Editor’s Note

New England Review - - Table Of Contents -

As we were fin­ish­ing up this is­sue, my first as editor of the New Eng­land Re­view, I took a break from an­swer­ing au­thor e-mails and wran­gling with cover art to browse briefly through the nearly forty years' worth of is­sues that pre­ceded this one—or, more specif­i­cally, the ninety-six that pre­ceded me. I've been at home in these pages for ten years now, pre­vi­ously as man­ag­ing and then se­nior editor, but I wanted to see if I could lo­cate a sense of con­ti­nu­ity from one vol­ume to the next, from one editor to the next. To trace the found­ing ed­i­to­rial im­pulse of 1978 on­ward through 2014.

Some of the bind­ings cracked and came loose as I opened the jour­nals one by one, and old sub­scrip­tion of­fers flut­tered to the floor ($12/year!), but I found my­self un­able to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to read. I wanted to know what some of our re­cent au­thors—marianne Boruch, Stephen Dixon, and Kathryn Davis, to name a few—were writ­ing back when they ap­peared in our first decade as “emerg­ing” writ­ers. Was this Ray­mond Carver story the same as it ap­pears in the can­on­ized an­tholo­gies, and would Wen­dell Berry's ar­gu­ment in “Why I Am Not Go­ing to Buy a Com­puter” hold up? NER'S in­ter­est in works in trans­la­tion can easily be traced through the decades, from spe­cial sec­tions on the Caribbean (1985), Ben­gali po­ets (1989), and trans­la­tion in gen­eral (2004), up to our re­cent “The Rus­sian Pres­ence” (2014). Oc­ca­sion­ally the ed­i­tors them­selves would step in and com­ment on the over­all pro­ject. At five years into the run, found­ing editor Syd­ney Lea spoke of the mag­a­zine's “com­mit­ment to lan­guage, and some sense of im­per­a­tive: a will­ing­ness or com­pul­sion to wres­tle with ques­tions of literature, and sur­vival.” In the tenth-an­niver­sary edi­tion, Lea and Maura High ar­tic­u­lated their ded­i­ca­tion to “se­ri­ous sub­ject mat­ter and care­ful craft, and to sub­stance over cant.” As editor T. R. Hum­mer noted in 1990, “Part of what the new staff in­her­its from the old is a tra­di­tion of sim­ple, but rad­i­cal, open­ness.” Through­out Stephen Donadio's ten­ure—and now as I be­gin as editor—i know that both that strong sense of im­per­a­tive, and that rad­i­cal open­ness, con­tinue to de­fine and in­form this mag­a­zine.

In other words, NER has never pub­lished work that is sim­ply “good,” in styles the ed­i­tors might “like,” con­firm­ing what we al­ready know and feel, and in turn mak­ing as­sump­tions about what our read­ers know and feel. In­stead we make an ef­fort to sus­pend our ini­tial judg­ments, and al­low our­selves to be sur­prised. While we haven't used the cat­e­gory “Im­pure Forms” since the early 1990s, its prin­ci­ple re­mains in play. NER is open to all forms, pure and im­pure; we're look­ing for writ­ing that en­gages and pro­vokes not just our emo­tions and in­tel­lect, but also our senses of cu­rios­ity and hu­mor, our ideas of history and

lan­guage. That com­mit­ment has con­tin­ued to re­veal it­self and to evolve through each decade and each ed­i­tor­ship, and NER re­mains—to steal a phrase from Hum­mer's 1993 note—a “vi­tal com­mu­nal en­deavor.”

In each is­sue, cer­tain themes come for­ward, and notes are struck once and then again in dif­fer­ent pitches. Noth­ing is re­ally new, but so ev­ery­thing is new—even death, nos­tal­gia, ill­ness, and love; or, as this is­sue sug­gests, even fif­teenth-cen­tury Flem­ish paint­ing, new-world am­bi­tion, the Holy Grail, and Wag­ne­r­ian ego. Just as Stephen did be­fore me, I've ar­ranged the pieces here to play for and against each other when the mag­a­zine is read from front to back, but each of them was cho­sen in­di­vid­u­ally, as part of a con­ver­sa­tion among our au­thors and ed­i­tors.

As I rec­og­nize NER'S past, I'd also like to grate­fully ac­knowl­edge those who will be com­ing along into the mag­a­zine's next phase. Our man­ag­ing editor, Mar­cia Par­low, who came to NER in fall 2013, brings her for­ward-look­ing op­ti­mism and per­sonal history of literary en­gage­ment to bear on these pages, and she has al­ready shown her­self to be adept and en­er­getic on many fronts. C. Dale Young, whose as­so­ci­a­tion with NER be­gan in the mid-1990s, has made edit­ing it­self an art, and he will con­tinue to find po­ems for us with his de­pend­able un­pre­dictabil­ity. J. M. Tyree, who was a stu­dent in­tern here in 1995 and has since par­tic­i­pated as a con­trib­u­tor, reader, ed­i­to­rial pan­elist, and web editor, is now an as­so­ciate editor in non­fic­tion, where he'll seek out a wide range of sub­ject mat­ters and per­spec­tives, while also con­tin­u­ing to cul­ti­vate the NER Dig­i­tal se­ries. Jan­ice Obu­chowski and Jen­nifer Bates, with their broad taste and vi­tal sense of “the real thing” in fic­tion, will con­tinue to dis­cover new voices as as­so­ciate ed­i­tors in fic­tion. And Lexa de­cour­val, our de­voted of­fice man­ager, will con­tinue keep­ing those es­sen­tial pro­cesses—in­clud­ing your sub­scrip­tions—up to date. I am also grate­ful to Christo­pher Ross, the driv­ing force and imag­i­na­tion be­hind our quar­terly NER Ver­mont Read­ing Se­ries, and our ed­i­to­rial panel, read­ers, and stu­dent in­terns whose tal­ents and en­er­gies help to sus­tain the mag­a­zine ev­ery day.

Although Stephen Donadio will re­turn to teach­ing full-time af­ter twenty years as editor, I am happy to say that he will re­main on the mast­head as editor at large, scout­ing out new work and of­fer­ing his “redis­cov­er­ies,” which for the past fif­teen years have added a note of sur­prise to each is­sue, a means of look­ing back in or­der to look for­ward. As editor, Stephen brought to this mag­a­zine his un­bounded in­tel­lec­tual cu­rios­ity, gen­er­ous hu­man­ity, and tire­less ded­i­ca­tion to literature in the mak­ing, and all of us as­so­ci­ated with NER owe him our im­mense grat­i­tude.

In the first is­sue of each vol­ume it is our tra­di­tion to ac­knowl­edge the many peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions who sup­port our ef­forts. All of us at NER of­fer our sin­cere thanks to the au­thors, sub­scribers, and read­ers who con­tinue to sus­tain

Editor’s Note

us, and in par­tic­u­lar to the nu­mer­ous donors who have demon­strated their com­mit­ment through their fi­nan­cial sup­port. Each of these gifts makes an im­me­di­ate im­pact, and we are deeply grate­ful. We'd also like to ac­knowl­edge the Mid­dle­bury Col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Of­fice of Col­lege Ad­vance­ment, who have pro­vided con­tin­u­ing fundrais­ing as­sis­tance, and the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts, for a 2014 Art­works grant. —CK

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