NER DIGITAL | La Sagrada Familia: Spires | Alexandra Teague

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

SagradaFamiliaMy husband, his parents, and I stand at the top of La Sagrada Familia, spires spiking and tilting around us like great stone ocean waves, as if we are on the crow’s nest of a ship that is simultaneously pitching into sky and sinking. I’m usually scared of heights, but up here, even fear is under construction. After a century, only eight of the eighteen spires. After a century, the first stones of the Glory Façade: its roads to God and Hell both equally unbuilt.

After a decade, my husband still sleeping nightly on a pillowcase speckled with blood from his brother’s death, still angry at his father for, in the hours immediately after, disassembling his brother’s cage of finches, giving them all to somewhere. The sky. The ground. The noise his brother made gurgling blood into tubes because he had AIDS and no one had yet drawn the plans for pills to save him.

Gaudi wanted the Passion Façade to strike the onlooker with fear, the guidebook tells us. We are supposed to feel Christ’s sacrifice, to believe in death with high purpose. Forgiveness. But nothing is finished. The spire for Mary isn’t started yet; her body only more air.

My husband believed—does he still believe?—he would betray his brother’s life if he let grief go. He carried what he had—the fading stain on a pillowcase, the space where finches once rustled in the corner of a California apartment—like stone for a medieval cathedral. That blood:  brown into blue into white. He hated the inevitable washing. “Color is life,” Gaudi said. Also:  “My client is not in a hurry.”

Everything is possible in God’s time, but nothing is for sure, an Irish singer we love tells us. My husband’s family is Irish and Mexican Catholic. Mine, Irish Protestant. My husband and I are atheists. We believe in suffering for love. My mother is three years dead. We travel everywhere as a family. We play Quiddler and drink sidra and take pictures leaning into the blue between stones.

Asked why he’d lavished painstaking care on the tips of the pinnacles no one could get to, Gaudi answered, “The angels will see them.” My mother-in-law believed when her oldest son first came out he was a sinner. He died knowing she loved him. She still wouldn’t forgive herself for having to build backwards from faith to love.

My father-in-law never talked, in the six years I knew him, about the cage of finches. That hammering. The way the finches belonged to no one. I never talked about what I feared: that I could not go on carrying, around the world, the same unchanging stone.

Still: only eight apostles. Still no Virgin or Jesus. The guidebook says not even Gaudi drew plans for the whole basilica. He couldn’t know how others would need to complete it. A new subway tunnel shakes beneath now, like jackhammers, like heartbeats. The engineers say this is threatening the foundation. The engineers say this is threatening nothing. The angels say nothing. They roost, invisible on invisible spires.

 

Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography, winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and 2010 California Book Award, and The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea 2015). She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.

NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative writing for the web. “Confluences” presents writers’ encounters with works of art such as books, plays, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, or buildings. 

 

 

NER Reunion Reading 2014

Categories: NER Community, Readings
Langdon Cook, Emily Raabe, Benjamin Ehrlich, Kristen Lindquist, Michael Collier

Langdon Cook, Emily Raabe, Benjamin Ehrlich, Kristen Lindquist, Michael Collier

NER was pleased to host its fifth annual Reunion reading on Saturday, June 7, with Michael Collier, Langdon Cook, Benjamin Ehrlich, Kristen Lindquist, and Emily Raabe. A crowd of more than 60 came in from the sun to hear about mushroom hunters, lost islands, furniture scrounged from the street, the lure of Red Sox radio, and the sometimes tiresome use of birdsong. Read more about these writers and their books.

Francis-Noël Thomas | An Examination of Flemish Painters

Categories: Nonfiction

Rogier van der Weyden and James Ensor: Line and Its Deformation

From the new NER, 35.1

The grand and bombastic building on the Leopold de Waelplaats in Antwerp that has housed the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Museum of Fine Arts) since 1890 closed on October 3, 2010, for a major interior reconstruction that is not expected to be completed before 2017. During this reconstruction, some of the museum’s better known nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings have been exhibited as far from Antwerp as Japan; some of its rare fifteenth-century panel paintings were exhibited last year in the beautifully preserved sixteenth-century Rockox House, just a twenty-minute walk from the museum.

The Seven Sacraments

There is something to be said for seeing nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings and fifteenth-century paintings in separate and respectively congenial settings, but the 1890 building did more than provide wall space for paintings that had little in common with its architectural ethos and belonged to separate and sometimes antagonistic cultural worlds. The museum went beyond exhibiting individual paintings, even individual styles of painting; it exhibited antagonistic concepts of painting.

When it was inaugurated in 1810, the museum absorbed what had been the collection of the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. In 1841 that collection was supplemented by a bequest from one of the earliest and greatest collectors of Early Netherlandish painting, Florent van Ertborn, a former mayor of Antwerp. In the 1920s, it began to collect contemporary painters, notably James Ensor.

Van Ertborn’s collection was assembled at a time when the Early Netherlandish masters were out of fashion, their work unknown to all but a tiny public. Panels from what is now one of the most famous European paintings of the late middle ages, the Ghent Altarpiece (1432), were kept out of sight by nineteenth-century bishops of Ghent, who were scandalized by the life-size nude representations of Adam and Eve.

