ISSUES | summer 2008

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31.2 (Summer 2008): "Agonists"

Featuring work by Mathew Chacko, Scott Coffel, David McGlynn, James A. McLaughlin, Paisely Rekdal, Rebekah Remington, John Stazinski… a review by Michael Cohen… a look at the art of Norman Bel Geddes… and a conversation with Stuart Dybek.

CONTENT FROM THIS ISSUE

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Art

Jun 01 2008

Norman Bel Geddes: A Modernist da Vinci

In 1929 American theatrical and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes drafted “Airliner Number 4,” a plan for a nine-deck amphibian airliner with areas for deck games, shops and salons, an orchestra, a gymnasium and a solarium. He calculated that twenty engines would be needed to achieve cruising altitude. In Horizons (1932), a book on American streamlined design and urban planning, he carefully detailed the airliner’s projected fl ying time and fuel usage, along with the cost of building, equipping, furnishing and operating the plane. To fi nancial backers, the design seemed innovative but extravagant, and it was never built. [2008]

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Fiction

Jun 01 2008

Bearskin

The bees in the wall had been flying out in suicide pacts of two, three, five bees at once. They went for Rice’s face and he tried to brush them away with his work gloves, but he’d lost count of the stings. He was removing the last section of paneling when a lone bee stung him dead center on his forehead, which made his eyes water. He blinked hard and kept working, jammed the end of his crowbar under the thin, dusty panels and snapped them away from the studs, then again, moving from floor to ceiling and back down on the other side. When everything was loose he dropped the crowbar and reached back for the sledgehammer,smashed the whole section clattering to the floor.

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Nonfiction

Jun 01 2008

Hydrophobia

For years my wife and I rented a house with people in the basement. Below us lived a string of young families, some with children, some without, willing to sacrifice daylight and good ventilation for a savings in rent. The ductwork connected our two apartments, and at night, while eating dinner and watching television, Katherine and I could hear whoever was below us eating dinner and watching television. We heard them fight, and they heard us. If I tried to shower while someone downstairs was showering or running the washing machine or the sink, the water came through the showerhead in a trickle, and ice-cold. I’d stomp my foot and holler, but it never made a difference. I lost count of the nights we lay awake listening to the mother below us trying soothe her crying child, muted there-theres and shhhs echoing from the floor. Katherine felt guilty when our son arrived and we returned the favor, but I didn’t. They had it coming.

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Foreword

Jun 01 2008

Agonists

Sisyphus is a mythical example of one agile enough to defy fate, at least for a while. He is frequently thought to be an archetype of hopelessness and the futility of life because he was ultimately condemned to an eternity of pushing the rock up the hill and watching it roll down again. Yet Sisyphus was a powerful rogue, the founder of a city, successful in love with mortals and immortals, capable of talking his way out of trouble with angry gods and once even out of Hades. A destiny of ongoing effort for such a resolute heavy hitter seems a natural fate-and also not a bad deal.

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Fiction

Jun 01 2008

Ivy: A Love Story

There was something wrong with Nithin, Vrinda’s boy. A hormonal imbalance of some sort that could not be corrected. He was overweight and hoarse and constantly lunging at things. They had moved in two years ago-mother, nine-year-old son and a huge, ferocious Alsatian, his collar buried in his bristling coat. The father was dead, in a car accident whose details could not be properly imagined because it had happened halfway around the world, in Canada, and had involved fog and ice.

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Reviews

Jun 01 2008

Agonists of the Contemporary Memoir

But writers such as Mairs and Knapp and Dubus make a subject of their afflictions and return to that subject. I have called them “agonists” because they seem to embody all of the original meanings of the Greek word that came down to us as agony: the struggle, the public contest, the anguish. These writers are performing their struggle with suffering; by writing they make public the pain that is ordinarily invisible and always located within the single self.