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My Peace

Date: 08/26/2014
Blogger:
Martín Espada, Jim Foley, and his students at the Holyoke Care Center

Editor’s note. The other day we spent a few hours speaking with MR Contributing Editor Martín Espada about his former student, Jim Foley. Here's a short excerpt, followed by a group poem composed by Jim and his students at The Care Center in Holyoke. The full interview is posted here:
 

Jim took part in Teach For America. He went to Arizona in the 1990s, and taught at the Lowell Elementary School in Phoenix, in the barrio. He loved it. He wanted to do more of that sort of thing. I believe our first encounter was in the fall of 2000. I taught my Latino poetry class that semester, and Jim was one of the MFA students who took that class as an independent study. Jim was interested in the Latino community. He spoke Spanish. At...

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Date: 08/20/2014
Blogger:
Jim Hicks

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Of the dozens of posts I’ve written in the years since the magazine added this blog to its website, this is the first that has worked its way through three working titles. Having just returned from a grueling, difficult, and—I believe—essential two weeks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC (USHMM), as a participant in a Mandel Center research workshop on “Literary Responses to Genocide in the Post-Holocaust Era,” it won’t surprise anyone that the other titles were less light in tone. “On Speaking (and Not Speaking) about Genocide,” for example.

If I were a prayer, I would petition for one thing above all: that the world never see another two weeks where the subject of these USHMM discussions would again resonate so directly with the news we heard each morning. As it turned out, in the public forum...

Long Form and the Long View

Date: 07/27/2014
Blogger:
Jim Hicks

I’ll begin with a pair of quotes. Tim O’Brien, in his memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, says, “Can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories.” 

And J.M. Coetzee, from his Diary of a Bad Year, writes: “The generation of white South Africans to which I belong, and the next generation, and perhaps the generation after that too, will go bowed under the shame of the crimes that were committed in their names.”

I use both of these citations often, probably too often, as a lever on authority that I myself do not have. The first has long been positioned at the top of the syllabus for a class I teach each year. The course is itself titled “War Stories,” and thus I intend it...

Nadine Gordimer Remembered

Date: 07/15/2014
Blogger:
Stephen Clingman for TheConversation.com

We are grateful to UMass-Amherst professor Stephen Clingman and TheConversation.com for this personal remembrance of Nadine Gordimer, who passed away Sunday night.

The passing of Nadine Gordimer is a tremendous loss, both to South Africa and to the literary world. For me, and others who knew her, it will also be an enormous personal loss.

Born in November 1923, Nadine Gordimer came from a different era. Her first task was to discover that South Africa was worth writing about. Of course she was by no means the first writer in South Africa, but growing up all her models were European; by definition that was where literature came from. Then came her dawning realisation: those masters, mistresses, and servants; the racially divided world she belonged to...

A History with no Winner

Date: 07/01/2014
Blogger:
Aleksandar Brezar

The event in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 set the course for the twentieth century, yet its story reads like a political thriller straight out of Hollywood. Under the guise of national interest, a brilliant intelligence officer plans to create an international incident. He assembles, arms, and trains a team of outsiders and political dissidents to assassinate a high official from another country. Unsurprisingly, the perfect plan goes terribly wrong—the first bomb misses its intended target in the dignitary's motorcade and the cyanide pill the assassin then swallows fails to work. Distracted and dismayed, the rest of the assassins fail to act. But then the leader of the group heroically tries again. He runs through the bewildered masses and fires two shots at the dignitary and his wife, killing them both. The homeland is finally free, he thinks, as he is led away to solitary confinement.

It’s no wonder that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand created such a...

Parting the Waters

Date: 06/17/2014
Blogger:
Jim Hicks

Given the state of post-Berlusconi Italy today, it was perhaps to be expected. Yet the judge’s decision at Erri De Luca’s preliminary hearing—to proceed to trial—is still, to put it mildly, disappointing. That the trial date is set for January 28th at least gives those of us who still believe in free speech and a green planet some time to organize.

On the 9th, Erri gave an interview to La Repubblica, one of Italy's major newspapers. There was also an interview in France's Liberation a few days earlier, but that largely repeats the Le Monde interview already posted here. Here are some...

The Moral Imperative for Disobedience

Date: 05/22/2014
Blogger:
Erri De Luca and Jim Hicks

 

May 20, 2014

Dear Erri,

          First off, I should wish you a very happy birthday! A big day… and, of course, there's another one looming, just around the corner. I really wish I were in Italy now, so that I could participate more directly and stand together with everyone across the country—in social centers, bookstores, theaters, and auditoriums—who will be speaking out on your behalf on June 4th. And not just your behalf, of course; the principal thing is to make manifest the growing support for the No TAV movement. Instead Anna and I are stuck here, for the moment anyway, on the other side of the pond, following the news from a distance.

            I also want to apologize for penning this open letter to you in English. But since what we have to discuss is also a matter of language, and of the...

A Public Art

Date: 05/21/2014
Blogger:
Eric Lorberer

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a slightly edited version of a talk given at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst on March 28, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its Master of Fine Arts for Poets and Writers. As Lorberer comments, his overarching aim in this piece was to let loose “an eros-tipped arrow on behalf of MFA programs.” The full text was also posted by Route Nine.)

"You always have in your writing the resistance outside of you and inside of you, a shadow upon you, and the thing which you must express."
--Gertrude Stein, "How Writing is Written" (1935)

As I was returning from the annual AWP conference earlier this month, I read in England’s Telegraph that at a British literary festival that same weekend, Hanif Kureishi called...

"Guns Kill People"

Date: 05/19/2014
Blogger:
Ben Merriman

On my computer is a dataset, ICPSR 6399, cataloging every homicide committed in Chicago over a thirty year period, along with all the particulars the police could gather by investigation. The dataset includes nearly 24,000 killings, with murder weapons ranging from ash trays to padlocks to pantyhose. One weapon is preeminent: between 1965 and 1994, 9,001 Chicagoans were killed with handguns, and the proportion of killings involving a handgun has climbed substantially in the following 20 years. I have this dataset because I am a sociologist. I don't study crime, but I have a sociological faith that these numbers would yield some meaning if I analyzed them properly. This is less a belief in numbers than a will to believe; I want the data to make sense of something that has resisted my efforts at understanding.

I live in Chicago. I have wanted to...

The Political Uses of Memory

Date: 05/08/2014
Blogger:
Andrés Fabián Henao Castro

In his fabulous analysis of the death of Luigi Trastulli, Alessandro Portelli opened up a new task for the study of oral history, one that I would like to replicate in this short entry on the death of Gabriel García Márquez (April 17, 2014). Portelli transformed the study of memory from a question about correspondences between fiction and fact to a question of use. If the former bridges the gap that separates the telling (fiction) from what happened (fact), the latter interrogates those same gaps so as to understand the political functions served by the way our fictions participate in the co-production of facts. Thus, rather than fixing the fact, “cleansing” it, so to speak, from all its narrative impurities, what interests Portelli are the variety of conflictual displacements by which the recounting of facts is politically useful to the tellers.

Given the sheer quantity of reactions that the death of García Márquez—or Gabo, as his friends called him—death motivated, a...