and Arn, Dennis J. Reader is also appearing in VQR for the first time. He is a member of the English Department at Western Illinois University, yet, like the setting of his story, his origins are decidedly Californian. As he himself observes: “Although presently I find myself located in the heart of the country, I was born in Santa Cruz, California, received an M. A.in English from San Francisco State University and a Ph. D.in literature from the University of California at San Diego.”
David Levin first became vitally concerned about the case of Alger Hiss eight years ago, when he was teaching an undergraduate seminar on American autobiographies and assigned Whittaker Chambers’s Witness “ in order to consider at least one book that makes a central issue of its own veracity.” That assignment drew Mr. Levin back into the world of the Hiss case, which he later described in a VQR essay (Winter 1976) as “an irresistible accumulation of baffling personalities, mysterious evidence both sworn and circumstantial, questions of civil liberty, major issues of congressional power and ethics, and (for my generation) major problems of symbolic allegiance.” Hence Mr. Levin is admirably qualified to review the latest book on the Hiss case, one which he does not think will still the controversy about it. Mr. Levin’s latest work, a biography of Cotton Mather, is being published by Harvard University Press this autumn.
As editor of The Sewanee Review, George Core has more than an average interest in the art of good essay writing. He also has a more than average ability to express himself in such writing, as his latest VQR review clearly indicates. In Mr. Core’s judgment, New Yorker writers E. B. White and John McPhee are true masters of the written word, a judgment surely shared by many VQR readers.
James R. Kincaid is a professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter, Tennyson’s Major Poems: The Comic and Ironic Patterns, and The Novels of Anthony Trollope.
The Regents’ Professor of English at the Ohio State University, Richard D. Altick is a noted authority on Victorian England. His latest book, The Shows of London, published this year by Harvard University Press, has won widespread critical acclaim
A former member of the faculty at the College of William and Mary, Michael Meyer recently joined the English Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he is an associate professor. He is the author of Several More Lives to Live: Thoreau’s Political Reputation in America,
Jay Parini is director of creative writing at Dartmouth College. His first book of poetry, Singing in Time, appeared in 1972. He has contributed poetry to The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and Poetry. Educated in Scotland, Mr. Parini is a co-editor of the New England Review, whose first issue will be appearing this fall.
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