When I first went to Antwerp, it was expressly to see paintings that were part of the van Ertborn bequest, although I knew nothing about the bequest at the time and had never heard of Florent van Ertborn. I had fallen in love with the Early Netherlandish paintings I had seen in American museums and in printed images illustrating books on the subject. I knew very little of the history of the painters’ reputation.

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New Books for June from NER Authors

Categories: NER Authors' Books, NER Community

guterson

“… the boundless potential of everyday encounters.”

We congratulate NER contributor David Guterson on the publication of his newest collection of stories, Problems with People (Knopf). We are proud to have recently published his stories “Tenant” (NER 33.3) and “Feedback” (NER 35.1).

From Publisher’s Weekly: “People struggle to connect with each other in this succinct but ambitious collection of 10 stories from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars.”

David Guterson is the author of five novels: Snow Falling on Cedars (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award), East of the MountainsThe OtherOur Lady of the ForestSeattle Post-Intelliger, and Ed King; and a story collection, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind. He is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

 

978-0-8101-5244-1-frontcover“…stories so alight with lust and danger and longing and loss…”

We are pleased to announce Triquarterly Books’ publication of Let Me See It, the newest collection of short stories from NER contributor James Magruder. His short story “Matthew Aiken’s Vie Bohème” appears in NER 32.3.

Author of The Wonder Bread Summer, Jessica Anya Blau: “Let Me See It overflows with honesty, hilarity, and heart. It’s impossible not to love this book, impossible to turn away from its brilliant prose, wicked humor, and utterly engaging characters.”

James Magruder, author of the novel Sugarless, is also a playwright and award-winning translator. He teaches dramaturgy at Swarthmore College and fiction at the University of Baltimore.

 

9780812993967_custom-d846708e56eebe6d09a303e84047536cbd3f9b93-s2-c85…a vivid and often amusing portrait of the New York’s Upper East Side literary scene…

Congratulations to David Gilbert on the paperback publication of his novel, & Sons (Random). Gilbert is a 1990 graduate of Middlebury College, and read his work at a tribute event for NER hosted by Middlebury’s Potomac Theatre Project in 2012.

From The New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani: “A contemporary New York variation on The Brothers Karamazov, featuring a J. D. Salinger–like writer in the role of Father, and a protagonist who turns out to be as questionable a tour guide as the notoriously unreliable narrator of Ford Madox Ford’s classic The Good Soldier . . . a big, ambitious book about fathers and sons, Oedipal envy, and sibling rivalry, and the dynamics between art and life, talent and virtue. The novel is smart, funny, observant and . . . does a wonderful job of conjuring up its characters’ memories of growing up in New York City in layered, almost Proustian detail.”

David Gilbert is the author of the story collection Remote Feed and the novel The Normals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and Bomb.

These books can be purchased from Powell’s Books and independent booksellers. 

June 7: NER’s Middlebury Alumni and Faculty Reading

Categories: NER Community, Readings

New England Review is pleased to present a gathering of alumni and faculty authors during Middlebury’s reunion weekend on Saturday, June 7, at 2:30 p.m. Michael Collier, director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; Langdon Cook ’89; Benjamin Ehrlich ’09; Kristen Lindquist ’89; and Emily Raabe ’94 will read from their work in Middlebury College’s Axinn Center, Room 229.

michael-collier-448Michael Collier, director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, has published six books of poems, including The Ledge, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, most recently, An Individual History. With Charles Baxter and Edward Hirsch, he edited A William Maxwell Portrait. He has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Guggenheim Foundation and Thomas Watson Foundation fellowships, and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. Poet Laureate of Maryland from 2001–2004, he teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Maryland and lives in Maryland and Cornwall, Vermont.

Cook_photoLangdon Cook ’89 is a writer, instructor, and lecturer on wild foods and the outdoors. His books include The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, winner of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Book Award, and Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, which the Seattle Times called lyrical, practical and quixotic.” His writing appears in numerous publications, and he has been profiled in Bon AppetitOutside, Salon.com, and the PBS TV series Food Forward. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two children. At Middlebury, he studied writing with Jay Parini, John Elder, and David Bain.

ben-brainBenjamin Ehrlich ’09 lives in New York City, where he is a coordinating volunteer at Word Up, a bilingual community bookshop and arts space in Washington Heights. His byline has appeared in The Forward, and he contributed writing and editing to Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence, released this year by Simon & Schuster. He is a contributing editor for The Beautiful Brain, an online magazine for art and neuroscience, and a participating member of NeuWrite, a collaborative group for scientists and writers sponsored by Columbia University. He is now at work on a biography of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), “the father of modern neuroscience,” some of whose writings he has translated from the original Spanish and published in New England Review. He is a staff writer for Covered With Fur, an online nonfiction magazine forthcoming from the Austin-based publisher A Strange Object, involving fellow Middlebury ’09 alums. He graduated from Middlebury in Literary Studies.

