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Louise Erdrich to Receive 2009 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement

KRALA logoThe Board of Trustees of The Kenyon Review is pleased to honor Louise Erdrich as the 2009 recipient of the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement at a gala dinner on Thursday, November 5 at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. Tickets are $1,000 per person and include dinner and cocktails, with proceeds benefiting The Kenyon Review. Members of the literary community and other luminaries are expected to be on hand, including past winners of the award. Following the dinner, Erdrich will travel to Gambier, Ohio, to give the keynote presentation at the third annual Kenyon Review Literary Festival.

Erdrich is the author of 12 novels, as well as three books of poems, a series of children’s books, a collection of stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her first novel, Love Medicine, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. Her most recent novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize and New York Times bestseller, and she has recently released The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008 to great critical acclaim. The Kenyon Review, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, has launched the Big Read Knox County, a community reading celebration of Erdrich’s first novel, Love Medicine.

The daughter of a Chippewa Indian mother and a German-American father, Erdrich was born in Little Falls, Minnesota in 1954, and raised in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents were both teachers at the Bureau of Indian Affairs school. She is the eldest of seven children. Erdrich was part of the first class of women at Dartmouth College, graduating in 1976. Her first year there, 1972, was also the year the Native-American studies department was created at the college. She later earned an M.A. in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University in 1979.

Louise Erdrich

Critics cite her as a seminal American writer, noting her prolific body of work as well as her artistic interest in addressing the cultural issues facing modern-day Native American and mixed heritage Americans. An essayist for Contemporary Novelists has noted: “Erdrich’s accomplishment is that she is weaving a body of work that goes beyond portraying contemporary Native American life as descendants of a politically dominated people to explore the great universal questions—questions of identity, pattern versus randomness, and the meaning of life itself.” It has been suggested that her nonlinear narratives and circular stories—where characters that appear in one novel may appear in another, years later—articulate a storytelling style with a lyrical sense of time, a style that highlights the thematic touchstones of love, loss, grief, and recovery around which her oeuvre is organized, rather than a simple conventional narrative progression of one action leading to the next.

Erdrich lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.

The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement was first presented in 2002 to novelist E.L. Doctorow, a 1952 graduate of Kenyon, who is known for such works as The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, and Loon Lake and more recently for The March. In 2003 the recipient was novelist and short-story writer Joyce Carol Oates, author of Wonderland, Do With Me What You Will, and We Were the Mulvaneys, among many other titles. In 2004, Seamus Heaney, recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, received the award. In 2005, KR honored Roger Angell, the renowned baseball writer who has also been fiction editor of the New Yorker, and Umberto Eco, the Italian author of such best-selling novels as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum. The 2006 recipient was novelist Ian McEwan, author of the Booker Prizewinning Amsterdam and the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award winning Atonement, and in 2007 KR honored Margaret Atwood, the author of such acclaimed novels as The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin. Last year’s recipient was novelist Richard Ford, author of such acclaimed novels as The Sportswriter and the Pulitzer Prize winning Independence Day, along with the critically acclaimed collection of stories, Rock Springs.

Proceeds from the dinner, and from the live auction that accompanies it, ensure the legacy of one of America’s most revered literary journals. It also supports scholarships and fellowships to KR’s summer writing programs, the Writers Workshop for adults and the Young Writers program for high-school students. The magazine’s literary outreach programs include the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers, established in 2003, which attracts thousands of entries from across the globe.

For more information about the 2009 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, please email KR.


Poetry Contest logo

2009 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers Begins in November

The sixth annual Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers will begin accepting entries in November. The prize, which is open to high school sophomores and juniors throughout the world, is juried by David Baker, KR’s poetry editor.

More than 600 entries were received last year, with the winner, Felicity Sheehy of New York, receiving a full scholarship to KR’s popular Young Writers summer workshop. The top two runners up received partial scholarships to attend the summer workshop, and all three poets will be published in the Fall issue of The Kenyon Review.

Students are invited to submit one poem via an online program beginning November 1. Visit KR’s web site for a link to the contest submission page at that time. The contest will close on November 30.

High school teachers are encouraged to pass along this information to sophomores and juniors.


Managing Editor Remembered

Cy Wainscott

The Kenyon Review is sad to note the death of Cy Wainscott. He died at his home on Sunday, September 27, after a battle with cancer.

