Foreword: Moving On

Moving On

When excited about a piece of writing, I often sense a largeness to it that exceeds what I first fully understand. As an editor, I’ve had that experience too often to remember. I love something and then struggle to articulate why, and it may take me a while to do so with any certainty. Perhaps it comes from rightness of form and richness of theme, including a necessary ambiguity in the subject. I may not fully get it at first because often the best writing is, in fact ,wonderfully complicated, both in what it is about and sometimes in the way it’s done. Literature has an almost biological element: its DNA shows similarities to past writing as well as newness and variance. It carries a suitcase or wears at least some of its clothes from the past. It doesn’t simplify life but sees and shows its messiness. This is shown in much of this issue, with the theme of moving on while at the same time still in ways still carrying the past.

The Charm Offensive: Magritte’s Influence on Contemporary Art

The Charm Offensive: Magritte’s Influence on Contemporary Art

Kristine Somerville

 

“All I know of hope, I place in love.” —René Magritte

During the World War II, René Magritte aimed through his painting to launch what he called “a charm offensive.” In opposition to the brutality of the war, he wanted to find some pleasure for himself and others. He wrote, “The German occupation marked a turning point in my art. Before the war, my paintings expressed anxiety, but the experiences of the war have taught me that what matters in art is to express charm. I live in a very disagreeable world, and my work is meant as a counter-offensive.” He went on to explain that “it lies with us, who have some notion of how feelings are invented, to make joy and pleasure.” Magritte was criticized by his fellow surrealists, particularly André Breton, who publicly opposed what he considered a simplistic notion. He thought it ridiculous to foster “charm, pleasure, sunshine” at the exclusion of “sadness and boredom.”

 

Clothes Make the Character: Costume Collaborations of Edith Head and Alfred Hitchcock

Clothes Make the Character: Costume Collaborations of Edith Head and Alfred Hitchcock

“I knew I was not a creative design genius. I was never going to be the world’s greatest costume designer, but there was no reason I couldn’t be the smartest.” —Edith Head

In 1946, Alfred Hitchcock arranged for Paramount to loan Edith Head to RKO to dress Ingrid Bergman in his spy thriller Notorious. This was Edith’s first time working with the English director, and she found in him a like-minded collaborator who was as exacting and blunt as she was. While her fellow costume designers often made clothes to display their style, Edith had learned over her past twenty years at Paramount that the objective was to create clothes to suit the character and advance the storyline, an approach that suited Hitchcock’s philosophy. Hitchcock was famous for using clothes in his films to express the psychology of his characters. In his scripts, he was explicit about color, style, and accessories. Once the parameters were decided, Edith was given creative freedom and a big budget to make beautiful garments.

Intersectionality and Identity: Four Recent Women’s Memoirs

Four Memoirs

Lisa Katz

 

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey. Ecco Press, 2020, 224 pp., $16.99 (paper). 

Terroir: Love, Out of Place by Natasha Sajé. Trinity University Press, 2020, 207 pp., $18.95(paper).

Mouth Full of Seeds by Marcela Sulak. Black Lawrence Press, 2020, 113 pp., $17.95 (paper)

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit, Granta, 2020, 244 pp., £16.99(hardcover).

 

However solitary, memoir reading, like memoir writing, participates in an important form of collective memorialization, providing building blocks to a more fully shared national narrative.—Nancy K. Miller

 

In in her iconic essay on the memoir genre, “But Enough About Me,” scholar Nancy K. Miller makes an optimistic claim: that the form, often derided as belletristic, has an active social, even political, function. It enables readers to enlarge the national picture in which their own storytakes place. And so, she writes, memoir “may well be the most important narrative mode of our contemporary culture.”

In the books under consideration, the American narrative expands to include women writing from biracial, bisexual, and binational points of view. The authors come  to us from the segregated South; from a combination of East Coast locations and theocratic Salt Lake City; from a winding route that starts in rural Texas and ends in Israel; and from San Francisco as it gentrifies. Their stories reveal a highly variegated way to live as an American woman. Each writer has in common with the others a desire to understand her own provenance and development and, to a degree, to decipher the meaning of her narrative within the larger picture. Race figures in three of these works, religion in a fourth, and gender inequality emerges in all of them.

 

Foreword: What You Live For

What You Live For

One would like to think the pandemic has inspired us to be more productively introverted, weighing what we are doing and why. But of course, the truth is that the pandemic has given us little choice but to be more introverted and self-evaluative. Regardless of the terrible way it has come about, it may be useful to look under the camouflaging dust of “normal” life and ask a few existential questions. What have we genuinely missed about normal life, what do we really care about, and how should we admit to changes?

