Speer Morgan (Ph.D, Stanford University) has been associated with the Missouri Review from its inception, and has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Missouri Review since 1979. A professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia since 1972, Morgan is among the most respected editors in literary publishing. As the editor of the Missouri Review, he has been responsible for co-administrating grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Missouri Arts Council, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and the City of Columbia Office of Cultural Affairs. In 1985, he created the Missouri Review Trust, the journal’s endowment, which is currently the focus of a major fundraising effort. The author of five novels and a collection of short stories and the editor of three other books, he’s a past recipient of an NEA Fellowship for Fiction and the recipient of an American Book Award for The Freshour Cylinders, a novel published in 1998.
Apr 23 2019
It could be argued that in earlier centuries the sciences evolved no more quickly than other areas of thought. Until the Enlightenment was well under way, there were significant gains
Jan 24 2019
This issue’s story “Relatable Influence” by Bradley Bazzle calls to mind the change in the word “influencer” over the last few years from referring to someone who has a significant
Oct 30 2018
Foreword: Practical Living
Trends in international politics toward right-wing nationalism, racism in endlessly renewing guises, and the pursuit of material short-term gain regardless of what it does to the earth’s environment and national
Jul 24 2018
Foreword: Second Skin
In his over 4000-page, seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust looks at our paradoxical relationship with time—how we both change and don’t change, how our experiences are
Apr 24 2018
Over the centuries, heroes in literature have metamorphosed from god-like leaders to all-too-fallible humans. Prince Hamlet—brilliant, bedeviled, articulate, self-destructive—is an unforgettable early archetype. By the past century, literary protagonists had
Feb 01 2018
Aristotle’s Poetics was written circa 335 b.c.e. but then lost for many centuries, available only through a translation of an Arabic version. Much of its meaning has been argued over,
Oct 30 2017
Foreword: Local Color
This issue is replete with the color and vibrancy of place, setting and spoken language. What came to be called the Local Color Movement was especially vigorous for over a
Jul 25 2017
This issue—particularly its fiction—is replete with instances of darkness and turmoil in personal lives, and I wonder if this might be because fiction so frequently holds a mirror to the
Jul 22 2017
Foreword: Mischief Makers
Escape, empowerment, and liberating energy are primary subjects of much of post-Victorian children’s’ fiction (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz), while common themes of serious
Feb 07 2017
This issue is replete with upstarts and transgressors of varying kinds—characters who have crossed boundaries or altered things or who are trying to do so. The subject reminds me of
Oct 21 2016
Before and After
On a visit to New York, my wife and I happened to see Alec Baldwin pacing back and forth talking on a cell phone outside a Fifth Avenue apartment
Aug 02 2016
Foreword: Family Practice
One doesn’t have to look far to find literature about the stuff of family—its importance and often its discord in our lives. The oldest writings dramatize the significance yet precariousness
May 07 2016
Relics and Wonders
Giving tribute to the past is older than the pyramids. We can safely guess that it’s older than the most ancient known treasure-laden burials. Since the beginnings of civilized life
Jan 21 2016
Foreword: Behind the Curtain
One of the exemplary roles of art is to seek the truth—or some reasonable version of it—in the multiplex of illusions that surrounds humans. It can be sought in ways
Oct 22 2015
Foreward: Out of This World
Out of this World Magic and literature are sibling arts. Both deal with the unexpected connectedness of things, transformation from one state to another, and with the human urge to
Jul 14 2015
Once while visiting a park on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, I observed what appeared to be anarchic behavior among a group of squirrel monkeys. More than twenty of
Apr 17 2015
It’s sometimes said that realism and social commentary are at the heart of British and Continental literature—Flaubert, Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy—while American literature is replete with haunted Romantic seekers, loners and
Jan 12 2015
Anita Loos: The Soubrette of Satire
“Work is more fun than fun.” ~ Noel Coward F. Scott Fitzgerald became the spokesman of the 1920s, but it could have been Anita Loos if she had been game
Jan 05 2015
Literature is replete with “lost” places, from paradise itself to those places—islands or interludes of harmony—that are simply better than the present world. It may seem easy to make fun
Sep 23 2014
Violence in literature and entertainment continues to be debated, and for good reason. One does get tired of it being so casually depicted in every imaginable format, from television and
Jul 15 2014
In his book Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm points out that autonomy can be hollow when it is without a meaningful goal. Even when one does exercise free choice with
Apr 28 2014
Rough Sketches: The Drawings of Dylan Thomas
Around age six or seven, Dylan Thomas became obsessed with learning what made words “tick, beat, burn.” At the kitchen table in the Thomases’ suburban house in Wales, he tirelessly
Apr 28 2014
Our Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize winner in poetry, Kai Carlson-Wee, focuses on the gritty, visceral details of growing up on the West Coast as two brothers scavenge grocery store
Jan 31 2014
Gregg Easterbrook describes a seemingly puzzling fact about the condition of people now living in the United States and Europe. In many undeniable ways we are living in a better
Oct 08 2013
The notion of transcendence is by definition paradoxical. The Latin transcendo means to climb above or pass over, which begs the obvious question: rise above or get beyond what? However
Jul 22 2013
Straight Magic: Houdini and the Art of Illusion
This feature is not currently available online.