Cy Wainscott served as Managing Editor of the Review for over five years, until his retirement in 1998. He was the former managing editor at the Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked for more than twenty years. He was a copy editor there when he met his future wife, then-reporter Judith McCluskey, a Gambier native. Former KR Managing Editor, Meg Galipault, remembers Cy as a generous and thoughtful colleague who enjoyed mentoring students interested in journalism.

After leaving the Plain Dealer he worked for three years as the assistant vice president for university relations at Kansas State University.

He was never shy about emerging technology. From 1988 to 1991, he worked as a consultant for Atex, a software-development firm prominent at the time for its work with print media. He traveled the country and the world, advising newspapers about improving operations through technology. His stops included newsrooms in New Zealand, Poland, Scotland, and Sweden. He worked as an independent newspaper consultant from 1991 until he was hired by The Kenyon Review in 1993. Cy’s tenure at the Review coincided with a major shift in the publishing world: the transition from outsourced typesetting and layout to in-house production. His knowledge of and facility with technology made him especially suited to usher the Review into this new phase of publishing. Loretta Godfrey, longtime chief copy editor of The Kenyon Review, who remembers Cy working in the tiny basement office of Sunset Cottage, expressed a great deal of respect for his vision in bringing the production of the journal in-house.

“He knew the ins and outs of publishing better than anyone I’ve ever known,” said David Lynn, editor of The Kenyon Review. “He was a perfectionist who strove to make The Kenyon Review the best it could possibly be.”


The KR Family Tree

Think of this section as a bulletin from KR in which we brag about the accomplishments of the extended KR family and leave out the gall-bladder surgeries.

Cara Blue Adams’ forthcoming story “Exit” will appear in the October issue of The Sun. She also has stories out this month in New South and Copper Nickel.

Lynn Ahrens is pleased to announce the Broadway revival of the Tony Award winning musical Ragtime for which she wrote the lyrics. Previews begin on October 23rd. Ahrens also has an essay, “White Fish,” forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, and a short story, “Rendition,” forthcoming in Glimmer Train Stories.

Meena Alexander’s new book Poetics of Dislocation (University of Michigan Poets on Poetry Series) and a collection of essays about her work, Passage to Manhattan: Critical Essays on Meena Alexander, edited by Lopamudra Basu and Cynthia Leenerts, (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK)
will both come out in November.

Sarah Arvio’s poem “Wood” is forthcoming in the New Yorker. Her poem “Whorl” is forthcoming in the New Republic. Her poem “Algarve” is forthcoming in a special issue of Triquarterly edited by Edward Hirsch.

Beth Bachmann‘s first book, Temper, selected by Lynn Emanuel as winner of
the AWP Award Series 2008 Donald Hall Prize, is out now from Pitt Poetry
Series. Info and poems are up at www.bethbachmann.com

Mary Jo Bang’s new book The Bride of E, is out this month from Graywolf; it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Alexei Bayer translated a few stories for a collection of contemporary Russian fiction for Life Stories, a charitable project to benefit old age hospices in Russia. The book has just come out.

Dan Beachy-Quick’s new book of poetry, This Nest, Swift Passerine, is now out from Tupelo Press.

Robin Behn‘s book of poems The Yellow House will be out from Spuyten Duyvil this spring. Meanwhile she is writing poems to be wrapped up inside the music of her traditional music band Waxwing. Waxwing will perform Fiddle Tune Poems on the Spoken Word Stage at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Asheville NC on May 16, 2010.

Margo Berdeshevsky‘s new book of illustrated short-short stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, recipient of the FC2/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Award has just been published by University of Alabama Press.

David Bergman’s book Gay American Autobiography: Writing from Whitman to Sedaris was published in June by The University of Wisconsin Press.

Paula Bohince received a 2009 NEA fellowship in Poetry. Her poem “Mother’s Quail” recently appeared in the New Yorker.

Joseph Campana received an Individual Artist’s Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance
in 2009. Some recent publications include an essay in Modern Philology, some poems in Guernica, Salt, Colorado Review (republished in Verse Daily), and Boston Review.

Kara Candito‘s collection of poetry, Taste of Cherry (Winner of the 2008 Prairie Schooner Book Prize), has just been published by University of Nebraska Press.

