Of an apparently ageless ailment of mankind Nietzsche lamented, “Against boredom even the gods themselves struggle in vain.” Schopenhauer reached a similar conclusion: “The most general survey shows us that the two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom.” Yet where would man be without boredom? That is the question discussed by Patricia Meyer Spacks, who notes in her VQR essay, “More than one great writer has testified that his or her work originated in the experienced need to escape boredom. And if boredom entails literature as consequence, why not bicycles, electric lights, and laser printers?” Ms. Spacks is currently completing a book on the subject of boredom similar to the one she wrote on Gossip, a work which Knopf published in 1985 and Chicago reprinted in paperback in 1986. The prolific Ms. Spacks is also the author of The Varied God (1959), The Insistence of Horror (1962), John Gay (1965), The Poetry of Vision (1967), and The Female Imagination (1975), which received a National Book Award nomination. She is the editor of Late Augustan Poetry (1973), and Contemporary Women Novelists (1977). A distinguished 18th-century scholar, Ms. Spacks recently joined the English faculty at the University of Virginia. She has also taught at Indiana, Florida, Wellesley College, and Yale, where she was Chairman of the English Department from 1981 to 1985. She is a member of the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association and a former President of the North Eastern American Society for 18th-century Studies.
Although writers, scholars, and political leaders have bemoaned the lack of an American tradition in foreign affairs, such a tradition does exist—and has existed since the time of the Founding Fathers. It is this tradition—”a diplomatic tradition unmatched in history—” that Norman Graebner discusses in his latest VQR essay. A noted diplomatic historian, Mr. Graebner retired as Edward R. Stettinius Professor of modern American history at the University of Virginia in 1986, but he has remained an active lecturer and writer. He received his Ph. D. in history from the University of Chicago in 1949 and has taught at Iowa State College, and the University of Illinois at Urbana, where he was chairman of the history department. He also served as the Harmsworth professor of history at Queen’s College, Oxford in 1978—79. His many books include Empire on the Pacific, The New Isolationism, Cold War Diplomacy, The Age of Global Power, and An Uncertain Tradition: American Secretaries of State in the 20th-century.
With his story “The Water-Girl,” George Packer is not only making his debut as a VQR contributor: the story is also his first published piece of fiction. A native of Northern California, Mr. Packer attended Yale, served in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, and now lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is a carpenter and a writer. His first book, The Village of Waiting, an account of his experience in Africa, was published last year by Vintage Books. He has also published essays and reviews in The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Review, and elsewhere.
Having received his Ph. D. in history from the University of Virginia last summer, Robert Zaretsky is now a member of the history faculty and honors fellow at the University of Houston. Modern France is his great interest, and his doctoral dissertation is a local study of Nîmes and the department of the Gard under Vichy. Mr. Zaretsky is now contemplating “beginning either a life and times of the contemporary French novelist, poet, journalist and intellectual Claude Roy, or a collective study of the lives and careers of the now not so nouveaux philosophes (e.g. Bernard-Henry Levy, Andre Glucksmann, Finkielkraut, et al.).” Mr. Zaretsky received his B.A. degree in philosophy from McGill University and served with the Peace Corps in Korea.
Judith E. Johnson was a 1968 recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize. Her most recent books are How the Dead Count (1968) and The Waste Trilogy (1977—79). She teaches in the graduate writing and women’s studies program in SUNY Albany and edits the feminist magazine 13th Moon. She has recent work in Partisan Review and Massachusetts Review.
Sherwood Santos teaches at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His second collection of poems, The Southern Reaches, was just published by Wesleyan.
Keith Althaus lives in Truro, Massachusetts. His poems have previously appeared in VQR.
Agha Shahid Ali teaches at Hamilton College. Wesleyan published his first collection of poems, The Half-Inch Himalayas, in 1987.
A recent graduate of the M. F. A. program at Vermont College, Sue Cowing lives in Honolulu. A collection of her poems, The Adventures of Corona Smith has just been published by Black Earth Press.
Debra Bruce teaches at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and published her second book, Sudden Hunger, last year. She has recent poems in Poetry, and NER/BLQ.
Meredith Briggs Skeath’s poems have been published in Triquarterly, Radcliffe Quarterly, Mademoiselle, and other periodicals. She holds an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College, an M.A. from Maharishi International University. She lives with her husband and two children in Silver Springs, Maryland, where she teaches the Transcendental Meditation program.
Scott Donaldson is the Louise G. T. Cooley Professor of English at The College of William and Mary. He is the author of biographies of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and John Cheever. He is also the author of The Suburban Myth, Of his VQR essay he writes, “What’s new in “The Jilting of Ernest Hemingway” is, first of all, the contents of the “Dear John” letter that Hemingway received in March 1919.” That letter and that rejection, Mr. Donaldson believes, “drove Hemingway to grow up fast, both as a man and a writer.”
Nicholas Rinaldi teaches literature and creative writing at Fairfield University. He is the author of a novel, Bridge Fall Down, and three collections of poetry, the last being The Luftwaffe in Chaos. His story, “The Apricot Tree,” is part of a sequence of short stories based on his personal background as an Italian-American living in New York in the years after World War II “when the Dodgers were still around, and . . .you could get an egg-cream at the corner candy store and listen to the Andrews Sisters on the radio.”
Ashley Brown is a professor of English at the University of South Carolina and editor of several books, the most recent being The Poetry Reviews of Allen Tate, 1924—1944.
Since he retired from the U. S. Foreign Service in the mid-1970’s, John Bovey has been writing and publishing short stories, several of which have appeared in this journal. Indeed, he has twice received the Emily Clark Balch Prize given annually for the best published story in VQR during a calendar year. He recently published his second collection of fiction, The Silent Meteor.
After her essay, “Islands in Summer,” appeared in VQR last autumn, Frances Mayes received a handwritten letter from an editor at Doubleday who said, “If you would ever like to do a book I would consider it the greatest joy to be involved with it. I love your writing.” The editor: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Ms. Mayes latest essay is about her college years at the outset of the 1960’s.
Catherine Petroski is the author of a collection, Gravity and Other Stories. She has taught at Duke and the University of North Carolina and now lives in Durham, N.C., where she is working on a group of interrelated stories.
A member of the history faculty at the University of Virginia, Edward L. Ayers specializes in the American South of the 19th-century. He is currently writing a re-interpretation of that region in the decades following Reconstruction.
Janet McNew is chairman of the department of English at St. John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, in Collegeville, Minnesota, a joint department including members from two different schools. Her home institution is St. John’s.
Paul Roazen is a professor of social and political science at York University in Toronto and author of Helene Deutsch: A Psychoanalyst’s Life.
Shalom J. Kahn is professor emeritus at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the author of Science and Aesthetic Judgment: A Study in Paine’s Political Method.
Robert Coles worked with Leslie Dunbar at the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta in the early 1960’s when Dunbar was the SRC executive director and COLES was completing a study of white and black children in desegregated schools.
Stephen C. Innes is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of Labor in a New Land: Economy and Society in 17th-Century Springfield (1983), and “Myne Own Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640—1676 (1980).
Susan M. Schultz received her Ph. D. degree in English from the University of Virginia earlier this year and is now a member of the English faculty at The College of William and Mary.
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