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The Massachusetts Review – Spring 2007

The Massachusetts Review is truly a quarterly of literature, the arts, and public affairs as evidenced by this issue’s rewarding stories, poems, and essays. “Fear and Torment in El Salvador” by Noel Valis provides a comprehensive overview of El Salvadorian terrorism and opposes Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain, the Making and Unmaking of the World. Valis reminds us of the early 80’s writings of Carolyn Forche, especially her unforgettable prose poem “The Colonel,” and of Joan Didion’s Salvador (“Terror,” she says, “is the given of the place.”). Also mentioned is Robert Stone’s film Salvador, as well as the work of others who have explored the moral hell of torture, which Valis, although conceding that it is born in the imagination, posits imagination as the site of its demise.

The Massachusetts Review is truly a quarterly of literature, the arts, and public affairs as evidenced by this issue’s rewarding stories, poems, and essays. “Fear and Torment in El Salvador” by Noel Valis provides a comprehensive overview of El Salvadorian terrorism and opposes Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain, the Making and Unmaking of the World. Valis reminds us of the early 80’s writings of Carolyn Forche, especially her unforgettable prose poem “The Colonel,” and of Joan Didion’s Salvador (“Terror,” she says, “is the given of the place.”). Also mentioned is Robert Stone’s film Salvador, as well as the work of others who have explored the moral hell of torture, which Valis, although conceding that it is born in the imagination, posits imagination as the site of its demise.

Darrel Mansell’s essay “Aria Amid the Ruins of Language” defines the operatic conflict between language and music and concludes, “Aria is a struggle between the rationality of the word and the wild animal voice engulfing and threatening to submerge it in emotion.”

And further on the stage arts, Norman Berlin’s essay “Traffic of Our Stage: Druid Synge” provides a meticulous account of the playwright’s entire output—six plays—as performed in one engaging 8.5-hour day by a company of nineteen Irish actors as part of the 2006 Lincoln Center Festival.

Fiction includes Boomer Pinches’s “The Astronauts,” which reminds me of the time and concentration required to fill a journal with good work and more: parents who write, children of writers; it all hits home in his story. Janet Berkok Shami’s “Delivery” portrays the universality of infidelity, the futility of in-laws. “Unstrung: some Notes on Depression and Literature,” by William Giraldi, explores a familiar and always fascinating subject.
[http://www.massreview.org/]

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