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The Green Room, Winter 1987

ISSUE:  Winter 1987

It has now been more than four decades since the birth of the atomic age, and the development of tit-wand better nuclear weapons has proceeded apace throughout the period. So much so that the United States and the Soviet Union now have enough Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) not merely to destroy themslves but to obliterate mankind as well. Yet, as Michael Joseph Smith points out in his essay, “virtually from the beginning of the nuclear age, political and military strategists have disagreed about the wider implications of a radically new weapon.” A native of Yonkers, New York, where his father was a local politician, Mr. Smith went to Harvard as an undergraduate. A course called “War” taught by noted foreign affairs scholar Stanley Hoffman “convinced me to abandon a standing interest in urban politics and vague plans to go to law school. The larger questions presented by a world of competing sovereign states seemed more compelling.” Winning a Marshall Scholarship in his senior year at Harvard, Mr. Smith has continued studying those wider questions at Oxford under such mentors as the late Hedley Bull and Alastair Buchan. After receiving an M.Phil, from Oxford in International Relations in 1976, Mr. Smith returned to Harvard to work for an American Ph.D., again with Stanley Hoffmann, which he received in 1982. His dissertation will be published by Louisiana early this year under the title Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger. Mr. Smith taught at Harvard from 1982 to 1985 and is now a member of the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Native Washingtonian Ann Beattie burst upon the American literary scene in 1976, with the simultaneous publication of her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, and first collection of short stories, Distortions. During the next decade, becoming one of the country’s best-known young writers, the busy Ms. Beattie produced two novels. Falling in Place, 1981, and Love Always, 1985, four more collections of short stories, Secrets and Surprises, 1979, Jack Lighting, 1981, The Burning House, 1982, and Where You’ll Find Me, 1986. She recently completed her first work of nonfiction, a monograph on the artist Alex Katz.

With the nation preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, one of the most enduring documents of the Enlightenment, John Seelye takes a look at another product of the 1780’s, namely. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, first published in 1784. Of the Notes, Mr. Seelye writes “perhaps no single work of art . . .so succintly delineates the Enlightenment connection with American enterprise.” He further points out that in the Notes, Jefferson included an extended description of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, a vast area the second American President would acquire for the United States within 20 years through the Louisiana Purchase. To explore the area, Jefferson mounted the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and it—”the kind of imperial adventure we call epic” — is eloquently recounted by Mr. Seelye.

A former member of the English faculty at the University of North Carolina, Mr. Seelye is now Graduate Research Profossor of American Literature at the University of Florida in Gainesville. His essay is excerpted from a longer study on rivers and the early American republic, one which is a continuation of his book Prophetic Waters: The River in Early American Life and Literature, published in 1977 by Oxford, It will become the second volume of what Mr. Seelye projects as a three-volume-trilogy on the role of rivers and oceans in our life and literature.

Murray Milker, Jr. first became acquainted with South Asia in 1960 when he went to West Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to organize a relief and rehabilitation program. He later returned as a Fulbright Scholar to India and most recently for six months in 1984—85 as a research fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies in New Delhi. An associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and associate director of that institution’s Center for South Asian Studies, Mr. Milner is currently working on a theory of status relations which focuses on the Indian caste system.

Stephen Dobyns is the author of five books of poetry, and his VQR poems are from a forthcoming volume. Cemetery Nights, to be published this year. The prolific Mr. Dobyns is also the author of six novels, the most recent of which, Cold Dog Soup, was published by Viking in 1985. He now teaches at Syracuse University.

Ottó Orbán was born in Budapest in 1936. His father was later killed in a concentration camp, and he spent his childhood in a Budapest school for war orphans. After studying Hungarian and English at the University of Budapest, he left without a degree and devoted himself to writing, the results of which are seven volumes of poetry and numerous translations of poems and plays.

Jascha Kessler is a native of New York City, a professor of English and modern literature at UCLA, and the author of three volumes of poetry, as well as five volumes of translations.

David Bottoms is a member of the faculty at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He received the 1979 Walt Whitman award for his first book of poems, and his second, In A U-Haul North of Damascus, was published by Morrow in 1983. Other poems have appeared recently in Atlantic, and The New Yorker.

A previous VQR contributor, Carl Dennis teaches at the State University of New York at Buffalo. His most recent collection of poems, The Near World, was published in 1985.

A transplanted Kentuckian now living in Tuscon, Arizona, Barbara Kingsolver works as a free-lance journalist and has also published poetry and fiction in a variety of magazines. “My plans for the immediate future,” she writes, “include the completion of my first novel and the birth of my first child.”

Monroe K. Spears retired as the Moody Professor of English at Rice University last year and moved back to Sewanee, where he was once editor of The Sewanee- Review. His essay on James Dickey will appear in a somewhat different form in American Ambitions, a selection of his essays on literary and cultural themes, to be published this spring by Johns Hopkins.

In defending anonymity, the author chooses to remain anonymous. It can be said, however, that she has long been a member of the English faculty at a north-eastern university, that she is an internationally recognized authority on the subject of children’s literature, and that, at age 73, she recently founded the Connectient League against Age Discrimination.

A retired American diplomat, who now resides in Europe and Latin America, Darwin’ J. Flakoll first went to Mallorca in the 1960’s and was so taken by the Spanish island that he bought a house in Deya where he now resides for part of the year.

Richard Easton is a member of the English faculty at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. Another of his stories recently appeared in the New Orleans Review, and his first full-length play. The God Game, won a performance award in a national contest sponsored by Washington and Jefferson and was given a full-scale production in October.

David T. Gies is a professor of Spanish and chairman of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia. He has published numerous books and articles on Spanish literature, and research for his latest book. Theatre and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Spain, to be published by Cambridge, was funded by the Guggenheim Foundation.

William C. Havard received Vanderbilt’s Distinguished Professor Award for 1986—87 for “outstanding contributions to the academic mission of Vanderbilt University.” He will be at Millsaps College this spring as the Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies. He is also looking forward to the birth of his first grandchild come spring.

Douglas W. Alden is the author of two books on Proust, of one on Jacques de Lacretelle, and of four textbooks. He edited the twentieth-century volumes of the Critical Bibliography of French Literature and the French section of the Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. He is a former chairman of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Virginia and former president of the American Association of Teachers of French.

James Deakin served as the White House reporter for the St. Louis Post. Dispatch for 25 years and is the author of Straight Stuff: The Reporters. The White House, and the Truth, published in l984. He is now working on another book about the Washington scene.

James T. Jones teaches modern literature and criticism at Southwest Missouri State University. He is the author of Wayward Skeptic: The Theories of R.P. Blackmur, recently published by Illinois, and is now working on a study of the fiction of Caroline Gordon.

THE VIRGINIA QUARTERLY REVIEW Staige D.BlackfordEditor GregoryOrrPoetry Consultant

Advisory Editors W. W. Abbot J. C. Levenson Kenneth W. Thompson Nathan A. Scott, Jr. G. Edward White Roger Shattuck Barbara E. Murphy, Business Manager

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