Janet Chalmers’ “Geetha Burning,” a poem about bride burning in India, was included in the 2009 issue of Mamapalooza Magazine. “Letter to My Mother,” another take on the Persephone myth, was accepted by 13th Moon.

Colin Cheney’s first book of poems, Here Be Monsters, was chosen by David Wojahn as a winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series, and will be published in April 2010 by University of Georgia Press.

Eddie Chuculate, whose story, “Dear Shorty,” is forthcoming in the Winter 2010 Kenyon Review, has a debut collection of short stories forthcoming in Spring 2010 through Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, Publisher, in Boston. “Dear Shorty” is included in the collection, titled “Cheyenne Madonna.”

Tom Clark has four books forthcoming in the next few months: Problems of Thought: Paradoxical Essays (Skanky/Effing), The New World (Libellum), Trans/Versions (Libellum) and Something in the Air (Farfalla). His poetry blog can be found at: tomclarkblog.blogspot.com

Brian Doyle has a collection of ‘spiritual essays’ coming out in spring 2010, to be called Grace Notes.

Gerald Duff has signed a contract with TCU Press in Fort Worth, Texas, to publish his memoir Home Truths: A Deep East Texas Memory.

Kathy Fagan’s new book of poems, Lip, was published in June by Eastern Washington University Press. She also has an essay forthcoming in River Teeth.

Paul Goldberger has two books coming out this fall: Why Architecture Matters, published by the Yale University Press (and excerpted in KR) and Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture, a collection of his architecture columns from the New Yorker, published by Monacelli Press.

Rachel Hadas coedited an anthology of Greek poetry in translation from Homer to the present, The Greek Poets, (forthcoming from Norton at the end of 2009) along with Peter Constantine, Karen Van Dyck, and Edmund Keeley. Her new book of poems The Ache of Appetite is forthcoming soon from Copper Beech Press. Her (as yet) untitled dementia memoir about her husband’s illness is forthcoming in 2010 from Paul Dry Books.

Githa Hariharan’s new novel, Fugitive Histories, was published by Penguin India in February 2009.

Joy Harjo’s coming-of-age young adult picture book For A Girl Becoming, will be released October 2009, with illustrations by Mercedes McDonald from the University of Arizona Press.

Andrew Hudgins‘ new book Shut Up, You’re Fine: Poems for Very, Very Bad Children, with illustrations by Barry Moser came out in March. Last fall the Library of America published his James Agee: Selected Poems. Hudgins’ next book, American Rendering: New and Selected Poems, is coming out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next March.

Scott Kenemore’s book The Art of Zombie Warfare is forthcoming from Skyhorse Publishing in the summer of 2010.

Brad Kessler’s Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese came out three months ago and is in its fifth printing.

Poet Daniel Khalastchi recently won the Tupelo Press First Book Award. His manuscript, The Maturation of Man, is forthcoming in 2011.

Alex Lemon’s debut memoir Happy will be published in December by Scribner. In March, Milkweed Editions will publish his third collection of poems, Fancy Beasts. Poems from the book have, or will appear in Esquire, Third Coast, Southern Review, jubilat, and Quarterly West among other publications.

James Longenbach’s fourth book of poems, The Iron Key, which will include “The Island,” previously published in KR, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in the fall of 2010.

Joanie Mackowski’s new book View from a Temporary Window will be out from University of Pittsburgh Press this January, 2010. Her poems also appear in The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets and 2009 Best American Poetry.

Amit Majmudar’s first collection of poetry, 0′,0′ [Zero Degrees, Zero Degrees] is just out from Northwestern University Press/ TriQuarterly Books.

Ben Miller’s poem “Pipe Birds” was recently chosen as a winner of the Bright Lights Big Verse: Poems of Times Square contest sponsored by the Poetry Society of America.

Meghan O’Rourke won the 2008 May Sarton award for poetry.

Stanley Plumly recently received The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award runner-up prize for biography for Posthumous Keats; and the John Corrington Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement, given by Centenary College.

Kevin Prufer and D. A. Powell are editing a book due out soon on the great, unknown poet Dunstan Thompson. A gay GI poet (who later became a committed Catholic poet), Thompson’s truly brilliant, harrowing, sometimes violent poetry has been out of print for more than 50 years.

Ron Rash’s new book of stories, Burning Bright, will come out in March, 10, from Ecco.

