About the Cover
Our cover design by Nanette Black
features Route 360. Virginia, 1964 by Emmet Gowin, professor
of photography at Princeton University. A retrospective of his work,
Emmet Gowin/Photographs: This Vegetable Earth Is but a Shadow,
was published in 1990 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His award-winning
work is represented by Pace Wildenstein MacGill Gallery in New York.
This year, 1999, marks the sixtieth anniversary
of The Kenyon Review. We mark the occasion, not with horns
blaring and banners waving, but with a quiet sense of satisfaction.
It’s truly an achievement that KR survives, financially
sound, its mission uncompromised in presenting the best of new writing.
After years of instability, of a growing need for subsidy by Kenyon
College, we have turned an important corner. With generous support
from our readers, with the leadership of our new Board of Trustees,
we are striving for financial independence. That’s still a vision,
not a reality. But with vigilance and determination we’ll fulfill
that vision. In the meantime, we have a magazine to publish (not
to mention managing special events, summer workshops, a Web site,
and the like). This will be all the horns and banners we need to
mark a happy sixtieth.
This issue of KR introduces a new feature,
Kenyon Review New Voices. We will use this as an opportunity
to highlight the work of talented writers who, though not necessarily
unpublished, have yet to establish a major presence on the literary
scene. They will be introduced by a senior writer or critic, someone
familiar with—and enthused by—their work. This new series
will alternate with our continuing Kenyon Review Classics,
wherein we reprint a selection from the treasure trove of KR‘s
First Series, along with a contemporary revaluation.
We launch New Voices with Keith Banner’s
exceptional story “The Smallest People Alive,” introduced
by poet and editor David Bergman. Keith Banner came to our attention
in the summer of 1997 when he attended the Kenyon Review Writer’s
Workshop (see the web page about summer
1999’s Workshop). Writing every day in class with Nancy Zafris,
Keith turned out remarkably powerful fiction. One exercise, designed
for the particular workshop, captured his imagination: it grew feverishly;
four months later he sold the completed novel to Knopf.
Of course, featuring the work of exceptional younger
or emerging writers is nothing new for the Review. That
has always been an explicit part of our mission and our tradition.
Every issue offers a mix, distinguished writers known throughout
the U.S. and even the world, along with those just beginning their
careers. We strive to make that mix vibrant, surprising—delightful.
The single guiding criterion is one of excellence. And though, naturally
enough, such discriminations often come down to a matter of editorial
taste—not everyone will like the same tang on the palate—I
believe the pursuit and capture of literary excellence is what justifies
our labors. (And it’s what our readers expect when they open our
So slog on we do, our small staff faithfully winnowing
the vast stacks of unsolicited manuscripts that arrive with the
daily mail. Reading them, responding to hopeful writers in a timely
fashion, is an inescapable burden. Yet there are few pleasures as
intense, as unexpected, as satisfying as opening yet another manila
envelope, beginning to read, and suddenly, surely, in the heart
and kidneys and soul, feeling the stab of recognition: that this
is the real thing.
Speaking of a small but talented staff; I’m delighted
to welcome KR‘s new managing editor, Tom Bigelow. Tom brings
energy, imagination, and experience to this critical position. We
also welcome two new trustees, Kristina Peterson, executive vice
president, Random House Children’s Publishing, and Kenneth J. Roberts,
chairman and CEO, Lippincott and Margulies. We’re set to embark
on an exciting new decade for the magazine and a new millennium
for us all.