As the U. S. Supreme Court approaches adjournment in a few weeks, speculation will inevitably arise about whether and which justices might be retiring—and about the candidates President Reagan might nominate to succeed them. Should one or more of the justices now on the bench decide to step down and should Reagan pick a candidate or candidates of a conservative cast, the cry will then arise that he is “packing the court.” Yet, as David M. O’brien points out, this is not only the president’s prerogative; it is also a precedent dating back to the earliest days of the Republic. Equally true, too, as Mr. O’brien observes, while much is made about merit, “the reality is that every appointment is political.” What no president can foresee, however, is the legal course his candidate will chart once approved by the Senate and ascended to the high court. The most notable example of a justice veering in the way least expected by the president who chose him is, of course, that of Chief Justice Earl Warren. But history abounds with other such instances, and the future is not likely to break abruptly with the past. The maxim would appear to be that the president does the picking, but ultimately each justice becomes his—or in the case of Justice O’Connor, her—own man.
Mr. O’brien’s essay on the politics of court packing is excerpted from a book he has written about the marble palace on Capitol Hill. Entitled Storm Center: The Supreme Court in American Politics, the book will be published by W.W. Norton later this spring. An authority on constitutional law and the judicial process, Mr. O’brien received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has served as both a research associate and a judicial fellow in the office of the administrative assistant to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Mr. O’brien, an associate professor of government at the University of Virginia, is also the author of The Public’s Right to Know: The Supreme Court and the First Amendment, which was selected as one of the “outstanding books in political science” for 1981 by Choice magazine. He was co-editor with Mark Cannon of Views from the Bench: The Judiciary and Constitutional Politics published last year.
In the midst of revising her essay on the relationship between Jean Stafford and Robert Lowell, an essay based on previously unpublished material at the University of Colorado, Mary D. McCconahay had to undergo surgery and thus, as she later noted, finished the piece “flat on my back, as the saying goes.” Now fully recovered, Ms. McConahay, a member of the English Department at the University of Colorado, and her husband and children recently moved to a new home in the Rockies, where she can “look out on a creek full of cottonwoods . . .a sapling crabapple bearing seven red apples, and two cavorting canines.” Such is life in the Golden West.
With “Norfolk, 1969,” Christopher Tilghman makes his debut as a VQR contributor. “My bio reads something like this,” he writes, “graduated from Yale in 1968 and entered, not surprisingly, the Navy for a three-year hitch as a junior officer on a supply ship homeported in . . . Norfolk, Virginia. Since the Navy I have lived in New Hampshire and Boston, writing fiction the whole time and supporting myself in all sorts of unsatisfactory ways. Currently I write for various high-tech companies and financial institutions around Boston. I have two children and an astonishingly supportive wife.”
László Nagy was considered one of the two or three great poets of Hungary during the 1960’s and 1970’s. According to his translator, Jascha Kessler, his VQR poems are the last of Nagy’s poems not yet translated into English. NAGY died in the early 1980’s, only in his early fifties, Mr. Kessler, a frequent translator, is a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Aleda Shirley has recently published poems in Poetry, American Poetry Review, and Georgia Review. She has previously appeared in VQR. Her manuscript, Chinese Architecture, will be published by Georgia late this year.
A resident of Amherst, Mass., Sarah Provost has published in numerous journals, including Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, and Massachusetts Review.
A prolific poet, Peter Cooley has completed a new chapbook entitled Canticles and Complaintes, which will be released by Ford-Brown Publishers. He is also the author of Nightseasons, published by Carnegie-Mellon in 1983. He teaches creative writing at Tulane University.
Len Roberts is a member of the Department of English at Lafayette College. He received an NEA award in 1984, and his second book of poems, From the Dark, was published the same year by State University of New York Press. His son Joshua was also born that year—”a very good year,” he notes.
David Ignatow is one of America’s most distinguished poets. He received the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1975—76 and is the author of more than nine volumes of poetry. His poems in this issue of VQR are from his latest work, New and Collected Poems, 1970—1986, to be published this spring by Wesleyan.
It will be 30 years ago next month—May 1956—when John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger opened in London and looked forward to a new chapter in British drama.
That chapter is the subject of George Watson’s essay, one he considers to be “the greatest period of English drama since the closing of the theaters by the Puritans in 1642.”
Mr. 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 is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia this spring.
Margaret Edwards has been on sabbatical leave from the University of Vermont, where she teaches literature and writing. Her story, “Roses,” which appeared in the Summer 1984 issue of VQR, was chosen by novelist Gail Godwin for inclusion in The Best Short Stories of 1985, published by Houghton Mifflin. Ms. Edwards is now working on a novel.
Susan Mernit teaches composition and fiction writing at Hunter College and is completing a novel. Her poems, reviews, fiction, and articles have appeared in numerous periodicals, including the Georgia Review, the Saturday Review, Music and Sound Output, and The Nation.
Edward Falco recently moved from the University of Syracuse to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, where he is a member of the English Department. He is the author of The Dream of a Perfect City, a collection of short fiction. His stories have appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Kansas Quarterly, the Aspen Anthology, and the Southern Humanities Review.
A native New Yorker and former editor at Commentary, Morris Freedman has taught at the University of New Mexico and is currently a member of the English Department at the University of Maryland. His essays and columns on education appear widely, and he is the author of two essay collections, Confessions of a Conformist and Chaos in Our Colleges.
William E. Cain is a member of the English Department at Wellesley College.
He is the author of The Crisis in Criticism: Theory, Literature and Reform in English Studies, published by Johns Hopkins.
David Levin is a Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, a former Fulbright lecturer, and author of What Happened in Salem, History as Romantic Art, and In Defense of Historical Literature, as well as a biography of Cotton Mather.
Jeffrey Meyers is the prolific author of numerous works on figures of 20th-century literature, the latest of whom is Ernest Hemingway. His biography, Hemingway, was published by Harper & Row last fall.
As he notes, Anthony Netboy studied under Irving Babbitt at Harvard. Mr. Netboy was a teacher himself until he retired several years ago. He is now completing his memoirs.
Vincent Fitzpatrick compiled the forthcoming Mencken Bibliography and is a member of the staff at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. He holds a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Herbert J. Levine is a member of the English Department at Franklin & Marshall College, with an interest in philosophy as well as literature.
Describing herself as being “at heart a New Yorker,” Wendy W. Fairey recently moved from Hollins College to a new job at Brooklyn College, CUNY, as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.