A Conversation with Camille T. Dungy

A Conversation with Camille T. Dungy

Jacob Griffin Hall

Camille T. Dungy is a poet, essayist, professor, and editor based in Fort Collins, Colorado. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Trophic Cascade, Smith Blue, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. Dungy was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019, and her debut collection of personal essays, Guidebook to Relative Strangers, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has edited several anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Her work has appeared widely in anthologies and in literary magazines, including Poetry, American Poetry Review, VQR, and Guernica. Dungy is currently a University Distinguished Professor, teaching in the English department at Colorado State University.

This interview was conducted by e-mail between December 2020 and February 2021.

Jacob Griffin Hall: Could you tell us a bit about what initially drew you to writing poetry?

Camille T. Dungy: I grew up in a family that values literature, poetry included, so I was reading poetry and having poetry read to me from a very young age. I remember memorizing my first poem in kindergarten or first grade. I have always loved the taut power of a poem. The way some of us love watching world-class sprinters do their thing. Those quick bursts of power and import. That’s exciting.

Review: May I Be Frank? Further Hideous Progeny of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

May I Be Frank? Further Hideous Progeny of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Kate McIntyre

Frankenstein in Bagdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Jonathan Wright trans. Penguin Books, 2018, 281 pp., $16 (paper).

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson. Jonathan Cape, 2019, 344 pp., $27 (hardcover).

Destroyer by Victor LaValle, Dietrich Smith illus. Boom! Studios, 2018, 160 pp., $19.99 (paper).

Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, Heather Cleary trans. Coffee House Press, 2018, 129 pp., $16.95 (paper).

Concurrent with the 2018 bicentennial of the initial publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, a new crop of narratives retell, reimagine, resuscitate, and remix the urtext. These books are the latest in a long line of Shelley’s “hideous progeny” spanning nearly one hundred feature films, countless television episodes, songs, comics, toys, video games, and even a very pink (the color of the monster’s flesh?) strawberry-flavored breakfast cereal, Franken Berry. Frankenstein’s monster no longer only terrifies: he counsels us as a wise father figure, he makes us laugh, he sells us things.

The Great British Teddy Girls: Ken Russell’s Forgotten Photographs

The Great British Teddy Girls: Ken Russell’s Forgotten Photographs

When the Second World War ended in 1945 after six years of conflict, it quickly became evident that Britain had paid a high price for victory. The nation’s wealth was severely depleted. The German blitz had destroyed large swaths of English countryside and many cities were reduced to ash and rubble, resulting in a dire housing shortage and a reduction in the number of functioning factories and stores. Postwar London resembled the city of Charles Dickens’s novels, with overcrowding, rubbish-filled alleys, poor sanitation, and only intermittent running water and electricity. Social services struggled to serve the physically and mentally scarred people who grappled with loneliness, illness, and bereavement. It was also clear that the responsibilities of a large empire were handicapping the home economy. During the Age of Austerity, as it came to be known, meat and petrol were in short supply and sold at high prices, while basic household necessities such as milk, butter, and sugar, as well as clothing and shoes, were rationed. After almost ten years of impoverishment, austerity finally began to recede. Unemployment and the working and middle classes were able to participate in consumer culture for the first time in decades

Clash: Punk’s Influence on Contemporary Art

Clash: Punk’s Influence on Contemporary Art

Kristine Somerville

Punk rock isn’t something you grow out of. Punk rock is an

attitude, and the essence of that attitude is “give us some truth.”

—Joe Strummer, the Clash

 

The punk movement burned bright for four years beginning with Television’s performance at CBGB in the Bowery in 1974 and then flaming out in 1978 with ex-Sex Pistol Sid Vicious’s murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen and his overdose four months later. During that brief period, there were iconic albums by the Clash and the Sex Pistols in London and the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Suicide in New York. There was also the slashed, shredded, and zippered fashion of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, who crystalized and commercialized punk fashion at their boutique SEX at King’s Road.

Foreword: True Confessions

In 2007, during the events surrounding the funeral of my mother, Betty Speer Morgan, who was one of my heroes, my brother and I shared childhood stories, including one that our mother herself had told us not that long before. When we were children—he about six, me three—we had driven her nuts with endless sibling bickering, breaking things and chasing each other around the house. One day, when one of us broke yet another china dish, she had had enough. She got so angry that she proceeded to throw the rest of her china, all of it, piece by piece, out the front door of the house. In the confessional mode, I then remembered that for three or four years after our family had moved to the small motel where we lived, and which we ran as a business, with both my brother and I renting rooms to soldiers and their families from Fort Chaffee, I had stolen money out of the cigar box that we used for a cash register—as much as a couple of dollars at a time to go to the movie or buy cokes. My brother was surprised and mildly shocked by this and expressed as much. Later, as we were driving past the place where the motel had stood, he asked if I had forgiven him for throwing me through the glass shower door. I told him that I hadn’t because I didn’t remember his doing it. “I did it three separate times,” he told me. “I felt guilty about it for years afterward.”