Scott Denham’s essay, Friedrich Torberg: An Introduction appeared in NER20.4:
Friedrich Torberg (1908—1979) was very much a part of the Prague and Viennese literary café scenes in the 1920s and 1930s. He wrote a wicked schoolboy novel, Der Schüler Gerber hat absolviert (Berlin, 1930) [The Examination (London, 1932)]—the only one of his works which appears to have been translated in English-which catapulted him into the limelight of the café Herrenhof scene of Max Brod, Ernst Polak, and Alfred Polgar; in Vienna he associated with Karl Kraus, Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, Hermann Broch, and others. Three more novels published before the war were all well-enough received, but did not succeed in getting the critics past their notion of him as a bad boy cynic and lampooner.
Adam Giannelli’s poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Yale Review, FIELD, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. He is the translator of a selection of prose poems by Marosa di Giorgio, Diadem (BOA Editions, 2012), which was shortlisted for the 2013 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the editor of High Lonesome (Oberlin College Press, 2006), a collection of essays on Charles Wright. He currently studies at the University of Utah, where he is a doctoral student in literature and creative writing, and a poetry editor for Quarterly West.
“Gray possesses a fine poetic intelligence, as humble and compassionate as it is keen.”
NER congratulates Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr.on the publication of her book of poetry Series | India (Four Way Books).
From her publisher: “The poems in Series | India explore the rich borderlands between the familiar and the foreign, illumination and opacity, gods and charlatans, through the braided, sometimes unstable narratives of young Westerners in India.”
Poems and translations of Ms. Gray’s have been published or are forthcoming in Little Star, Kenyon Review Online, Poetry International, Harvard Review, New Orleans Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other publications. She is a translator of Persian and Tibetan literature, and has published her translations in several publications including Iran: Poems of Dissent (2013) and King Kesar of Ling (2012). Gray has also published a book of her translations called The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwan-i Hafiz-i Shirazi(1995).
Series | India can be purchased from Four Way Books and independent booksellers.
“His territory is [where] passion and eloquence collide and fuse.” —The New York Times
New England Review is pleased to announce the publication of NER contributor Richard Siken‘s newest book of poetry, War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon 2015). This collection of poems features careful meditations that lead to questions of being, knowing, and power.
Siken’s work appears in NER35.4. His debut collection, Crush,was the winner of the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize and a Lambda Literary Award.
“Graham is one of our great poets. Her words will long outlast all of this chatter” —The New York Times
NER commends Jorie Graham on the publication of her second volume of selected poems From the New World: Poems 1976–2014 (Ecco 2015).
From the New York Times: “Graham’s great body of work, summarized in “From the New World,” her new career-spanning selected poems (one can understand why active poets resist the tombstone of a “collected” volume), has so much in it, more of life and of the world than that of almost any other poet now writing.”
Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Hybrids of Plants and Ghosts (1980), Erosion (1983), The End of Beauty (1987), Region of Unlikeness (1991), Never (2002), Sea Change (2008), and Place (2012), among others. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for her first volume of selected poems, The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1992.
From the New World is available at Ecco Press or at independent booksellers.
“A dazzling collection of essays on how the best poems work, from the master poet and essayist”
NER is pleased to announce to publication of New England Review contributor Jane Hirshfield’s collection of essays Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (Knopf 2015).
From the publisher: “‘Poetry,’ Jane Hirshfield has said, ‘is language that foments revolutions of being.’ In ten eloquent and highly original explorations, she unfolds and explores some of the ways this is done—by the inclusion of hiddenness, paradox, and surprise; by a perennial awareness of the place of uncertainty in our lives; by language’s own acts of discovery.”
Hirshfield’s work has appeared in several issues of New England Review including NER21.2 and NER25.4. Poems of Hirshfield’s have also been published in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Times Literary Supplement, the Nation, New Republic, Harper’s, Orion, and American Poetry Review, among others. She is the author of seven previous collections of poetry, two books of essays, and four books collecting and co-translating the work of poets from the past.
Purchase Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World from Knopf or at independent booksellers.
