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World Literature Today - May-June 2009

  • Issue Number: Volume 83 Number 3
  • Published Date: May-June 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

Newspapers everywhere are disappearing. Magazines are closing shop. The New York Times is consolidating sections, no more “Escapes,” no more Sunday “City.” Yet, somehow, WLT, as gorgeous as always, manages to survive into its eighty-third year with as expansive and broad a vision as ever. The first eighty years (way back to when WLT was Books Abroad!) will soon be available online through JSTOR. So, now we have the best of both worlds.

This issue begins with some of the best reasons I can think of not to do away altogether with print – an extraordinary photograph by Shevaun Williams of 2008 Neustadt Laureate Patricia Grace. The type of close-up profile that makes you glad for the grace (pun intended) that time and age can bestow. Inside is a magnificent landscape, both in visual and verbal images, from Beppie K.’s photo of New Zealand, Grace’s native country, to the magazine’s regular features (“notebook,” “world literature in review,” and “outposts,” this time round of New Zealand).

The issue includes Grace’s Neustadt lecture, “The World Where You Are,” given last fall in Oklahoma, and a short story, “Headlights.” Grace’s description of her land and community, a place that shapes every syllable she sets down, is useful and fascinating: “It is a remnant of land of three interrelated tribal or family groups . . . it means that everyone in our community is related to me or is married to a relative of mine.” She goes on to say that writing is about everyday things: “There is something happening to us every moment of our lives.” It’s the quality of the writing that matters. The story that follows the lecture is a beautiful example.

WLT literally does contain the world. There is an interview with Jamaican author Opal Palmer Adisa; poetry from Zimbabwe and Mexico; a special section on indigenous popular culture (music, comics, cinema); a short story from Iranian writer Moniro Ravanipour, whose activism in anti-censorship movements has brought her under government scrutiny; an essay about the American cable TV show, “Monk” and the detective story paradigm by University of Oklahoma professor J. Madison Davis; and an essay about the detective novels of Chinese American writer Qui Xiaolong by Alan Velie, also a professor at UO. As always, the magazine features beautiful photographs of writers and colorful reproductions of book covers.

Patricia Grace reminds us that “something is happening to us every moment of our lives,” and that these everyday moments are the stuff of literature. WLT reminds us that something is happening to someone, to everyone, every day, everywhere in the world, and we deserve – no, we are obligated – to learn about it.

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Review Posted on June 14, 2009

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