Winter 1994, Volume 11.1
Neila C. Seshachari
Our 10th Aniversary Special Issue on "Tradition and the Individual Talent in Contemporary Mormon Letters" got depleted and sold out within two weeks after its publication like some novelty favorite at an After Thanksgiving Sale! Some patrons indeed bought copies of the fall issue to give away as "Christmas gifts." Only two days ago, a reader from out of town wanted three more copies. A persuasive patron inquired about a reprint of the issue. (They do give Rain Checks; don't they?) It now seems most likely that a modest reprint of 500 copies with "a simplified cover and black & white visuals" will be available for the same price of $7 about the time this winter issue gets off the press.
A belated instinct now tells me that I should have foreseen the need for a higher print run of this special issue. On the other hand, very few journals, if any, have had the pleasure of a second printing of an issue. Whoever said an editor's job is staid and manuscript-bound? Even in routine times when there are no reruns to consider, it has its share of tense moments balanced by genuine pleasures and excitements. Some writers walk in and out of one's editorial life in a hurry, while others linger on and cast their aura for ever on one's aesthetic memory.
Thus walked Maxine Hong Kingston on to the stage of our auditorium on campus to deliver her Convocation Address on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Weber Studies and cast her benevolent spell talking about the three [Chinese] lost Books of Peace and the need to rewrite them without losing readers who thrive on the daily fare of violence.
There is no doubt that we as a society are at least thinking alternatives to violence. More practically, we are rethinking "family values" in the most humanistic sense of the term, wherein empathy, sensitivity to others' needs, and recognition of our global cultural relationships are primary concerns. The contents of this issue collectively reflect this concern.
There is much here besides our acclaimed Interview Series conducted this time by Michael Wutz. Readers may find this issue treading away softly, even lingeringly, from the Mormon connections of the previous one. Bill Holm's visit to Utah in 1992 and China the following year have been the impetus for his poems that appear on our pages. In "What Brigham Young Said," Holm alludes to the certitude and direction the prophet wanted to bestow on his Mormon followers, while the poet prefers for himself a little indirection and uncertainty. In the three "China poems," he evokes both the ancient and contemporary history of China in haunting images. Poems by James Poulakos, Kent Gardien, Peter Illick, Mikel Vause, Sean BrendanBrown, and Michael L. Johnson provide a rich fare for readers.
The six stories included here cover a gamut of contemporary issues: a single dad learning to cope with his teenage daughter's loss of innocence in Kevin Avery's "A Daughter is a Different Matter"; a young woman's baffling lesbian attraction to a female friend, now dead, in Ariana-Sophia M. Kartsonis's "Nocturnal Emissions"; a casual, restaurant encounter of one Vietnam veteran with another one, a "Vietnam nut," leading to reveries of one of the darkest periods in our history, in William R. Kanouse's "The Looney Tune"; Hal Ellson's "Fox for Sale," which recounts its protagonist's uncanny, fatal trip in Peru, complete with booze and a femme fatale apparition. And finally, two stories about death and loss-Philip Tate's "Beside Her," in which a young child's death by drowning paralyzes her brother and parents into dysfunctional robots, and Ed Weyhing's "Harris Steps to the Line," in which the grand old man strangely reminded me of baseball's Red Barber.
The essays included here fall into two main categories: 1) feminist reinterpretations and 2) ecological concerns. Ruth Y. Jenkins gives a glimpse into Florence Nightingale's heroic efforts to reclaim, through the Greek myth of Cassandra, hope and recognition for nineteenth century women of her times, which made Nightingale conclude that "the next Christ will perhaps be ... female." Stephanie E. Chamberlain analyzes the actions of Sophocles's Antigone to argue that her burial of Polyneices is less an evocation of moral law and attendant mysticism than it is a sound reaffirmation of ancient cultural rites of Greece, steeped in tradition. Michael Branch's essay on ecocriticism emphasizes our need to develop an ecological consciousness to help us recognize that "nature" is both a cultural construct and a grounding reality, which could lead us away from our culture's destructive and self-destructive relationship with the natural world. John F. Flynn's essay titled "Edward Abbey on Nature and Moral Enquiry" and Lyall Crawford's "Wilderness and Tao" also raise, in different ways, our relationship to nature, a topic that will be the focus of our special issue on "Wilderness" in fall 1994.