Jul 22 2013
In her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes in a straightforward, reportorial style what happened when her husband, John Gregory Dunne, died at the end of December,
Apr 16 2013
The Great Escape
For over three decades of my life I watched few movies and even less television. I watched so little TV that I told my wife that I had discovered a
Feb 12 2013
The Unnatural World
“I couldn’t tell nothing about voices in a fog, for nothing don’t look natural nor sound natural in a fog.” Huck Finn The older and more experienced one gets,
Dec 10 2012
The Thoroughly Modern World of Louise Brooks
This Found Text feature looks at the life of silent film icon, Louise Brooks. It is not currently available online.
Dec 10 2012
“I didn’t know it was impossible, that’s why I did it.” —Jean Cocteau Recently I visited the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Eye Museum in Amsterdam, after having reread
Jul 24 2012
The King of the Underworld: The Invention of Jelly Roll Morton
The full text of this feature is not currently available online.
Jul 24 2012
Recently I visited the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Eye Museum in Amsterdam, after having reread Richard Ellmann’s biography of James Joyce. Together the exhibit and the Joyce bio reminded
May 10 2012
When one sets about doing harm, the people most likely to be hurt are the ones across the table, if only by reason of proximity. Look up quotes on the
Jan 06 2012
It doesn’t take a genius to point out how weird life can be or, to put it more clearly, how proximate the zones of the normal and the strange can be at almost any moment in our lives. The strange is just an instant or a membrane away, as this issue’s authors point out.
Oct 08 2011
Much of the writing in this issue calls to mind the laws of motion in human life: the power of momentum, mass in motion, as well as friction and inertia in forming the legacies of our lives. What we inherit and how we are acted upon by the world can sometimes influence our direction and fate as much as free will.
Jul 17 2011
I sometimes wonder why the best literature so often has a element of unlikelihood: why one of the great novels of the twentieth century is an 800-page description of an ad salesman and a student walking around one day in Dublin; or why one of the defining American classics is about living in a shack on a lake for a couple of years; or why one of the finest English lyric poems is a depiction of an antique urn in a museum. Why is the most memorable stuff so often the miraculous transformation of a seemingly limited subject?
Jul 01 2011
At Home in Storyville: the Brothel Pictures of Ernest Bellocq
This feature is not currently available online.
Jun 27 2011
When he was a professor at the University of Missouri, psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett began to wonder whether there wasn’t something identifiably different about people in their twenties-if it wasn’t in some ways a unique stage of life.
Dec 01 2010
Because much of the literature about this subject is by nature corrective-offering solutions easy answers and descriptions of “stages”-it is oddly refreshing and useful to see an author describe and fully recognize the derangement of grief and trauma. At least someone who is suffering such agony knows she isn’t the only crazy person out there.
Sep 01 2010
While Jung gave a name to an amoral and potentially “dark” side of the mind, the idea is of course as old as dragons, devils and demons. The pulp fiction, comic-book series and radio show The Shadow became an often-imitated model for popular dramatizations of “what evil lurks in the hearts of men” and the trickster figure who fights against it. Several of the contributors to this issue explore different corners of the dark or destructive forces in human nature.
Jun 01 2010
The differences between generations-the Lost Generation, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y and Z (where do we go next?)-is a popular subject full of questionable simplifications. Sweeping statements about age groups in different eras are at best elusive, due to both sudden changes in history and the diversity at any given time among locales, classes, ethnicities and personalities. Lately one of the often discussed issues concerning the Millennial Generation is whether they suffer from hyper-parenting, with their perennially in-touch parents not giving them enough freedom to develop independence. They need to actually be allowed to make a few mistakes, the argument goes, in order to be inoculated against what to avoid.
