Andrea Olsen, Middlebury professor, author, dancer, and environmentalist, synthesises anatomy and dance to further understanding of the human body and its powers of communication. Last year, Prof Olsen gave a presentation at TEDxMONTEREY, entitled From Fear to the Sublime: Art Making & the Environment, which can be found here. She is the author of two books, BodyStories, a Guide to Experiential Anatomy and Body and Earth, an Experiential Guide. More information about Prof. Olsen can be located on her faculty page.
From Hayes Davis’s poem “The Bargain Apocalypse” (NER 27.4):
Caldor is going out of business,
prices have been slashed in half
and I believe this is what it will
be like when the world ends.
Children shuffle across the dirty floor,
pointing at undersized baseball gloves
or one-armed dolls, begging parents
who answer with a distracted,
automatic “No.” The security guard
is amused. He isn’t needed; nothing
here is worth the risk of a criminal record.
Some have found an answer or two,
and they wait in lines longer
than purgatory, gripping cash
or a Visa. All sales are final.
An excerpt from Sean Singer’s “Paraffin Fuel,” originally published in NER 29.2:
“Bring me a big bowl of avocado
seed soup while we nail the seed
to the roof and that’ll fix it.”
You’ve got to fix it, dab
the glue in my middle, as the rim
turns among its rust. Like paraffin
fuel, like orangeade imprinted
upon a prayer. Like buff mottling
feeding on an ant.
Soledad Fox considers the literary influence of Cervantes on Flaubert in NER 27.1:
The presence of the Quixote in Flaubert’s imagination can be traced back to his childhood. When he was a young boy, his favorite pastime was to have Don Quichotte read to him aloud, in an abridged French edition edited by Florian. Once he had learned how to read for himself, he collected other editions of the novel, and the impact of these readings is made evident in a letter he wrote in 1832, when he was only ten years old, to his friend Ernest Chevalier:
I know I had told you before that I wanted to be a playwright, but on second thought, I’ve decided against it . . . I have decided instead to become a novelist and I’ve already got some ideas for my first books. I’ll write about Cardenio, about Dorotea, and one about Ill-Advised Curiosity.
Joann Kobin’s short story, Dr. Leopold’s Problem with Contentment, appeared in NER 25.1-2:
“Edgar, forget the symbolism of the house. Don’t overanalyze. Besides, Jason and I get along well.”
Edgar concedes. Lisa may be onto something: that Jason’s no longer the adored little cousin he once was here in his uncle David’s house. His cousins have moved on to their own adult lives. My God, they certainly have! He lets go of his timeworn theories and asks Lisa whether she noticed Anita’s strand of black pearls. “David told me how much they cost. Take a guess.”
Lisa declines to guess, and Edgar leaves her in peace. She’s happy to have some time out in this house of fecundity.
Eric Breitbart’s critical essay on the French filmmaker, Jean-Pierre Melville, originally appeared in NER 27.3:
In my opinion cinema isn’t an art form because you can’t reread things, scratch them out and do them over again in the hope of approaching perfection. What makes a film different from a painting, a symphony, or a book is the fact that a release print is only a sketch. —J. P. Melville
In the early 1960s, Melville was often identified as the “father of the New Wave” (though he himself often referred to Godard, Truffaut, & Co. as his stepchildren rather than his children); this identification had more to do with his independence from the establishment than with any stylistic affinities, but his relationship with the younger filmmakers began to sour when he argued against government subsidies and a special category for art films, insisting that it was the director’s duty to find a way of bringing large audiences into the theaters without compromising his principles. In a way, it was a position that Melville could afford to take because he was his own producer and had his own studio. If necessary, he could go downstairs in the evening and build his own sets. Early in his career, when he was accused of being an “amateur” because he didn’t have a union card, Melville responded that he was, in fact, an “ultra-professional,” capable of doing everything from scriptwriting to art direction.
He always took himself absolutely seriously and was known as a hard taskmaster who often fought with his actors to get what he wanted; he was also extremely loyal to the few longtime crew members he respected. His personal life was uneventful; he had a long-term, childless marriage, and lived quietly with his wife and three cats. When asked about his work habits, he once told an interviewer:“I believe that to be a film director is extremely tiring if you take it seriously. You can work in a relaxed manner and I know a number of my young colleagues who do. As for me, twenty-four hours before the first shot I call for the doctor because I am not well at all. I have heart palpitations and feel sick during the whole first day of production. I try not to show it, but I have such anxiety that as soon as the day is over I go straight to bed.”
Matthew Vollmer, author, professor, and collector of odd literary jags, has a new book coming out in October. It’s called Fakes, and the subtitle runs, “An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, ‘Found’ Texts and Other Fraudulent Artifacts.” He and David Shields co-edit the anthology, 40 short stories hidden beneath such guises as an unhappy letter to the parking department or a personal ad in the newspaper. Matthew also runs a Tumblr account, MIRRORHOUSE, which includes an ongoing “Compendium of Literary Artifacts, Both Actual and Fraudulent.” One intriguing hoax mentioned by Vollmer on his site involves “The Amber Witch,” a 1841 book claiming to be an instructional manual for avoiding malevolent magic.