Thomas Reiter’s new book of poems, Catchment, will appear from LSU Press in October. His poems appear in current or upcoming issues of Hudson Review, Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, Cincinnati Review, Caribbean Writer, Caribbean Review of Books, and Shenandoah.

David Reynolds’ book Waking Giant: American in the Age of Jackson will appear on Oct. 1 in paperback. It was selected among the Notable Books of the Year by the NYT Book Review and among the Best of 2008 by the Washington Post.

Nick Ripatrazone’s story “Never, Ever Bring This Up Again” was a runner-up in the Esquire fiction contest. It will be published online in early October.

Steven Schwartz is the winner of the 2009 Cohen Award for the best story of the year from Ploughshares.

Maurya Simon’s new novel in verse, entitled The Raindrop’s Gospel: The Trials of St. Jerome & St. Paula, is due out in January 2010 from Elixir Press.

John Smelcer, whose poems have appeared in KR many times over the past 15 years, has a new novel due out this month. The Great Death will be available in the US, Canada, and the UK in late October. His poetry book The Binghamton Poems just came out from Foothills Press in NY. The poems in the collection were selected and edited by his friend, the late John Updike.

Arthur Sze just published his eighth book of poetry, The Ginkgo Light, with Copper Canyon Press.

Chase Twichell’s new book Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New & Selected Poems is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press.

Ellen Bryant Voigt has published The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Speech, Rhythm of Song, with Graywolf Press. Last spring, she received The Poets’ Prize for her last collection, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 (W.W. Norton).

William Wenthe received the 2009 Everett Southwest Literary Award for his book-length manuscript of a book of poems, Words Before Dawn. The award, open to writers from New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, is awarded biennially for an unpublished book manuscript, and administered by the University of Central Oklahoma.

Former KR Fiction Editor Nancy Zafris has news from her new job as Editor of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction: The 2010 winners of the FOC award are Linda Grover and Jessica Treadway. Their books will be published in October 2010. Meanwhile, the books of 2009 winners Lori Ostlund and Geoffrey Beckers are now available. Lori Ostlund’s collection, The Bigness of the World, has received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. And finally, Zafris’ first book, The People I Know, itself a Flannery O’Connor winner, has been reissued in paperback.

Lit Fest logo

The third annual Kenyon Review Literary Festival will be held in Gambier, Ohio on November 4-7, 2009.

The festival complements the eighth annual Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, which will take place on November 6 in New York City. The award recipient this year is Louise Erdrich. Erdrich will then travel to Gambier, Ohio, to give the Festival’s keynote presentation, the Denham Sutcliffe Memorial Lecture.

The festival is designed to bring literature home with seminars, readings, and more, available to Ohio residents and visitors across the country. Highlights of the festival include the Writers’ Harvest (11/4, 8pm), a student-organized fundraiser to help the hungry, an Ojibwe Poetry Reading (11/6, 7:30pm) featuring Kimberley Blaeser, Heid Erdrich, and Gordon Henry, readings by Kenyon authors (11/7, 10am), a continuation of the Online Love Medicine Book Discussion (11/7, 2pm), and the keynote event, An Evening with Louise Erdrich (11/7, 8pm).

In conjunction with the Council of Literary Magazines & Presses (CLMP), the festival will play host to the CLMP Midwest Literary Magazine & Small Press Fair. In addition to panels and readings, the Fair offers dozens of literary magazines as well as Kenyon Review preview books for sale at discount prices.

Sponsorship provided by: First-Knox National Bank, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, WOSU Public Media, and the Denham Sutcliffe Memorial Lecture Series.

Click here for the full schedule of Literary Festival Events.

Click here to reserve your free ticket(s) for the keynote address.


Join us for The Big Read in October!

KR’s Big Read continues in October with the kickoff of the Love Medicine Online Book Discussion moderated by KR editor David Lynn, and KR associate editor Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky. Click here to join the discussion.