Jun 01 2010
Pulling Pranks: James Stern's Reminiscences of an Edwardian Childhood
James Stern never achieved literary celebrity. His books were few, his letters many and his memoir unfinished, yet what he wrote was the stuff of life-the beauty and tragedy of humanity. His memoir, “the problem book,” was not fashioned into a comprehensive work; what we show you from the Stern collection of the British Library are recollections that capture the adventure of childhood set against the backdrop of a mythical time and rarefied place.
Mar 01 2010
In Fiona McFarlane’s Jeffrey E. Smith Prize-winning story “Exotic Animal Medicine,” a young Australian woman veterinarian in England undergoes a disturbing set of incidents on the day that she marries
Dec 01 2009
The Questionable Past
In the company of old friends, what surprises me is not forgetting shared experiences or remembering them slightly differently but the fact that we have anything like the same memories. Perhaps that is a simple confession of aging. Yet psychologists have grown increasingly skeptical about the human ability to remember and accurately recount the distant past, just as historiographers are dubious about our understanding of history. This declining faith in our grasp of “what really happened” has taken a particularly dramatic dive over the past century.
Sep 01 2009
Lost in Lotus Land: Ben Hecht's Hollywood Letters
Oh how tired I am. From writing 100 pages of dialogue & continuity in 4 days-rewritten as well-12 hours a day without stopping-all I feel is numbness and a buzzing. And I remember my Rosie, my Owner, and sigh, close eyes, dream a minute, kiss your knees, your thighs, while something in me murmurs mama, sweet one, sweet Rosie-and I feel a phantom of sweetness as if this moment too were a dream like last night.
Sep 01 2009
Cheever’s life suggests how often not just writers but most of us suffer from demons. Whether or not they are as dramatic as Cheever’s, they can be both commonplace and cumbersome in our lives. The modern word “demon” comes from a proto-European term for “god” or “celestial,” yet its different usages over time refer to a variety of hidden powers or forces, from the higher self of Greek philosophy to the destructive demons of medieval Christianity. For Freud, demons were impulses arising from repression. Modern philosophers use the term “Morton’s demon” to describe our surprisingly frequent tendency not to see what belies our currently held biases.
Jun 01 2009
The Uncertain Witness
…For these reasons, literature can sometimes describe highly charged events more compellingly and with a truer sense of emotion than history or even eyewitness narratives. By admitting to its own fiction and slanted reconstruction, literature paradoxically serves as the best of witnesses.
Jun 01 2009
A Hundred Visions and Revisions
Several of the pieces in this issue reflect directly or indirectly on artists and their potential influence on us. Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Munro Country” tells of her own amazement as
Dec 01 2008
So remember — the guy who paid for the American Revolution went broke in real estate speculation, inspiring the bill that will keep you out of jail when you go broke. Be happy.
Sep 01 2008
Pick Your Poison
Why are flaw and conflict so basic to literature? Literature, like sport, starts by meaningfully enacting conflict and somehow dealing with it. Conflict is basic to literature because it is basic to life. Without it, the airplane usually won’t fly. We are meaning-making creatures with little tolerance for chaos. It’s a platitude but also true that literature, like religion, gives shape and meaning to the struggle of living.
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. 
Jun 01 2008
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.
Mar 01 2008
Off the Grid
Going off the grid can result not just in changes of behavior and attitude but also in discovery. Many of the breakthroughs in science and technology have been the outcome of one kind of research or work-often with a modest goal-becoming something that no one could ever have guessed.
Dec 01 2007
Laurence Olivier's Letters to Young Actors
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.”
Dec 01 2007
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.
Sep 01 2007
Along with a surprising number of other artists, George Grosz thrived in the unlikely world of the Weimar Republic. His cartoons and watercolors pierce the facades of society, government, the military and the church. They exemplify the fervid bohemian moment between the wars in Germany and Austria, also remembered in such work as Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, which was later to be the source of the play Cabaret.
Jun 01 2007
Truth in Fancy
The history of the United States is as replete with mistakes and distasters as that of other nations, despite our not unusual tendency to admire ourselves and view the past through a haze of nostalgia. I do it myself.
Mar 01 2007
Love and Loneliness
Love and loneliness, paradox, uncertainty, nonfiction necessarily tinged with fiction–this issue’s authors offer the lumpiness, conflict, illogic, and ambiguity of life as lived.
Dec 01 2006
What a Writer Does Best
The full text of this foreword is not currently available online.