“Hirshfield’s riddling recipes for that world offer a profoundly altered understanding of our lives’ losses and additions, and of the small and larger beauties we so often miss.”
It is also our pleasure to announce the publication of The Beauty (Knopf 2015), the latest collection of poetry from NER author Jane Hirshfield.
From Publishers Weekly (starred review): “The book pleads itself to remember the past; the moments where days drifted by and doors could open or close. It pleads not to be forgotten. If Hirshfield’s previous work could be accused of lacking duende, this one surely cannot; it is a book of late-midlife koans that finally only want one thing, for ‘fate to be human'”
Purchase The Beauty from Knopf or at independent booksellers.
Welcome to “Behind the Byline,” the column in which we share conversations with current NER writers in all genres.
Lorraine Hanlon Comanor
This month, NER editor Carolyn Kuebler speaks with former US Figure Skating champion, retired anesthesiologist, and now-author Lorraine Hanlon Comanor. Comanor’s essay “In the Shadow of Parsenn” (NER 36.1) reveals some heart wrenching truths about being a teenager on the road and at the rink, and at the highest level of competition.
CK: Your essay describes what seems like a central chapter in your life—the transition from becoming the US Figure Skating Champion to giving up the sport altogether. And you were still only seventeen! Have you written other chapters in your life, both during and after competitive skating?
Lorraine Hanlon Comanor performing a stag jump at the Davos rink, 1963.
LHC: A modified version of this piece is the final chapter of the first part of my skating memoir, “Coming off the Edge.” The first section of the story tells of my journey under the tutelage of an overzealous mother and anorexic coach from compliant asthmatic kid to independent national champion who gradually becomes disillusioned with the skating life. The second part takes me back to Europe fifty years later where, in the company of my old boyfriend, I meet with former East German coaches and athletes damaged by doping. Gradually, I see my childhood devoted to the god of the ice in a new light. I’m also working on a piece about discovering my family heritage, which had been hidden so they might advance in the Late George Apley’s Boston.
CK: What did you do after your dramatic departure from Switzerland that day, on a train with your mother?
LHC: As I had refused to train in Chamonix, Mother took me to Juan les Pins, a small town on the French Riviera, hoping I would come to my senses. Instead I took a course on Proust at the University of Nice and tried my hand at translation. I also met a young Italian. When my mother realized he was serious, she put me on the next flight back to Boston. Nine years ago, at the time of her death, I found among her effects pieces of his destroyed letters. Two and a half years ago, he found me through the internet and we have since become close friends.
CK: I love how you describe the awkward, passionate, and ultimately hopeless relationship with Seppi, your German skater boyfriend. And I can’t help wondering, did you ever see him again, after that awkward Christmas visit?
Sepp executing a butterfly at the rink in Oberstdorf, early 1960s. Photo by Johnny Müller.
LHC: We saw each other several months later at the world championships in Cortina, but didn’t talk. After I wrote this piece, I wondered what I might have said differently had I known what had become of Sepp. After several months of fretting, I finally typed his name into Google and discovered his impressive Lebenslauf (a detailed curriculum vitae): Olympian, Ice Capades performer, graduate of technical photography school, photojournalist for Bild Zeitung, doctorate in biomechanics, coach. Through Facebook, I sent a short message in German: “A voice from your past. Merry Christmas.” The almost immediate reply: “Is that really you? Where are you? I looked for you for years.”
After five months of Skyping, I finally agreed to go back to Germany for a visit. Part of me wanted to understand what had come between us and another part wanted to come to terms with my skating past.
Over fifty years later: Lorraine and Sepp visiting the winter stadium in Prague, the site at which they met during their first World Championships.
Over the past two years we have explored the War and its aftermath, skating in the Cold War era, the isolation of a skating childhood, the feeling of never quite measuring up, and what became of the DDR skaters. To help me understand more of his childhood, the division of his family by the Wall, what made our relationship so difficult, as well as sports in the DDR, Sepp organized several trips through Germany. Together we visited both our old haunts and cities I’d never seen. We spoke with old DDR coaches and athletes damaged by state-sponsored doping and read their Stasi files. We spent time in the archives of the University of Leipzig’s library where theses on doping research are carefully hidden. Gradually my dreams of failure started to fade into the background. What emerged was a clearer picture of the value of sports and the damage they can inflict when the price for gold becomes too high.
