Spring/Summer 1997, Volume 14.2
Neila C. Seshachari
After the well-focused, even rigorous, cultivation of a special issue every winter, the potpourri of articles in the spring/summer issue seems like a spontaneous outburst of spring flowers. The different genres we normally include—nonfiction, fiction, critical essays, poetry, and book reviews—offer a refreshing variety within themselves in this issue.
We lead off with W. Scott Olsen's delightfully evocative nonfiction, "The Love of Maps." Astonishingly gripping in detail and loaded with information about mapmakers, maps both ancient and modern, and history that defines little towns and communities, this piece also provides delightful insights into the traveler's own sensibilities. The love of maps comes to connote love of adventure, of nature, of exploration, of ideas, of earthlings trying to connect with one another in vast wildernesses that are barely mapable. There is a kind of joie de vivre in this essay that lingers long afterward in the reader's mind, like some enchanting aroma.
Three other essays included here discuss contemporary concerns. Alma Jean Billingslea-Brown's essay, "Yearning for the Homeland: The 'Return to the Source' in Contemporary African-American Women's Fiction and Visual Art," analyzes works produced during the 1970s and 80s by four African-American women artists—Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, Paule Marshall, and Toni Morrison, in terms of their conscious configurations to "return to the source" of motherlines. The four black-and-white figures included with this article amply illustrate Billingslea-Brown's thesis.
Jane Frazier, in tracing the recurrent subject of the natural world in W.S. Merwin's poetry, shows how Merwin felt that the ideological and physical distance between ourselves and nature has divided us humans from our most important psychic resource and basis of our being. And Ronald K. Morrison, in his essay on Christina Rossetti, posits that even though her uncle Polidori's sensational tale, The Vampyre, was a likely source for her own Goblin Market, Rossetti revitalizes both the tale and the concept of vampirism by narrating the tale from a feminine perspective and life-affirming relationships between sisters. "Rossetti rewrites the vampire myth to celebrate—part literally and part symbolically—the fecund power of feminine sexuality and feminine imagination," he asserts.
The five fictions in this issue will also delight readers with their range of subject matter. Darin Cozzens's story takes us into the ordered world of Ferrill Ray and his smug testimonies at church—testimonies that are staples of a Mormon ward. The story is not without its tensions and irony. Peter Donahue's "The Cyst" explores the psyche of an educated, middle-aged loner in an urban setting, who is unable to make genuine connections, especially with the females he wants to cultivate. Lewis NKosi's excerpt, "The Emissary," from his novel, Underground People, is tense with political overtones. James Knudsen's "I'm Not Here" traces sterile relationships on university campuses. J. K. Colvin's "Biba" is a heart-warming story about immigrant family ties and goodbyes.
Ten poets, including Janet Sylvester, Rick Kempa, and Simon Perchik, are featured in this issue. The five books reviewed include Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work, and Paved Paradise: The Challenge of Growth in the New West.
Last year, at this time, I shared the news with our readers that cuts in our budget seriously threatened the production of our spring/summer issue—the third in the fiscal year. I am delighted to report that our own rigorous day-to-day economy in running the office and generous gifts from our Advisory Board members and donors have dispelled our fears. I find that no words in my repertoire encompass all the nuances of my gratitude for their help, so I am going to say a simple, heartfelt THANK YOU to them. They contribute more than they realize to the quality of the mind and heart in our society by helping the production and dissemination of arts and humanities.
It is in the nature of the American Dream and the American temper to create opportunities out of crises. Our fiscal threat, if at all, has challenged us to explore electronic avenues to reach out in new ways to our patrons and readers. Weber Studies will soon have a HomePage. We are committed to excellence. By the time this issue reaches you, our Winter 1997 special issue on Technology and the Arts will have gone on the web. Browse through it on <http://www.altx.com/ebr> to savor it on the electronic book review. If we are successful in finding donors who espouse our cause, we may be able to get the (electronic) hardware and software to launch such a venture from our office. At this moment, these are only our exploratory aspirations. I know from experience that shared aspirations have a better chance of becoming a reality.