Fall 2007, Volume 24.1

Editor's Preface

Michael Wutz


I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
—Pablo Picasso

Transitions are a time of reflection both forward into the future and backward into the past. As the new, incoming editor of Weber Studies, I would like to take this moment to direct my gaze in both directions and take stock of the journal’s historical legacy and potential promise.

In circulation for close to a quarter century now, Weber Studies has undergone a series of metamorphoses under the guiding vision of its various editors. Begun as an in-house publication to feature the work of local scholars and artists, Weber Studies quickly morphed into a journal with a national editorial board and an international circulation. The late Neila Seschachari, above all, was tireless in her efforts to promote the journal’s visibility and reputation, and under her editorship Weber Studies developed the interview & conversations series that is still a hallmark of its pages. She also secured submissions from outside the United States and nourished the journal’s first special topic issues (on Native American Literature, South-Asian American Literature, and Literature, Science & the Arts, among many others). The late Sherwin Howard—believing that the publishing market was saturated with theory and criticism—redirected the journal away from its primary focus on literary scholarship to include personal and "creative nonfiction" essays as well as poetry, and he added a color spread to feature various forms of two- and three-dimensional art, often in conjunction with an expanded artist’s statement. He also gave the journal a contemporary western orientation (including a section on current trends and issues entitled "Reading the West") and the redesigned look and format that it enjoys today. Building on these features, Brad L. Roghaar continued to solidify the journal’s reputation by merging his own strengths with Weber Studies’ editorial trajectory. As an accomplished poet, Brad strengthened the quality of the journal’s poetry submissions, and his keen visual sense led to further innovations in Weber Studies’ color spread. The journal’s literary and artistic palette are the better for it. I would like to thank all my predecessors for their hard work in making Weber Studies what it is today and, above all, Brad L. Roghaar—the journal’s outgoing editor—for his continued advice as he passes on the proverbial torch.

My challenge will be to build upon this distinguished legacy and to merge the journal’s historical distinction with a renewed sense of what is possible for a print-based publication at the beginning of the 21st century. That means, above all, retaining Weber Studies’ overall profile as a quality weave of essays, fiction, poetry and other textual forms, including art. In this issue, readers will get to enjoy all of the above, including a double feature of our time-honored interview & conversations series: Becky Jo (Gesteland) McShane enters into a lively rapport with writer Alice Sebold, author of the best-selling memoir Lucky and the novel The Lovely Bones, and I had the privilege of interviewing jazz legend Joe McQueen about his experiences as a tenor saxophonist in the post-war Intermountain West and beyond. For the future, we have conversations scheduled with Palestinian-American poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye, the eminent "poet of witness" and human rights advocate, Carolyn Forché, former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, noted fly-fishing author John Gierach, as well as Douglas Smith, project leader for the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project whom readers may have seen in numerous National Geographic and BBC television specials. Please stay tuned as we add new names to our roster of distinguished figures!

Continuing our art feature in a high-quality color spread, we also invite our readers to enjoy (and be challenged by) Suzanne Kanatsiz’s innovative relief panels, earthworks and installations. Kanatsiz combines a sculptor’s traditional repertoire with new materials and forms in order to imbue art with a refreshing aesthetic and political dimension, and for this particular issue she has written a suggestive commentary locating the works of art selected for this issue. Bridging aesthetic and cultural divides has been a distinctive feature of the artists given space in Weber Studies, and our hope is to continue that tradition—a tradition that seeks synergy and meaning in custom, convention, and the cutting edge.

Indeed, just as Kanatsiz’s work points to the way art engages the contemporary world while synthesizing the old and the new, so Weber Studies seeks to combine tradition with innovation in an effort to be closer to the present. For that reason, readers of this and subsequent issues will see that the journal, while being available online (and thus au currant), continues to see itself as a distinctly print-based publication with aesthetic sensibilities close to the spirit of material, not digital, letters: innovative fonts, numerous layout and design changes (both large and small), new cover art and paper are all meant to be pleasing to the eye and hand, and to reinforce a sense of Weber Studies’ print-based heritage. Equally important, while retaining its U.S. and western focus (which is already broadly conceived), I want to broaden the journal’s vision to include writers from around the world, much in keeping with changing geopolitical configurations and the vibrancy of the postcolonial diaspora. The first writer to be featured in our new "Global Spotlight" series is Martin R. Dean, a leading figure among the younger generation of novelists in postwar Switzerland whose dual European and West Indian heritage expresses the hybrid energies I want to emphasize in future issues. He will be followed by the Scottish writer, radio playwright and screen writer Ronald Frame in our Winter 2008 issue, and Polish novelist Piotr Siemion in Spring/Summer of 2008. Common to the work of these established voices (little known in the U.S. but widely read in their home countries) is the ability to look beyond one’s borders and to investigate the complexities of living in a global village that, for all its diminished size, is truly multicultural and transnational. No doubt, these issues resonate with American readers as well, just as they lend the journal’s "western" focus greater resilience and flexibility.

