The Garden of Earthly Pain and Pleasure

Alfred_Hitchcock_NYWTSJohn A. Bertolini considers criticism of Hitchcock’s Psycho in NER 31.3 (Bertolini’s essay was published as the classic movie turned 50 in 2010):

As Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has now arrived at the age of fifty, the moment seems propitious for a reconsideration of the film’s significance and staying power. In The Moment of Psycho, David Thomson has used the occasion to situate this film in cinema history, and indeed in America’s larger cultural history. But Thomson’s unpleasant little book makes some rather large claims regarding the impact on movies of Hitchcock’s virtuoso exercise in cinematic anxiety. He charges Hitchcock with making a “breakthrough” in Psycho that led all of us, and filmmakers in particular, to take “bloodletting, sadism, and slaughter” for granted, to treat sex and violence ironically or mockingly, because they “were no longer games,” “but were in fact everything.” “Everything”? As Hitchcock himself might ask, “Whatever does the gentleman mean?”

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Surely You Know

Victoria Chang’s poem “Yang Gui-Fei” appeared in NER 25.3:

Surely you know I will rule your besieged kingdom in the afterlife,
build the rivers so they flow into a great bath,

populate the land with plum trees, foliate the skies
with golden birds.

Once I was more than a woman, more than a gold hair-pin,
more than three thousand bathing concubines.

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New Books from NER Writers: Carved in Stone

NER contributor William Gilson has published a new book, Carved in Stone, about the art of New England gravestones, with photographs by Thomas Gilson. From Amazon: “Gravestones are colonial America’s earliest sculpture and they provide a unique physical link to the European people who settled here. Carved in Stone is an elegant collection of over 80 fine duotone photographs, each a personal meditation on an old stone carving, and on New England’s past, where these stones tell stories about death at sea, epidemics such as small pox, the loss of children, and a grim view of the afterlife. The essay is a graceful narrative that explores a long personal involvement with the stones and their placement in New England landscape, and attempts to trace the curious and imperfectly documented story of carvers. Brief quotes from early New England writers accompany the images, and captions provide basic information about each stone.”

William Gilson’s most recent contributions to NER were published in 33.1 and 30.4.

Carved in Stone is available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Stephen O'Connor

We Want So Much to Be Ourselves

Fiction from NER 33.3.

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Roland’s longing trailed after him as he walked, a sort of dirigible, attached by a silver filament that tugged and tugged without ever lightening his step.

“Why’s that thing always following you around?” his brother asked. “Haven’t you already got everything you could possibly want?”

Roland didn’t bother to argue, not because his brother was right (wasn’t it simple fact that human desire was endlessly replenishable?), but because his brother was a very small man with the jaw of someone twice his size. He walked with his jaw foremost, his shoulders hunched and his elbows back, as if he were being bent nearly to the ground by the burden of all the things he couldn’t have. If anyone were to be followed around by a dirigible of longing, it ought to have been Roland’s brother, but the air above his hunched shoulders was a void. And this seemed sad to Roland, although many things struck him as sad.

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Stephen O’Connor is the author of four books, most recently Here Comes Another Lesson (Free Press, 2010), a collection of short fiction. He teaches in the Columbia and Sarah Lawrence M.F.A. programs. 

To Make Good Again

From Anne Raeff’s “To Make Good Again,” in the current issue:

Buch (Book) was my first word, according to my parents, though it probably was more like my first interesting word—third, at the earliest, after Mama and Papa. Whatever the first word, German was my first language, and I did not learn English until I went to preschool at the age of four. Still, I do not consider German my native tongue. English is the language I grew up in, went to school in; English is the language I write in.

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Self-Portrait as Superman

From Jake Adam York’s “Self-Portrait as Superman (Alternate Take),” in the current issue:

At twenty-four frames per second, sixty seconds is two hundred
feet of film you’ll never see: Christopher Reeve
ready to become mild-mannered Clark Kent—sharp

trilby and blue chalk-pinstripe suit—
once they call Action, the Who-me smile fading
to bit-lip circumspection, cover story and secret,

hand on the button-down’s placket, ready to pull
the buttons from their eyes, peel
the rough-hewn cotton from the ancient crest, the S

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Waiting for the Hurricane

From Jennifer Grotz’s “Listening,” in the current issue:

Water turns everything into a jewel
then puts a metal taste in the mouth
slowly replaced by dust. Which is why standing
in the rainy street you feel much richer than you are. Or, aware that everything will dry, much poorer.

You feel that way anyway in New York, and a little lost,
but let’s be honest, that’s what you want, to hide,
and like an owl, you’ve retreated not to high branches
but an anonymous skyrise.

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I Could Say I’ve Been a Shadow

From Brendan Grady’s “Moths,” in the current issue:

We know the moths circling the porch light,
the dolt among them breaking orbit,
dusty Icarus drawn to his demise.

This isn’t new, but seventeen others
stuck on the wall have turned their wings
against it, like stoics, as if the light isn’t light,

and if they move, it is only a slight flutter,
a twitch of motion, before they still again.

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Robert Cohen Reading at Bread Loaf

Robert Cohen reads a short story at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference on August 14, 2010.

“Our Time with the Pirates”

“Our Time with the Pirates”

To listen to the entire reading, or to other readings and lectures from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, visit their iTunesU site.

Robert Cohen is the author of Amateur Barbarians, as well as three previous novels, The Organ Builder, The Here and Now, and Inspired Sleep, and a collection of short stories. Winner of a Lila Acheston Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers Award, the Ribalow Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and a Whiting Award, he has published short fiction in a variety of publications–including Harpers, GQ, The Paris Review and Ploughshares. He has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Harvard University, and Middlebury College. He lives in Vermont.

Keeping the Faith

Robert Frost’s cabin near Bread Loaf

One writer reflects on his time at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, “a curious mix of summer camp, trade convention, and religious retreat, all set in an idyllic meadow surrounded by forested mountain ridges.” As one of 220 guests at Bread Loaf this year, Michael Bourne of “The Millions” found solace and companionship:

Let’s say that you hold some passionate, but obscure belief. Maybe you believe God will fling a meteor at the earth and all the good people will be sucked up into heaven. Maybe you favor a return to the gold standard. Or perhaps you think Roseanne Barr should be elected president this fall on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Whatever it is, this belief animates your life, gives your daily existence shape and meaning, but no one you know really understands why you care so much about it. Then one day you drive to a mountaintop in the Vermont woods and spend 10 days in splendid isolation with several hundred other people who fervently believe the same things you do.

[Read “Keeping the Faith: Ten Days at Bread Loaf”]