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Harvard Review - Spring 2003

  • Issue Number: Number 24
  • Published Date: Spring 2003

Given the world in which we live, explains editor Christina Thompson, it is not all that surprising to find an "undercurrent of violence" in this issue. The obvious examples are excerpts from a new play by poet Owen Doyle, Heraion, introduced by Robert Scanlan as a "reenactment of the Medea material," and the "prologue" of Don MacDonald's graphic novel, "Machiavelli" with its depiction of a hanging witnessed by Machiavelli as a child. (In many ways, MacDonald's brief description of how he created the comic strip is as interesting as the strip itself and motivated me to take a serious look at it, where I might otherwise have skipped it.) A less obvious example is a poem by the masterful Eric Pankey, "Word Problems": "They made of the language a sentimental monster of bolts and bits / Clumsy and inadequate in its give body….// The monster finds a kitten. Kills the girl. Apologizes in grunts and/nuanced groans." And Thompson is certainly right, it seems to me: all of these pieces seem meaningful for this moment in time in a way they might not have even a few issues ago.

 Hard as it is to believe, these two pieces represent only a small fraction of the issue, which also features essays, memoirs, three short stories, visual arts, a dozen and a half poems, and a lengthy section of terrific book reviews (by such skilled reviewers and writers as Floyd Skoot, Jonathan Liebson, and Todd Hearon). It's difficult to single out highlights amidst so much good and serious work, though, as often, what is most exciting is to discover writers one hasn't read before (which is not to say that these writers do not have solid reputations, but that I haven't encountered their writing before). In this case, that includes Dubravka Ugresic, whose essays here are excerpted from her forthcoming book, Thank You For Not Reading. Her clever, wry comments and observations about "literary culture" are not out of place in this high brow embodiment of "literary culture." I was pleased, too, to be introduced to the work of Susan Rubin Suleiman, whose essay, "A Postcard to Zircz," achieves an uncanny and intriguing balance between a somewhat casual tone and the deadly serious subject of mystery surrounding her family's experience of the Holocaust in Hungary (and there's that "undercurrent of violence" again). Another new name for me — Jean Esteve, whose "Sly Boots" offers, as promised, a sly and skillfully composed respite from the volume's weightiness. [Harvard Review, Lamont Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail: . Single issue $13.50. - SR

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Review Posted on August 31, 2003
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