Complementing this opening of the editorial aperture, I and my editorial colleagues also plan to (re)introduce occasional focus issues in the spirit of Weber Studies’ cross-textual assembly. For Spring/Summer 2008, we are working on a "Lake Bonneville" issue that will highlight original essays, poetry, and artwork loosely centered around the expansive prehistoric lake once covering large parts of the present-day American West. The "Lake Bonneville" focus evolved from a multi-media concert sponsored by the Weber State University Office of Cultural Affairs that brought together the work of Utah’s late poet laureate, Ken Brewer, with the music of classical guitarist, Brad Richter; our hope is to orchestrate a chorus of additional artistic and literary voices around these lyrical and musical compositions (including a CD housed in a slip-cover).

As well, while Weber Studies celebrates the art of writing and print, in the widest sense, as its primary goal, it also wants to be cognizant of the new media kid on the block that has wide cultural appeal: film. With the annual Sundance film festival in our back yard each January, I envision a section on film-focused essays in each winter issue to bring the journal more in synch with some of the cultural happenings in Utah and beyond. Our winter 2008 issue is scheduled to include suggestive essays on Hollywood’s cult(ure) of violence, on feminizing the genre of the heist film, and on both Chinese and postcolonial cinema; and in the long run I see this focus also as a way of facilitating the dialogue between print and film, as they map out their respective domains and territories. Indeed, reflecting in print on a medium in celluloid (and, increasingly, in digital form) may be a sign of true interdisciplinarity and bode well for print culture’s continued viability (whether in material or digital form).

To signal these new and old emphases, we have decided to rename the journal from Weber Studies to, simply, Weber, hoping that this more austere designation is true to the journal’s intellectual and regional heritage, while also gesturing to its more contemporary and innovative dimensions. Echoing of course Weber State University as the journal’s sponsoring institution—a name that, in turn, derives from German-born fur trader John Weber, who traversed what is today known as Weber County—Weber also contains suggestive etymological resonances that have always been close to the journal’s spirit. The German weben translates into the English "to weave," and a Weber is the both literal and figurative "weaver" of textiles and texts working on the loom of threads and words. Weber (the word is the same in the singular and plural), to put it differently, are the artists and artisans of textures and discourse, the craftswomen and men weaving the warp and weft of language into the yarns that have always been at the center of the journal. As the journal’s new designation, Weber gives a symbolic nod to writers as the spinners of language, whose fabrications make the weave that is Weber and that extend from the web of words and the web of art into the world wide web.

No doubt, as we move forward in this new venture, we will make the mistakes and false starts that come with trial and innovation. Henry Miller once famously noted that "All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience." While editing a journal cannot be the "spontaneous unpremeditated act" Miller claims for the province of art, we hope you will indulge us for any slippages and mishaps, as we make our own editorial leaps in the dark and suffer from the growing pains that may result from them. I want to thank the outgoing and incoming members of our editorial and advisory boards for their service in making Weber Studies/Weber the journal that it is now and will be in the future and acknowledge the countless hours it takes to read and evaluate manuscripts fueled only by a sense of professional idealism and integrity. I want to thank Mark Biddle, our trusted layout consultant, for his fine visual eye in helping us redesign the journal. I want to express my appreciation to our associate editor Kathryn MacKay and our editorial assistant Kay Anderson for their expertise and care (in matters large and small) over the years, and I want to thank our institutional and private sponsors—in particular, the College of Arts & Humanities, the Utah Arts Council, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Swanson Foundation—for their ongoing financial (and moral) support. Last but not least, I want to reiterate my gratitude for the generation of inspired editorship that preceded me and say thank you to our readers and writers, subscribers and donors, as well as numerous colleagues, at Weber State University and elsewhere, for their generous support in the past. I hope to earn their trust and continued support as I carry out my editorial responsibilities.

I welcome suggestions and comments at weberjournal@weber.edu. Thank you.