One winter evening many years ago, some friends and I were entertaining ourselves with a game of free association. We were to respond without hesitation to whatever word or phrase the questioner put to us. Instead about asking about the obvious things– favorite hobbies, best moview, happiest moments, etc.– my friend was being philosophical. To me he said, “Literature,” and my unthinking response was, “Black and white.”
Sep 01 2006
Is the Short Story Dead?
A friend recently asked me whether I believed that the short story was a living art or whether it had gone the way of vinyl records. I told her that I knew a guy who listened only to vinyl. This music lover is in fact a music fiend with a twenty-some-thousand-dollar sound system to play his old records. It occurred to me later, though, that my friend and I were mixing up categories in the way that art pundits too often do.
Jun 01 2006
What a Writer Does Best
The best writers don’t always stand in easy proximity either with “what’s happening” or with their own natural subjects or voices. What they do best isn’t necessarily either fashionable or–contrary to theories about following one’s bliss–fun.
Mar 01 2006
A Sense of Place
One of the major themes of this prize issue is winning not money or power but, more importantly, a sense of place and belonging. Understanding where one is, fitting in, finding roles, connecting with others and with the rest of nature–these are primordial themes not just in literature but in all of art.
Dec 01 2005
Out of Bounds
Sometime in the future, the manners, conventions, and even some of the health practices of the early twenty-first century are going to seem as quaint as those of two hundred years ago. This gives me a moment of cheer. If only I could therefore drink six glasses of wine, light up some cigs, declare myself a rebel and enjoy. If only it were that easy.
Sep 01 2005
We sometimes assume that the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a time when thinkers became sensitized to the struggle and uncertainty of nature and life. It truly was one of the most creative and turbulent periods in the history of thought. Darwin, Marx, Freud and Einstein all depicted not just conflict but systems of disparity between what seems to be and what is. In literature as well as the sciences both the obvious and the hidden struggles of life were being looked at with new intimacy and understanding.
Mar 01 2005
Twenty-eight years of reading for a literary magazine has led me to appreciate that plot and apparent mood seldom convey the full effect of a great story. Paul Eggers’s terrifying, moving “This Way, Uncle, Into the Palace,” is just such a story—confessional, dark, yet at the same time mysteriously and beautifully hopeful.
Dec 01 2004
Ray Bradbury’s letters to his English publisher, Rupert Hart-Davis, published here for the first time, show an interesting side of the American author.
Jun 01 2004
Innovation in Literature
A series of poems by Gabriel Welsch in this issue records the conversations of a bored telemarketer with several well-known poets (including one who has been dead for three hundred
Mar 01 2004
Foreword: Kali and the Bee Women
Recently, after having reread the contents of this Editors’ Prize Issue for TMR, I took a break by turning on the TV for a half hour of channel surfing.
Dec 01 2003
The Pirate Publishers
Something that Bill Bradley asks Tobias Wolff in this issue’s interview calls to my mind an embarrassing moment in The Missouri Review‘s past. Wolff’s new novel, Old School, concerns, among
Jun 01 2003
The review in this issue of Sally Cline’s biography of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald reminds me of one of my favorite minor works of literature. In 1945, five years after F.
Mar 01 2003
This foreword is not currently available online.
Oct 01 2002
While visiting Columbia, Missouri, this year Wally Lamb was talking with an audience about the nature of literary success. He told about something that had happened to him while he was on a promotional tour for his second novel, I Know This Much Is True.
Jun 01 2001
Selznick and the Stars
Presenting the letters of David O. Selznick. The full text of this feature is not currently available online.
Sep 01 1996
Foreword: "Comic Fiction"
This foreword is not currently available online.
Jun 01 1993
If you think the streets are sordid and unsafe in 1993, read Timothy Gilfoyle’s recent book City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920. It describes in stunning detail the sex-and crim-saturated streets of New York, particularly during the nineteenth centruy. In this issue, Professor Gilfoyle edits a memoir by George Appo, pickpocket, “green-good” con artist, and opium addict during one of the earliest American drug scenes.