LindquistKristen Lindquist ’89 works for a land trust in her hometown of Camden, Maine. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Oregon and enjoyed many summers at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her poetry and other writings have appeared in Down East Magazine, Maine Times, Bangor Metro, Northern Sky News,and Bangor Daily News, as well as various literary journals and anthologies. Her publications include the chapbook Invocation to the Birds (Oyster River Press) and the book Transportation (Megunticook Press), which was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. Garrison Keillor has read three poems from her book on National Public Radio’s The Writer’s Almanac. An avid birder, she has written a natural history column for the local paper for many years and maintains a daily haiku blog, Book of Days.

em in colorEmily Raabe ’94 lives in New York City with her husband, the filmmaker Paul Devlin. Her book of poems, Leave It Behind, was a runner-up for the 2011 FutureCycle First Book Award, and her novel Lost Children of the Far Islands was published by Knopf in April 2014. She is also the author of a monograph on the work of the sculptor Lawrence LaBianca, and her poetry has appeared in periodicals including Marlboro Review, Big Ugly Review, Indiana Review, Diner, Chelsea, Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Crab Orchard Review, Antioch Review, AGNI,and Eleven Eleven. She has received fellowships from the Macdowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, Rotary International, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She graduated from Middlebury with a BA in English and is currently a candidate for the PhD in English at CUNY.

 

New from Larry I. Palmer in the new New England Review—35.1

Categories: Nonfiction

The Haircut | Larry I. Palmer

It was a Wednesday around 8:30 p.m., a week before Thanksgiving, 1958, when I strolled down the third floor corridor of Bancroft Hall towards Ted Bedford’s faculty apartment. He was on duty that night—thus the open door. Jef, one of my fellow preps (what ninth graders were called at Phillips Exeter Academy), had invited me and his roommate, Brink, to spend the holiday break with his family in Salem, Massachusetts. It was the first time I had visited Bedford’s faculty office, a space sealed off in the back foyer of his family living quarters by a mahogany door exactly like the one I lingered just outside of now, in the dorm hallway, an unsigned permission slip from the Dean of Students in hand.

Bedford sat at his desk, facing away from the hall and poring over some papers as I waited for him to notice me. He turned his head towards me with a glance that asked, “What’s up?,” his eyebrows becoming question marks as he peered over his glasses. I handed him the slip and asked him to sign it because my adviser was out of town. Bedford pushed his chair away from his desk and spun to face me, his smile so wide it seemed to touch his sideburns. “Well, I got a deal for you. Before I’ll sign, you must get a haircut.”

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New from William Fargason in the New NER—Vol. 35, No.1

Categories: Poetry

Aquarium | William Fargason


You want to keep feeding the fish
inside you, but you keep

eating the fish because you’re hungry.
This is not the way it should go.

No one said you would not be hungry.
You knew the dimensions of the aquarium

inside you, knew it was inside you.
She who fogged the glass didn’t know

that you’d eaten the fish, but you did and do.
You hear the aquarium inside your chest

crack, and before you know it, the carpet
is soaked with bleached coral,

plastic kelp, and multi-colored gravel.
This is not the way it should go.

This is not how anyone should go under—
the water that you contained now contains you.

Read the PDF

New Steven Heighton Fiction From the New NER—Vol. 35, No 1

Categories: Fiction

Shared Room On Union | Steven Heighton

 

keys-707275-mThey were parked on Union, in front of her place, their knees locked in conference around the stick shift, Janna and Justin talking, necking a little, the windows just beginning to steam. We’d better stop, she said. I should go now. It was 1:00 a.m., a Thursday night turned Friday morning. Squads of drunken students were on the town. So far nobody had passed the car. Hey, take it to a Travelodge, man! Nights like this, that sort of thing could happen—one time a rigid hand had rammed the hood, another time someone had smacked the passenger window a foot from her ear, Justin’s fingers in her hair stopping dead.

I won’t miss this part, he told her.

I really should go, Jus.

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Sincere Thanks to Our Donors

Categories: Uncategorized

In the first issue of each volume it is our tradition to acknowledge the many people and institutions who support our efforts. All of us at NER offer our sincere thanks to the authors, subscribers, and readers who continue to sustain us, and in particular to the numerous donors who have demonstrated their commitment through their financial support. Each of these gifts makes an immediate impact, and we are deeply grateful. We’d also like to acknowledge the Middlebury College administration and the Office of College Advancement, who have provided continuing fundraising assistance, and the National Endowment for the Arts, for a 2014 ArtWorks grant.     ­—CK

 

 

New from Kelli Russell Agodon in the New NER—Vol. 35, No.1

Categories: Poetry

Braided Between the Broken | Kelli Russell Agodon

adams-apple-1068370-m

This morning apologies were falling
from the trees and the apples
were being ignored.
 
There’s a chapter in our lives
where I tried to shred pages,
where I tried to rewrite the tale.
Let’s call that chapter, The Numbness,
or The Boredom, or the place where we forgot
we were alive.
 
That morning I woke up and wandered outside
onto the backtrail,
past the No Trespassing sign into the arms
of an evergreen or a black bear. It didn’t matter
who held me then; I was moss, the lichen,
the mushroom growing on the fallen log. [Read more]