CK: You seem to have fallen under the spell of German literature and Mann’s Magic Mountain while you were living with the Bruckmanns in Davos. Did you continue to read German literature after your teenage years?
LHC: The Harvard French department was stronger than its German one, so I started with nineteenth-century French history and literature, only getting in one course on Goethe before deciding on a medical career. Medicine is a time-consuming mistress and all forms of literature went by the wayside as I tried to learn it.
Not until I reconnected with old friends a few years ago did I realize how much language, both French and German, I had lost in fifty years of only speaking English. Ill-prepared by “ice rink German” to tackle German literature during my year in Davos, I struggled with the Mittelschule’s curriculum of works from Germany, Austria, and German-Switzerland. The plays of Brecht and Frisch were definitely easier for me than the novels of Mann and Hesse, emphasized because those Germans had left their homeland to become Swiss citizens. The stories of Kafka and Stefan Zweig stayed with me for years, as did some of the poetry of Rilke and Heine before they too began to fade.
Initially, Sepp gave me biographies of German skaters to read, gradually progressing me to brief histories of DDR events and Stasi files. Before returning to Prague, we both reread Kundera, which led us to reading more on the postwar era. Looking up something on Sebald, I discovered that he had been Sepp’s classmate in Oberstdorf and pushed him to read Austerlitz. A book review of Nicht ich introduced me to Joachim Fest, a famous Berlin journalist, and I also recommended him to Sepp. These books became part of the discussion of our postwar years. Currently I am reading Houllebecq’s Soumission, but one of these days, I’ll get back to the classic German literature.
CK: How did you come to write this piece, after so many years practicing medicine?
LHC: I went to Bennington [Writing Seminars] determined not to write about skating or medicine, only coming finally to realize that they were the lenses through which I saw the world. As I often ended up in train towns, I, at one point, attempted an essay on the trains that ran through my life. Sven Birkerts, my astute teacher, said, “All very interesting, but I think the heat is in the ride between Davos and Oberstdorf.” At first, I was reluctant to open the Pandora’s box, to revisit an unhappy romance and the end of my skating career, but gradually he teased the story out of me and it led to a great adventure.
Lorraine Hanlon Comanor was the 1963 US Figure Skating Champion and member of the US Figure Skating Team. She graduated from Harvard University and Stanford Medical School, completed her residency at both universities, and is a board-certified anesthesiologist. Following twenty-five years in the operating room, she became a medical writer and a research consultant to numerous pharmaceutical companies. More recently, she received her MFA in fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She lives in the high Sierras, where she enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, and kayaking.
We are pleased to announce that NER contributors Cate Marvin and Maud Casey are among the 175 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship recipients chosen from an applicant pool of almost 3,000 individuals.
Cate Marvin has received numerous honors for her poetry, including the Whiting Award and a Kathryn A. Morton Prize. She has published three books of poetry and currently teaches creative writing at Columbia University’s MFA Program, the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University. She has contributed to six issues of NER (19.2, 20.2, 21.1, 22.2, 34.3-4, 36.1).
Maud Casey is the author of three novels, including most recently The Man Who Walked Away, and a collection of stories, Drastic. Her essays and criticism have appeared in A Public Space, Literary Imagination, the New York Times Book Review, Oxford American, and Salon. She is the recipient of the Calvino Prize and a DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowship, and has received numerous international residency fellowships for her work in fiction. She is a Professor of English at Maryland University. Her essay on the photography and mystery of Vivian Maier appears in NER Digital.
Congratulations to Maud, Cate, and all of the 2015 Guggenheim recipients!