Additional events taking place throughout October include:

  1. Oct. 7, 12:00 p.m. — Brown Bag Chat: An Overview of the NEA Big Read, Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Mount Vernon.
  2. Oct. 14, 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. — Literature and Lunch/Lattes with Anne Storan. Join Anne for a discussion about the various revisions of Love Medicine throughout the years, Sips Coffee Shop, Mount Vernon.
  3. Oct. 15, 12:00 p.m. — Love Medicine Book Discussion, Kenyon College Bookstore, Gambier.
  4. Oct. 17, 3:00-6:00 p.m. — Love Medicine Craft Project for grades three and above at the Brown Family Environmental Center Harvest Festival, 9781 Laymon Road, Gambier. Directions: Follow Route 229 four miles east of Mount Vernon, and turn right on Laymon Road.
  5. Oct. 19, 6:30 p.m. — Love Medicine Book Discussion, Lulu’s Café & Bistro, Danville.
  6. Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m. — Love Medicine Book Discussion, Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Mount Vernon.
  7. Oct. 21, 7:00 p.m. — The Big Read Knox County Film Series: Nokomis: Voices of Anishinabe Grandmothers, KAC Theater, Gambier.
  8. Oct. 23, 7:00 p.m. — Readers’ Theater adaptation of Love Medicine: Lipsha’s Journey, ThePlace@TheWoodward, 111 S. Main St., Mount Vernon.
  9. Oct. 27, 6:30 p.m. — Love Medicine Book Discussion, Fredericktown Public Library, Fredericktown.
  10. Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. — Love Medicine Book Discussion, Centerburg Public Library, Centerburg.
  11. Nov. 2, 7:00 p.m. — Student-led Love Medicine Book Discussion, Ramser Community Room, in the corner of the Thorne Library, Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
  12. Nov. 4, 12:00 p.m. — Brown Bag Chat: Focus on the Author, Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Mount Vernon.
  13. Nov. 5, 4:30 p.m. — Student-led Love Medicine Book Discussion, Ringwalt Room, Kenyon College Library, Gambier.

All events are free and open to the public.

A $10,000 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts provides for the free distribution of the book. The NEA launched the Big Read initiative in 2006 to restore reading to its role at the center of American culture. About 400 communities have engaged in Big Read projects, tapping into an NEA library of thirty selected works, including Love Medicine. The Big Read is an initiative of the NEA developed in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Our supporters also include First-Knox National Bank, the Ohio Arts Council, and WOSU Public Media.


From KROnlineElaine Bleakney

Glass

I was fixed in him; glass would not stream from itself.

I took the window down; the woods now

other woods surrounding. I took myself to a class on
       Berry Street.

The place for him inarticulate. Tandem, the teacher took
       me along the metal

rod to river

 

in glass, the oven. She fished; she knew how much time;
       I followed.

Swooning the molten glass out high on the rod.

Wrists, wrists, wrists (she said) rolling the rod across
       my lap.

Someone else kissed, someone else lodged it.

I rowed in a scarred wooden cup.

KROnline is the online version of The Kenyon Review. New fiction, essays, poetry, and reviews are published on a biweekly basis. Check back often to read some of the most cutting edge material you’ll find anywhere on the web. Click here to see our latest offering.


From the KR Blog

To you, I give my solitude

 

September 19th, 2009 — Darcie Dennigan

I am an extremely busy person. I keep an eye on the world . . .

I watch the almond trees on the street below.

When I visit the Botanical Gardens I soon become weary. There I have to keep an eye on thousands of plants and trees, especially the gigantic water-lilies . . .

I can remember the terrifying face of one woman I saw on the street, a face devoid of any expression . . .

That is Clarice Lispector talking. But I, too, am kept extremely busy by my many watching responsibilities.

There is a bridge near my apartment that is stuck in the raised position, and I have to stare at it in many kinds of light. If the day still has some sun, I have to also stare at the bridge’s shadow on the water. I don’t even have time to get into the huge responsibilities that living near water entails. Too, my apartment is on a hill, and being able to see above the roofs of the neighbors to the east also creates endless tasks—I have to watch the moon and the clouds, and the birds in v formations, and since it is autumn now, I have to watch the sky itself . . . Never mind the man across the street who comes home from work on a bike at 6 am. Never mind the family of skunks beneath the shed.

Clarice Lispector even watched for ants.

I kept a watchful eye on these insects when I was little and now that I so dearly long to see them again, I cannot find a single ant. I know they have not been exterminated otherwise I should have been told. Keeping an eye on the world also requires a lot of patience: I must wait for the ants to reappear. Patience. While watching the flowers open imperceptibly, little by little.

“But,” Lispector writes, “I still have not found the person to whom I should report my findings.”

Yeah. There’s that.

To whom to report?

