Winter 1993, Volume 10.1
Neila C. Seshachari
We are happy to feature William Kennedy in our "Fiction and Interview Series" with a one-act play, which he describes as his "first serious attempt" at playwriting. We are just as pleased to have his good friend and colleague, Tom Smith, interview him.
I met William Kennedy in July 1991 when I spent four weeks at the New York State Summer Writers Institute in Saratoga Springs. He read a hilarious chapter from Very Old Bones, then his "work in progress." As we were chatting during the wine and cheese reception following the reading, I remarked how lucky I was that the Saratoga Springs racing season was to start two weeks earlier that year, so I could have a first-hand taste of the grandeur of parading thoroughbreds, and the excitement of betting and losing on the race tracks just before I left town. He chuckled and laughed heartily at that. Then, on my newly-bought Quinn's Book, he wrote, "For Neila, in the midst of wine, horses & literature in Saratoga (See p. 239 et seq.)" before he drew a flourishing line down the title page and autographed. Then he added impulsively, "See you in Utah."
It was a whole month before I got to reading Quinn's Book. What I saw at the racetracks in 1991 wasn't a pale patch on the spectacle and excitement of the blazing day when I imbibed the magical splendor of the 1864 Saratoga races in the company of Daniel Quinn: I watched financial brigands and celebrities in coattails and feathers and plumes arriving in fancy carriages drawn by six horses, following German marching bands; watched the moving mosaic of five thousand spectators; went to the workout track to stroke the five-year-old thoroughbred that would win the big race; saw jockeys being weighed in wire baskets; witnessed incredible deals in the betting enclosures; saw Quinn triple his returns on a huge sum wagered with reckless love; and finally even realized, "they shoot horses; don't they?"
It was a whole year before William Kennedy came to Ogden in October 1992 at the invitation of Weber State University, where he regaled campus and RMMLA conference audiences.
We bring you a rich fare of humor and high seriousness in our selections this time: Searching, scholarly essays by Daniel R. Schwarz, Richard F. Fleck, and William E. H. Meyer, Jr.; poems by Janet Sylvester, Jan C. Minich, and Mark Walling; and fiction by F. R. Lewis and Alan Meyer, along with reviews on a fascinating range of books. As always, we try to fulfill our function as a "little magazine" devoted to the literary arts and interdisciplinary humanities scholarship.
What is the role of "little magazines" like Weber Studies, I ask myself now and then, especially when I begin to write this column anew just before going to press. Though the answers could be varied and scintillating, the aspects of this journal's function that stand out in my mind as the most crucial to its own self-definition are: 1) to create aesthetic and intellectual ferment and 2) promote cross fertilization in the minds of its readers and writers every time. It's a tall order and one that I would do anything to achieve anything to bring the best writers and discerning readers together! All our best efforts are orchestrated toward this nebulous end.
And so, with a sense of gratification, I share two significant developments that have kept us humming in the last six weeks:
1) We have received a generous grant from the Junior E. and Blanche B. Rich Foundation for a cash prize to be named Dr. O. Marvin Lewis Award and given annually in rotation for the best fiction, poetry, or essay published in our pages. We are especially pleased that Dr. Lewis, Ogden physician, poet, and humanities scholar, epitomizes in himself the humanistic and interdisciplinary ideals we hold dear. I wish to express my gratitude to Carolyn Nebeker, Chair of Weber Studies Advisory Board, for taking my dreams seriously and mediating in this venture.
2) Weber Studies will soon start getting modest interest disbursements from its membership in the Utah Arts Endowment, which was instituted by the State of Utah in 1991 with a gift of 2.3 million dollars to help Utah's visual, performing, and literary arts. Our share in this endowment is miniscule, but the interest we receive will supplement honoraria to the writers who make this journal worth reading. We were able to raise a substantial portion of our required matching monies through a letter of solicitation to our subscribers. We thank them for opening up their hearts and their purses. (If you wish to send your contribution now or wish to add to your previous one, write a check to "Weber StudiesWSU" and mail it to the journal.)
Now is also the time to say a big Thank You to the Utah Arts Council for its annual grant monies to support our writers.
The world of little magazines, like our universe at large, is (inter)dependent for its life and quality on the love of manyits readers, writers, gift-givers, and its dedicated staff.