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The American Scholar - Winter 2004

  • Issue Number: Volume 73 Number 1
  • Published Date: Winter 2004

This is, in my mind anyway, the most classically high-brow literary-and-arts magazine on the market, though that opinion may only be because when I was in college I was not invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa society, the group that publishes this quarterly. And while I’m certainly a fan of ignoring those who snub you, it’s impossible to keep an antagonist front against this consistently brainy, ever clever, and intensely smart magazine. Two admissions: I’m bound to love anything Sven Birkerts writes, and his essay on Flaubert is, as ever, graceful and superb. I’m also, as of late and right along with most of the rest of the conscientious country, horrifically fascinated by all stories pertaining to farming in the US, particularly stories that detail the literally near-unbelievable industrialization and specialization processes that have taken place since, roughly, Nixon. So Richard Manning’s “Against the Grain,” the lead essay here, is disgustingly enthralling. But there’s plenty beyond that, as well. Richard Lucas’ visual essay “Roma Ineffabile” is ghastly and addictive and, like any good art, asks more questions of the viewer/reader, and acts as a vein in a copper valley. Kay Ryan’s “Nothing Getting Past” is, like all of her poetry, prickly, dense and wise, and Diane McWhorter’s “Talk” is great, great fun. The only bad part? Not enough new, unknown writers in this particular issue. Next time - always next time. [American Scholar, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1606 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009. E-mail: . Single issue $6.95.] - WC

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Review Posted on January 31, 2004

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