“Another writer with Paula Bohince’s gift for the ravishing image—and such writers are very few—would have us on our guard. We are wary of beauty; we have seen too often what beauty leaves out. But Bohince, in her magical capture of the material world, scorns all euphemizing edits; ‘the condom listing against milk-/weed’ is registered as scrupulously in these pages as are the combs of the abandoned hive. Which makes these poems transformative in the true and difficult sense: they bestow on the world the blessing of having-been-seen. And beauty too: ‘Something to recall / as beautiful, in the future. As the sewer was / in summer. Little childhood river.'” (Linda Gregerson)
“It is a great boon that British biographer Gordon Bowker, who has written lives of Malcolm Lowry, George Orwell and Lawrence Durrell, should have taken on this task, and better yet that he has produced such a fine portrait of the artist and the man who was James Joyce . . . Instead of being daunted by Joyce having in a sense got there before him, Bowker makes this a strength, as he skillfully presents incidents and experiences both as they happened in life and, suitably transformed to varying degrees, on the page . . . the reader has the best of both worlds, being informed—or in the case of those already familiar with the books, reminded—both of the glories of Joycean fiction and of their roots in his life. Never reductive, genuinely attuned to both Joyce’s fictive methodology and his human qualities, Bowker manages to be immensely sympathetic to his subject while managing to preserve necessary critical distance and acuity.” (Martin Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle)
“Collier’s sixth collection engages with childhood, fatherhood, and family life, in the living present and memorial past, a history explored with brilliantly precise detail and originality of perspective.” (Publishers Weekly)
“[W]e can make of what would blind us a conduit for changed vision, suggests Corral. In these poems, a cage implies all the rest that lies outside it; any frame frames a window through which to see other possibilities unfolding… Like Hayden, Corral resists reductivism. Gay, Chicano, ‘Illegal-American,’ that’s all just language, and part of Corral’s point is that language, like sex, is fluid and dangerous and thrilling, now a cage, now a window out. In Corral’s refusal to think in reductive terms lies his great authority. His refusal to entirely trust authority wins my trust as a reader.” (Carl Phillips, from the Foreword)
“Lock’s work seems to emanate…from an essential strangeness, an estrangement from easily agreed-upon psychologies, from popular culture, from anything resembling a zeitgeist. It is marked by an eerie tonality and an intense, unsettled intellectual curiosity—a Lock novel might take place during any time period, anywhere in the world.” (Dawn Raffel)
“Wonderful…You & Me is by turns hilarious, depressing, gnomic, smutty, and just a far better Saturday night than anything to be had in Jacksonville and Baskersfield combined.” (BookForum)
“…swaggering genius and ribald wit.” (Vanity Fair)
“Inukshuk is a feat of empathy and honesty, a taut tale of fear and resentment and other threats from within, meticulously observed and fearlessly rendered in vivid, authoritative, gripping prose. It’s a virtuoso performance.” (Doug Dorst)
“A liberating push-back against the idea of economy. More play, more improvisation, and more defiantly deadpan humor – this is the vital shot-in-the-arm American poetry needs.” (D. A. Powell)
“If Fred Astaire could write, it might sound like this: practiced, complex, graceful…These are a sequence of anecdotes daring to love again, dreaming in daylight.” (Grace Cavalieri)
From Aurelie Sheehan’s story “Horse, Girl, Landscape” (NER 26.3):
If your eyes, if Lara’s eyes, drift from the horse, you’ll see a blue Volvo station wagon and a red Toyota Camry. Last week, Lara took her friend Jane to get an abortion in the red Camry. She dropped her off, went shopping, and then picked her up again after four hours. It wasn’t like she was shopping because she was callous. In fact, she couldn’t really concentrate. She and Jane usually did this together: a Saturday morning, in and out of the stores, spending their allowance, exchanging high witticisms, engaging in petty theft. When Jane was in the building—Lara couldn’t really picture what was happening, she didn’t want to imagine, embody, the scraping—Lara didn’t have a clue what paperback she should pocket, or if she actually needed new nail polish, or if she truly wanted this sweater-jacket they were selling at Raja of India. She walked around town. She ran into a couple of kids from school and they smoked behind the pizzeria together, and then she shrugged goodbye and left, keeping Jane’s secret.
Later, looking out at the river, she had another cigarette.
And then she got back into the red Camry and returned to the clinic and there was Jane, sitting on the concrete steps.
From Eliot Khalil Wilson’s “Origin Blues: An Elegy” (NER 29.4):
I come from the coffee and Chesterfield dawn,
I come from the tender-mouthed crappie and the warmouth perch; afraid of bankers, afraid of police car spotlights,
skies turning green and packs of wild dogs in the corn at night
And I believe what they say about my blood:
a tick’s grip, mule resolute, hacksaw spined,
overtime on the foundry’s knock-out line,
the bottom dog, the oysterman fighting the tide
though every night the tide gathers its things and leaves.