Maud Casey is the author of The Man Who Walked Away, just released in paperback by Bloomsbury Publishing. She has also penned two previous novels: The Shape of Things to Come, a New York Times Notable Book, and Genealogy; as well as a collection of stories, Drastic. She is the recipient of the Calvino Prize and has received fellowships from the Fundación Valparaiso, Hawthornden International Writers Retreat, Château de Lavigny, Dora Maar, and the Passa Porta residency at Villa Hellebosch. Casey teaches at the University of Maryland and lives in Washington, D.C.
The girls’ mother told them stories: how their grandfather Leo had grafted French vines onto North American roots with his German-Russian hands, finding the western New York winters easy to manage after Ukraine. At the head of the lake the Couperins, who ran a rival winery, had laughed at Leo’s cultivation practices, but in 1957, when Bianca was born, Leo had his revenge. That winter’s violent cold spell left the Marburgs’ earth-shrouded vines untouched when everyone else’s were killed, and Walter Couperin lost all his hybrid vines and switched back to Concords in a fury.
Leo smiled and kept his secrets and established acres of gewurztraminer, which Couperin couldn’t grow, and rkaziteli, a Russian grape temperamental for everyone but him. The girls grew up hearing words like these: foxy, oaky, tannic, thin. Like all children, they knew more than they knew that they knew.
In the fall the cold air slipping down from the hills hung white and even below the trellises. Leo’s winery thrived, and his oldest son—Theo, the girls’ father—threw himself into the business with a great and happy passion. Peter Couperin, Walter’s heir, field-grafted Seyvals onto half his Concord stock, and still Theo outdid him.
Before Cabezon’s mom OD’d there, me and my cousins Tug and Tweety would go to the hill and hang with Manny, an older guy from the Projects. Long time ago, the hill was where the mojados lived in small houses built by farmers to keep their illegals near work. Now the place is torn up, the rooms tagged, walls falling down. Piss-stained mattresses and bent cooking spoons litter the place. I mean, bums and junkies have hustled their way through, no doubt. In fact, some tweakers had a lab here and it blew up in their faces. You could see the smoke for miles. One dude, Palo, burned himself good and wore a mask like that Phantom of the Opera guy for a while.
But that’s not why they say the hill is haunted or cursed. It’s really cause some farmer, Gandangi or Gandansky, shot himself here, when all the wets were getting off work. Tug and Tweety’s stepmom, who was the farmer’s maid, said she heard he had went gay for a mojado. Who knows? Maybe the Mexican laughed or fucked him up when the farmer tried to put the moves on. But for sure he died bloody on the hill.
Haunted or not, the hill was the place to kick it. It was where I’d smoke a bowl and watch the sun burn down without no one bugging. Things got crazy, though. It started with this game Manny made up: seeing who could hold a lit M-16 firecracker the longest. Tweety always won, until one day Manny offered Cabezon twenty bucks to hold the cuete until it exploded. Cabezon did and ended up shredding his middle finger.
Mario J. Gonzales currently lives and works in Santa Fe. He was raised in Parlier, California, a farm-worker community outside of Fresno. His short fiction has appeared in Drunken Boat, Cossack Review, Rio Grande Review, and other literary publications. He has finished a collection of short stories entitled The Importance of Being Elsewhere, which he hopes to be published soon.
Ocean Vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). A 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, he has received honors from Kundiman, Poets House, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets, as well as a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His poems appear in the New Yorker, Poetry, the Nation, Boston Review, Best New Poets 2014, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. He lives in Queens, New York.
June 6 (Saturday) 2:30-3:30 pm (Middlebury, VT):NER presents the sixth annual Midd Reunion reading, featuring faculty and alumni authors: Professor Emeritus John Elder, Lucas Gonzalez ('10), Sydney Plum ('70), India Hixon Radfar ('90), and Sue Ellen Thompson ('70). Rm. 229, Axinn Center, Middlebury College. [read more]
Florence | Sofi Stambo
The correct answer is, abandon everything in New York—the futon, the desk, the chair, and the dishes—and move here. I’d already abandoned Bulgaria, decades ago, along with the family, the books, and the bicycle. Biciclette in Italian. Also famiglia and libri. I am good at either decision-making or abandoning.
[Read The Essay]