Fluency in Form: A Survey of the Graphic Memoir

Featuring reviews of: The Complete Maus, by Art Spiegelman; Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi; Epileptic, by David B.; Blankets, by Craig Thompson; Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel; and Cancer Vixen, by Marisa Acocella Marchetto.


Laurence Olivier's Letters to Young Actors

The full text of this feature is not currently available online.

Laurence Olivier never wanted to be a matinee idol or a leading man who played only romantic heroes. Yet after back-to-back performances in Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and Pride and Prejudice in 1939-1940, he was sought after by producers and directors, celebrity magazines and ardent fans. His early roles were classic literary characters. A New York Times reviewer called his portrayal of Heathcliff a case of “a player physically and emotionally ordained for a role.” He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for both Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. Hollywood was sending a rare message: “We want more.”

My Life with Hair

The full text of this essay is not currently available online.

March 2006. I’m sitting in a hot tub at Well of Mercy Catholic Retreat Center in Hamptonville, North Carolina, under a full moon. I got in on this chilly night hoping to drift further away from the anxieties that prompted me to retreat: the regular stack of ungraded papers, a botched repair job in my kitchen, a spat with a friend. I’m a person who received pancreas and kidney transplants six years ago, and I’m easily fatigued. My mother is elderly, our country is at war — there’s enough to be concerned about. But what I’m thinking of at the moment is my hair.

Vien a ca, Beda

The full text of this article is not currently available online.

In 1988, at the age of eleven and a half, I spent the first of what would be several summers in Sicily. My parents had separated the previous year, and my mother had migrated from Montreal to Catania, a city tucked between the great Mount Etna and the placid Ionian Sea. There, a leisurely walk from a rocky coast that had once boiled and spilled from the earth and into the waves, she lived with a man she’d met on an Adriatic beach some sixteen years earlier.

A Conversation with Lore Segal

The full text of this interview is not currently available online.

I have a suspicion that goodness, like cleverness, like being good at writing — is a talent, which can and must then be educated and trained…. If, despite my experience of the Holocaust and having to leave my family at ten, my assumption is that this is not a basically violent world, it might not have something to do with having been treated kindly and with respect and with affection by the first people around me in my childhood.

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

The full text of this poem is not currently available online.

Poetry Feature: Stephen O'Connor

Featuring the poems:

  • 1. Uz
  • 5. Song of Songs [featured as Poem of the Week April 22, 2008]
  • 9. Promises
  • 15. Idolatry
  • 17. Eternal Return
  • 18. Dust and Ashes


5. Song of Songs

Sixty years after, and it was all the same:

There, the low stone wall where she sat and wept.

And there, the hibiscus flowers rocking outside

the kitchen door, the mimosa blushing in the fog,

and even the piano, although its keys were pillowed in dust,

and made sounds like coins rolling down a pipe.

Sixty years of nightmares had made no difference:

The one in which she buried him alive,

the whole village standing around the rain-slick pit,

indifferent, saying nothing, watching;

the one in which he slit her mother’s throat.

He had played Chopin for her, and brought her handfuls of coal.

You must read Seneca, he had said, when you are older.

And Marcus Aurelius. His evergreen uniform,

his cropped blond hair, the commanding officer who shouted,

Put out your lights or I will shoot through your windows.

Her dolls had been sent back to Düsseldorf,

the dining room chairs burnt in the fireplace.

Henri, her brother’s classmate, shot in the woods,

driven through the village in the back of a truck,

never blinking, even as his head bounced against

the metal bed. And leaflets dropping from the sky

(possessing one was death; she had hundreds),

pink and green tracer bullets rising into rumbling black.

There had been other men, other deaths, children,

a city of glass and ash, a house under an enormous maple.

But still, she had sat on the floor in the room over the garage

while he played Chopin, sunlight glinting in the hairs on his hands.

Poetry Feature: Preston Mark Stone

Featuring the poems:

  • White Power [featured as a Poem of the Week April 16, 2008]
  • Vigil of the Door
  • Elephants of the Good Ship Memory
  • Mortal Aphasia
  • The Amazing Tomkins — Readings by Touch — No Appointment Necessary


White Power

To explain, for instance, this gas station clerk

who speaks to me in emphasized English, as though

my native language were something he heard in a war

movie, I have to go back to my neighbors in Bakersfield,

who listened to metal and shaved their heads


because their neighborhood was filling up with spicks,

niggers, fags and me. “Go back to the jungle!” they’d shout

at fruit pickers and drag queens, and I wondered what

imagined world they fought, what tropic in which

people swing from banana trees like crazed gay

Mexican lemurs. “Go back inside,” their mother told them


when she saw me watching from my porch, my face

brown with California sun, my eyes like slants of rice grain.

They vanished into their cluttered besieged house, the deadbolt

dropping as the door shut. To understand the deadbolt,

I have to go back to high school, to a boy who called me gook


every afternoon as he walked past me. His father was a veteran,

his brother a marine, my face the enemy’s face.

Every day for a year, he strolled by me and looked straight ahead

as he said gook in emphasized English, or chink, rice nigger,

slant-eye, Chinaman. The afternoon I caught him alone


and saw the swastika drawn on the back of his hand,

I punched him in the face until he curled up on the floor, arms

shielding his temples, and then I kicked him until

the police came. To explain why I was crying when my boot

met his belly, I have to go back to my first neighborhood


where, when I was eight, white people moved in.

Their sons were a little older, and loved to play cowboys

and Indians. They were the blond and fair frontiersmen,

the rest of us hordes of small dark Cherokee struck down


to make America. You two are Indian scouts, they said,

and you over there, you’re braves. Everyone was a cowboy

or an Indian, except for a little girl and me. We don’t need

no more Indians, they said. Too many

damn Indians already. You two, you’re horses.


We giggled until they pushed us to our hands and knees

and ordered us to eat grass. A year later, I would fight

one of them until he made me cry, but there on all fours,

I ate the grass. The little girl bawled, her mouth green

as money. Get along, they said. They drew

their pistols, and they rode us.


The full text of this Foreword is not currently available online.

In one of his many helpful letters of advice sent to young actors — published for the first time in this issue — Laurence Olivier describes the essence of a Shakespearean tragic character as a “perfect statue of a man,” made vulnerable by a significant flaw that finally will destroy him. Olivier’s remark calls to mind a quality of literature and indeed of all the arts: they relate to the core of an individual, the human, not the “statue,” and they articulate danger. The masks of literature, like those of primitive art and ritual, suggest “the other” that lies below the social being — the primal conflicts, the animal, and the sometimes scary forces within us.


The full text of this story is not currently available online.

Years later, Ann saw one of the daughters. She ended up seated beside her on a flight from New York to Chicago, the odds who knows how many millions to one.