In an age haunted by the specter of a nuclear holocaust, World War II sometimes seems as long ago and far away as Agincourt, as distant as Blenheim, at one with Trafalgar and Waterloo. Yet it was only slightly more than four decades ago that millions of men and women were engaged in a struggle, the dimensions of which had never been seen before or since. One was a young West Virginia woman who went to Britain to join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force of the RAF in 1942, and who received a medical discharge from the Service in 1943. Her name was and is Mary Lee Settle, and her account of life in the RAF is eloquently recounted in her memoir All The Brave Promises. Now, in her VQR essay, the young woman destined to become one of America’s foremost novelists, takes up where her memoir left off and describes what happened to her during the remainder of the war.
“I distrust nostalgia,” writes Ms. Settle. “It is like fog. It obscures and distorts. It celebrates wars never fought and times never loved. And words never said. It ties us to a false past. For freedom from the illusion of memory, I wrote All The Brave Promises. For the same reason, I find myself writing fragments, of which “London 1944” is a part.”
The essay is a part, too, of a distinguished body of work, including Blood Tie, winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in 1978, and the remarkable group of historical novels comprising The Beulah Quintet. Ms. Settle’s latest novel is Celebration, which was published last year by Farrar Straus & Giroux.
Imbued by the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, Americans have spent a good part of this century in a good many parts of the globe endeavoring to make the world “safe for democracy.” The latest such effort is taking place in Central America where efforts to aid the contras in Nicaragua have generated a national controversy. But, argues political scientist Glen Dealy, our democratic tradition “in fact provides no solution to the key difficulties” facing our southern neighbors. Having taught in both Nicaragua and Guatemala and being bilingual in Spanish, Mr. Dealy is hardly a stranger to the people and problems of Central America. A professor in the department of political science at Oregon State University, he received his Ph.D. degree in Political Philosophy from the University of California (Berkeley) in 1965. He has also studied at Oxford University and besides Spanish, includes French, Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan among his languages. He is the author of The Public Man: An Interpretation of Latin American and Other Catholic Cultures, published by Massachusetts in 1977, as well as numerous articles involving Central and Latin American affairs. He is currently traveling in South America on a Fulbright Research Award.
An accomplished poet, as well as a novelist and short story writer, T. Alan Broughton is a professor of English at the University of Vermont. In addition to four books of poetry, he is the author of three novels, Winter Journey, A Family Gathering, and most recently, The Horse Master.
George Watson is a Fellow at St. John’s College, Cambridge, author of The Story of the Novel, and editor of The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. He has also written Politics and Literature in Modern Britain and The Idea of Liberalism. The versatile Mr. Watson is a regular contributor to The Hudson Review, one of his most recent contributions being on the education of British Prime Ministers.
Mary Oliver recently received a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry. Her most recent book is Dream Work: New Poems, published by Atlantic Monthly Press last year.
Paulette Roeske’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Tendril, Chicago Review, Kansas Quarterly, and other magazines, and her collection, Breathing Under Water, is due out this fall. A graduate of the Warren Wilson Writing Program, she teaches at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois.
Thomas Lux teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and participates in the Warren Wilson Writing Program. His most recent collection is Half Promised Land, published in 1986 by Houghton Mifflin.
Kelly Rowe is a 1982 graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and has published poems in Iowa Review and The Seneca Review.
After working for seven years as an appraiser in the county assessor’s office in Arizona, Ramon E. Martinez recently quit his job and began working toward an MFA degree at Arizona State University. He has poems published or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, New Mexico Humanities Review, and elsewhere.
A resident of New York City, Terese Svoboda is both a poet and short story writer. Her most recent collection of poems, All Aberration, was published by Georgia in 1985. She has poems forthcoming in Seneca Review, Prairie Schooner, and Pennsylvania Review.
Linda Pastan’s most recent book, A Fraction of Darkness: Poems, was published by Norton in 1985.
Howard Adams’ essay “The Virginians and the Veneto” was inspired by a lecture he gave in Venice last year. Mr. Adams received a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and later earned his law degree at Washington and Lee University. He has lectured at Columbia University and Cooper Union, and is a former member of the staff of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. In that capacity, he oversaw the acclaimed exhibition “The Eye of Thomas Jefferson” which the Gallery put on as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. A member of the board of trustees of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation at Monticello, Mr. Adams is currently preparing a documentary film series on the evolution of the garden.
Stephen Minot’s short stories have appeared, in a wide range of magazines ineluding The Atlantic, Harpers, Playboy, The Sewanee Review, and VQR. Two of his stories were included in the O. Henry Prize Stories collection and three in The Best American Short Stories. His books include Chill of Dusk, Ghost Images, and Surviving the Flood, all novels, and Crossings, a collection of stories. Mr. Minot taught at Trinity College from 1959 to 1981. In 1982 he resigned from teaching to write full time. He and his wife live in Connecticut and Maine.
A journalist with 25 years of experience, mostly in reporting, analyzing, and editing foreign news, Richard O’Mara is the foreign editor of The Baltimore Sun. He lived and worked in Latin America for about six years. The story of Vincent the Nomad is a chapter from a book he is writing about encounters he has had around the world as a journalist, “not with the rich and powerful, but with those people of little influence who make things happen only to themselves.”
Joe Taylor’s stories have appeared in The South Carolina Review, The Florida Review, The Cotton Boll/Atlanta Review, and Apalachee Quarterly. He also has a story forthcoming in Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, 2nd edition. He teaches part-time at Georgia State University.
A regular VQR contributor, Samuel Pickering, Jr. is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and writes his essays from his home there. His latest VQR piece, “Ink Blots,” appears in a collection, The Right Distance, which Georgia published this fall. He is also the author of a previous collection of familiar essays, A Continuing Education, and has contributed pieces to a variety of journals, including Chicago Review, National Review, Sewanee Review, and Reader’s Di gest.
David Robinson is a professor of English and Director of American Studies at Oregon State University. He is the author of Apostle of Culture: Emerson as Preacher and Lecturer (1982), and The Unitarians and the Universalists (1985). He is currently at work on a study of Emerson’s later thought.
Wendy W. Fairey is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York, and is a former dean of Hollins College. She is an authority on 19th- and 20th-century British and American literature.
Now retired and living in Canada, Anthony Netboy did his graduate work in English literature at Harvard University and later taught for many years in Oregon. He is now completing his memoirs.
John Seelye is Graduate Research Professor of American Literature at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He is completing a 3-volume trilogy on the role of rivers and oceans in our life and literature, the first volume of which, Prophetic Waters: The River and Early American Life and Literature, appeared in 1977.
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