Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.
— To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Thanks to the good folks at Electric Literature for inviting me to recommend a story on behalf of Ecotone, and especially for making one of my all-time favorites, David Means’s “The Junction,” available for everyone to read. Visit Recommended Reading posthaste to find out why I love this gorgeous story and relish reading it again and again.
Issue No. 116
Last year my publishing students, coeditors, and I pored over a decade of Ecotone back issues—including more than twenty stories reprinted or noted in the Best American, Pushcart, and PEN/O. Henry series—with the near impossible task of…
We were acquaintances becoming friends. We sensed poetic movements within each other like two houses side by side where lights were turned on in different rooms and the occupants of each house, going their separate ways to different destinies, pause to recognize the neighboring pattern of illumination.
— Janet Frame, from the third and final book of her autobiography, The Envoy of Mirror City, with thanks to lovely Hannah for lifting this one off the page and sharing
We uploaded this gem to the printer yesterday evening! Look for Ecotone's summer issue on newsstands in about a month. Featuring new pieces by some of my favorite writers (with whom I was extraordinarily privileged to work), including Belle Boggs, Joni Tevis, Ander Monson, Delaney Nolan, Carrie Fountain, Vievee Francis, Margaree Little, Dexter Booth, and Melissa Range, as well as a story by Matthew Neill Null, whose novel Honey from the Lion is forthcoming from Lookout in 2015. The cover painting and art portfolio are by South African artist Kirsten Sims, and my conversation with her will appear in the issue as well.
And now I cannot remember how I would
have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.
The place, of movement and an order.
The place of old order.
But the tail end of the movement is new.
Driving us to say what we are thinking.
It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand
and think of going no further.
And it is good when you get to no further.
It is like a reason that picks you up and
places you where you always wanted to be.
This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.
Then there is no promise in the other.
Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,
and lucky for us.
And then it got very cool.
—John Ashbery’s poem, commissioned for the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Pleased to have three poems forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VII: North Carolina, due out this fall. Thanks to editors Jesse Graves, Paul Ruffin, and William Wright.
To have been loved once by someone—surely
There is a permanent good in that,
Even if we don’t know all the circumstances
Or it happened too long ago to make any difference.
Like almost too much sunlight or an abundance of sweet-sticky,
Caramelized things—who can tell you it’s wrong?
— John Ashbery, from “When the Sun Went Down”
The universally recognized paragons of humanity—the Nelson Mandelas, Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Martin Luther Kings—did not organize their lives around self-fulfillment and bucket lists. They, no doubt, found a sense of meaning in their heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but they did not do what they were doing in order to achieve that sense of meaning. They did—like my father and some of those kids from town—what they felt they had to do.
— Gordon Marinoa, from “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’" in the NY Times (May 17, 2014)
But beautiful women are not fighters against time, leaping desperately against the rapids; they are investors in the moment. And their chief property is their imagination. I recently saw [Catherine] Deneuve at the Cannes Film Festival, and she looked like a human being who was only just beginning to embody her specialness.
True beauty outwits its own fallibility. Don’t misunderstand me. There’s something fantastic about the beauty of youth—the spectacle of a new person suddenly arriving at their physical peak. And we can celebrate that happy accident for what it is: a case of time and nature working pleasingly to an individual’s advantage. But beauty in youth requires nothing of the possessor. It is only later that we expect the woman to step in, to take over, to augment that initial, guileless attractiveness with something deeper: confidence, instinct, self-knowledge, style, upon which lasting beauty depends. You can love a young woman for her freshness but you love her more when that freshness comes with a sense of promise.
That might be a defining feature of beauty in the women I’ve been talking about, a natural determination, a historic one, perhaps, not to allow their beauty to be at war with their talent … now perhaps we can look at a beautiful woman and know she will be beautiful to the end of her life. She will be different, of course. And yet, like a fine Proustian sentence, she will have gathered time and harvested memory, lived through a million bodily shocks and mental joys and arrived at the perfect embodiment of herself right now. The girl she once was in the summer dress had always known this could happen.
— Excerpted from Andrew O’Hagan’s essay “Laws of Attraction” in T magazine (August 25, 2013).
Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments.
Berlin and Akhmatova could experience that sort of life-altering conversation because they had done the reading. They were spiritually ambitious. They had the common language of literature, written by geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves.
The night also stands as the beau ideal of a certain sort of bond. This sort of love depends on so many coincidences that it only happens once or twice in a lifetime. Berlin and Akhmatova felt all the pieces fitting amazingly into place. They were the same in many ways. There was such harmony that all the inner defenses fell down in one night.
Excerpted from David Brooks’s op-ed in the Times (May 2, 2014), on the meeting of Isaiah Berlin and poet Anna Akhmatova in Leningrad in 1945. It’s based on a passage he read in Michael Ignatieff’s biography of Berlin.
Don’t have a copy yet? Pick up one here.
My friend and colleague David Gessner posted a little love for Ecotone's new fiction anthology, Astoria to Zion, on his blog yesterday. Head over to read all about it. And don’t forget that you can snag a copy today only for just $10 by entering promo code PUBDAY.