Dec 01 1992
The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Book of Jubilees
1:27 Then he told the angel of the presence to dictate to Moses from the beginning of the creation until my sanctuary is built among them for all the ages of eternity. 1:28 The Lord will appear in the site of all, and all will know that I am the God of Israel, father of all Jacob’s children, and king on Mt. Zion for all the ages of eternity. Then Zion and Jerusalem will be holy. 1:29 The angel of the presence, who was going along in front of the Israelite camp, took the tablets (which told) of the divisions of the years from the time the law and the testimony were createdÑ for the weeks of their jubilees, year by year in their full number, and their jubilees from the time of the creation until the time of the new creation when the heavens, the earth, and all their creatures will be renewed like the powers of the sky and like all the creatures of the earth, until the time when the temple of the Lord will be created in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. All the luminaries will be renewed for (the purposes of) healing, health, and blessing for all the elect ones of Israel and so that it may remain this way from that time throughout all the days of the earth.
History as Literature
Sep 01 1992
The Spanish American War Journal of Amy Wingreen
I have come to care for the sick on the transport and also have in my charge a very sick nurse. She was ill on the boat going to Cuba and has been ever since, and if she ever gets home alive she will do well. I have not been on deck at all, and not a tinge of seasickness, though the boat has tossed a good deal. The things in our state room slip and slide around, and I after them. I look out now and then and catch a glimpse of the sweeping sea and smell the ocean air and long for a billow to spray me. My prayer was, when I was so ill at Siboney, that I might rather be buried at sea, but better still, that I might be privileged to land on American soil again.
Sep 01 1992
Great comedy is like a fine magic act. A magician turns commonplace things like eggs or scarves into items of wonder and amazement. The egg is wonderful because he has made it appear. How did he do that? Great comedy turns the most ordinary materials — humble characters, banal motives — into something sublimely other. The basis of comedy lies in the transformation itself.
Jun 01 1992
Foreword to 15.3
I want, I want. It is one of the eternal themes of literature. We ahve the experience so many times, and recognize the truth so many times, you’d think we’d learn…
Mar 01 1992
In the Peter Weir film Dead Poets’ Society Robin Williams plays prep-school teacher John Keating, whose theatrical talents and fresh attitude inspire his students to think for themselves. During their first class discussion of poetry, Keating tears out the introduction to the “J. Evans Prichard” textbook. Later, he stands on his desk and encourages each of his students to do likewise to “get a different perspective.” Keating’s popularity inspires a small group from his class to look through an old yearbook, where they discover their teacher’s affiliation with the “Dead Poets’ Society” when he was a student, and they proceed to recreate the society, gathering to read poetry in a cave not far from the school. While physically not distant, the cave is an exotic place for these teenagers, where they are carried out of their world into the eternal time of poetry.
History as Literature
Dec 01 1991
A Man Between Nations: The Choctaw Removal Diary of Peter Pitchlynn
Introduction The Indian removal was not just the “Trail of Tears,” an isolated act victimizing one tribe in the 1830s, but one of the most persistently followed government policies in
Sep 01 1991
Many of the contributors to this issure are travellers. Their journeys may take them a modest distance or a long way, to destinations exotic or commonplace, desirable or less than desirable. Some of their journeys are not taken entirely by choice. All of them, though, are full of discoveries.
Sep 01 1989
Foreword to 12.3
This issue contains several items of raw experience, most of which come out of momentous events in American history from the last one hundred fifty years: An overland journal by
Sep 01 1988
It is a curious fact that in an age so dominated by the products of science and technology, there is a relatively low level of interest in the subject. As recently as twenty years ago, science-writing staffs hardly existed among newspapers. Even the largest newspapers have taken on science staffs only within the last few years. Before 1984, there were only nineteen newspapers in the country that had weekly science sections, mostly dedicated to health and medicine although that number increased to sixty-six within two years. The controversies over AIDS and the increased public interest in preventive health contributed to this expansion, making health overwhelmingly the area of highest growth. Serious coverage of the non-health sciences remains at surprisingly low levels. Relatively few nonmetropolitan newspapers have science staffs; therefore, what few stories they run are off the wire. This makes for great blank spaces in the country, where local scientific and tecnological issues are virtually ignored by the press.
Jan 01 1988
The stories in this issue represent major new talent in fiction.
Sep 01 1984
An Interview with Tom Jenks
Excerpt: When I read professionally I’m guided first of all by my own ideas and taste, then by my sense of the magazine’s image of itself, who our readers are,
Jan 01 1984
Some time ago we received a letter from Philip K. Dick, one of the most highly regarded contemporary authors of fantasy and science fiction. In it, Mr. Dick claimed to have been profoundly influenced by a story in the Missouri Review, the reading of which, he said, put him back on the track of a kind of writing that he felt he had abandoned in the pursuit of high remuneration.