For the kids-books-kitchen floors-jobs-snubs-cupcakes-cars reportage, there are many outlets. But reporting on business of the Clarice Lispector kind needs another platform.

It is a bit like praying, blogging is. You want to pray for your child, or for the child in the newspaper. Or you want to hear your own voice counting aloud tiny events and ants from your day before that day is obliterated.

But as you start to pray, you think, but why should I be listened to? And how far into the prayer do you get each time before you remember?—I don’t even believe in God.

Maybe to blog, to sketch, to write a literary-ish weekly column in the late 1960s for a local Brazilian newspaper a la Lispector, is to to render what you might have shared over dinner or in bed or on a late walk, aloud or silently, if you had known with whom to share it. (Here: This is what I am when I am alone.

But why write of tiny things at all? Even as she wrote her newspaper column, Lispector maintained that writing too much and too often contaminated the word, that it was writing ‘from the fingertips and not the heart.’

Click here to finish this blog post.


JSTOR

JSTOR Subscription Offer

Trying to make your money go farther? Subscribe today to The Kenyon Review and receive over 200 issues for the price of four! At the current rate of $30 per subscription, you’ll not only receive four handsome print issues of The Kenyon Review, but you’ll also receive access to the digitized KR archive via JSTOR during your subscription year. Have the last 70 years of KR at your fingertips! The archive is keyword searchable; search by author, by title, or by a single word—the search engine scans each story, poem, essay, excerpt and review published by KR for a match. Find what you didn’t even know you were looking for! To receive this special offer, visit our subscription page and use the promotional code “JNOC09” in the comments section.

Click here to access this offer.


From the KR ArchivesReadings for Writers

Don DeLillo’s short piece “Coming Sun. Mon. Tues.” is reprinted in KR’s new anthology, Readings for Writers. It first appeared in KR Summer 1966, Vol.XXVIII, No. 3).

 

Coming Sun. Mon. Tues.

The bitterness and urgency of today’s rebellious youth . . . tender and lyrical . . . A social document of aimless teenagers seeking their identity . . . evocative and bittersweet . . . the tragic boomerang of adolescent passions . . . A visual treat . . . somewhat controversial.
 — The Times

It is Fifth Avenue in late afternoon in autumn and the shadows darken the street. The boy wears a heavy sweater and desert boots. He has long hair. The girl is pretty. She is wearing a heavy sweater. It is Fifth Avenue or Grosvenor Square. She has lovely eyes. They look in the shop windows. Mannequins in fur and diamonds. Ladies’ shoes atop red velvet. An eight million dollar necklace. She whirls and pirouettes, dreaming of inaugural balls or being presented to the Queen. A few middle-aged people stare at her and shake their heads. What is the world coming to. She giggles and takes the boy’s hand and they skip away to the park. They walk in the park. Leaves are falling. It is that golden time of day. There are boats on the lake. The sun is going down behind the Dakota Apartments or the London Hilton and she chases a squirrel across the grass in the soft darkening afternoon. Then they are drinking wine. They are in his small room drinking wine. Her eyes are lovely. The boy is talking. He is being bitter about something. Eventually it becomes clear. It’s the world. He is being bitter about the world. He chain-smokes and drinks a lot of wine. It is Greenwich Village or the West Side. It is either of those or it is Soho or it is Montmartre. After a while she does a little pirouette and he gets up and stands in front of the bathroom mirror and makes funny faces in the mirror. Then they make funny faces together. He kisses her. She becomes pregnant. She is pregnant and they talk to an abortionist. The abortionist’s office is cold and sterile. Everything in the office is white. The boy and girl are nervous but the abortionist’s nurse is not nervous. The nurse has hooded eyes. She smokes a cigarette. The abortionist is smooth and very much to the point. He’s been through this scene thousands of times. He has a moustache and long, elegant fingers. He tells them to come back next Tuesday. They leave the office. The boy puts his arm around the girl. They are not on Fifth Avenue. They are near the waterfront. A drunk is sleeping in a doorway. They are trying to decide what to do. The girl writes a letter to her mother in the suburbs and then tears it up. The boy runs from one end of Chicago to the other. Then he looks for a job to get the money for the abortion. He is interviewed by a series of tall men with elegant fingers and they all tell him that they’ll let him know if anything turns up. He insults one of the men, an old school chum of his father’s who is the president of a management consultant firm and cannot understand why the boy did not finish college. The boy insults him beautifully. The man is so out of it that he is not even sure he has been insulted. Then the boy and girl go to a store in San Francisco or Toronto or Liverpool. They steal some groceries. They leave the store laughing with the groceries under their heavy sweaters. Then the boy stops at a flower stand and steals a flower for the girl. Then they go home and she cries. Then they go to a party. Everybody at the party is a phony except for one guy who’s a West Indian or an American Negro or a French Canadian. This guy tells them that they don’t know the first thing about being bitter. They have no right to be bitter. He tells them a thing or two about life and death. Everybody else is doing the freddy and this guy is telling them about real suffering, real pain. Telling it like it is. Then he rolls up his sleeve and shows them how he was wounded in Vietnam or Mississippi. Meanwhile everybody is doing the freddy and talking about Andy Warhol or the Animals. The boy and girl go home again. The Vietnam or Mississippi thing has put their troubles in a truer perspective. They play hide-and-seek under the covers of his tiny bed. Then they take turns feeling the girl’s belly. They go to the Louvre and the girl sticks out her tongue at the Mona Lisa. Some middle-aged people shake their heads. The next day the girl gets up early and goes to school and the boy sits around smoking and looking in the mirror. Then he steals a car. He drives past all the ancient monuments of Rome or Athens. He sees his father come out of a hotel with a woman who is not his mother. He slumps down low in the driver’s seat and watches. His father talks to the woman for a few seconds and then kisses her and they walk off in different directions. The boy just sits there. He sits there. Cars are piling up behind him and horns are blowing. Then he is standing on a bridge above the Thames. Leaves and garbage float by. He goes home and sees that the flower he had stolen for the girl is dead. He throws the flower away so she won’t see it when she gets home from school. Then she gets home and tells him to return the stolen car. He gives her a hard time, saying basically that nothing means anything so why bother. She says if that’s your concept of life I don’t want to see you anymore. So she goes home to the suburbs. She has roast beef and mashed potatoes with her mother and father and older sister. Dessert is chocolate cake. Her mother wants to know why she’s failing Civics and Arithmetic and where she’s been the last three days and nights. The girl tries to be nice. Things are different now, mom. It’s not like when you were growing up. The father makes an attempt at paternal understanding. Takes the positive approach. Compliments her on the fine job she’s been doing in English Lit. Says he likes the Beatles. Then the older sister’s date shows up. He has a crew-cut and wears a button-down shirt. He makes a lot of comments about the junior chamber of commerce and the local country club. He’s in the executive training program of a huge management consultant firm. He’s also a lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. Brags about the fact that his country club just admitted its first Jew. The girl wants to know why they didn’t do it twenty years ago. Older sister gets mad and tells her to go to her room. In her room she looks in the mirror. Then she feels her belly for a few minutes and repacks her suitcase. The boy stands in front of a movie theater looking at a poster of Jean Paul Belmondo. He goes to a bar. The place is full of hookers and pimps. Derelicts slip from their bar stools and lie in the saw- dust. The juke is playing mean, lowdown jazz. The bartender is fat and ugly. A very clean-cut man comes up to the boy and arrests him. The boy’s father visits him in jail and they have an argument. The boy doesn’t want to mention the strange woman he had seen with his father but in the heat of the argument it slips out. The father is ashamed. He offers to foot all the bills if the boy would only go to the Sorbonne or Michigan State. The boy calls this gesture a moral bribe and he laughs sardonically. Then he is released in the custody of his father and he goes back to his small flat in Chelsea and looks in the mirror. His parole officer tries to talk some sense into him. The parole officer is a nice guy. He has kids of his own, same age as the boy. The boy goes to his room and plays the guitar. He runs through the mad Los Angeles night. Then the girl comes in with her suitcase and they live together. Both of them wear heavy sweaters and blue jeans and desert boots. The girl whirls and pirouettes. She is not too good-looking but she has lovely eyes. They go to Coney Island or Brighton. They ride on the roller coaster and the carousel and they look at themselves in the distorted mirrors. He is nine feet tall and very skinny. She is short and squat and it reminds her that she is pregnant. They think of the abortionist. She feels her belly and smiles. They are going to have the baby. Then he chases her along the beach. Seagulls slant across the dying afternoon. They go behind a sand-dune and kiss. They go home. He kills a roach. They see what their life together is going to be like.

The end.

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