A Letter from Katherine McNamara, Editor of Archipelago


In a previous issue, see our feature of Katherine McNamara’s Narrow Road to the Deep North

Other letters from Katherine McNamara

Spring 2002

Winter 2002

Fall 2001

Summer 2001

Spring 2001

Fall 2000

Winter 2000


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Dear Friend and Reader,

Dear Friend and Reader, I¹m pleased to tell you that Archipelago, Vol. 6, No. 2 Summer 2002 www.archipelago.com, is on-line. For summer reading, it offers a feast of high literary entertainment and sobering social and political reflection.

Last October, Congress passed the Administration¹s so-called “U.S.A. Patriot Act,” authorizing the FBI and other Federal agencies to new and nearly unlimited access even to the most innocuous of our individual files. In the U.S. Senate, the only opponent of the bill was Russell Feingold (D-Wis), who has given Archipelago the speech in which he explained why he voted against it. His specific, strong reservations are worth our close attention ­ of this I am certain, since I myself would not have been so well informed, and perhaps warned, without hearing the Senator speak. I commend his text for your close reading and consideration.

Cervantes was Shakespeare¹s contemporary. “Don Quixote” is ­ rightly ­ considered the great novel of European literature. Is this not still astonishing? Yet, this great author has not aged, not even by a whisker. His amazing book is for our time. It is being given to us anew by the excellent translator Edith Grossman, who is also a Contributing Editor of this journal. You can read in our pages the first three chapters of her version: “First Part of the Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha,” by Miguel de Cervantes. The final work will appear in 2003, from Ecco Press.

Karel Capek was the leading writer in Czechoslovakia between the wars, an important novelist, playwright, journalist, story writer, children¹s writer, humorist, and translator. Here we offer a new version of an old, disturbing story, “The Waiting Room,” translated by Norma Comrada, from the volume “Cross Roads,” out this summer from Catbird Press.

A writer new to me, although not to the world, was Juan Tovar, the Mexican fabulist. McPherson & Co. has given us Tovar's “Dominion of Canada,” from the forthcoming “Creature of a Day,” translated by Leslie H. Chambers. How to describe this odd fiction? Perhaps a fragment of verse from the story will do: “Ungraspable present, intermingled // phantom of the past and of the future”

We are rich in poets! Six poems by Mary-Sherman Willis (whose Recommended Reading appeared in our last issue) are formal in style, domestic, contemporary, urban, and superbly furious in matter. Begin with “Marijuana at 40”"!

Then, from India, comes a series of Romantic poems of Calcutta by Prasenjit Maiti: “Where are you going my youth? // my fears, my poetry, my lines blown away // by whisky and aircraft crashing like a clash of cymbals // Where are you going my sanity?”

Writings by the Turkish poet Ozdemir Asaf came to me from his British translator George Messo. Asaf (who is not yet well known in the English-speaking world) was known, and loved, in his homeland for his aching brevity, as in: “Myth” // “A day doesn't pass everyday.”

A young writer from Toronto sent me a searing, horribly funny story narrated by a nine-year-old Irish Catholic girl in Derry, after Bloody Sunday, when British soldiers invade her family's house: “What War Is,” by Tracy Robinson is an imaginative work, a true work of fiction, much admired by me.

I have written two Endnotes this issue. “Lies Damned Lies” is about a much-discussed subject this past spring, the ridiculous, fear-ridden censorship practiced by the New York State Department of Education on the Regents exams required of graduating seniors in that state. You may read here examples of literary passages so stupidly re-worked by the censors. The second note is a continuation of last issue's “The Colossus,” about the play Copenhagen, the fascinating essays and commentary it still draws, and the matter of nuclear weapons (which this nation seems determined not to give up). This Endnote considers a paper about Niels Bohr and his understanding of nuclear fission, written by Richard Rhodes, author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” I ask: “Was Bohr correct, as Rhodes thinks him to have been: that the weapon is so dreadful that no nation would dare use it again, because the situation it has made cannot be resolved by war?”

Recommended Reading is highly amusing: a sharp piece on the “notorious” Patricia Highsmith by the deliciously witty playwright and biographer Joan Schenkar, who has contributed before to our pages; a piece written in high dudgeon defending contemporary American fiction, by the poet Marilyn A. Johnson; and a cerebrally hilarious interview with the anagrammarian poet Kevin McFadden, whose poems appeared in our Spring issue.

Finally, John Casey, the novelist and a Contributing Editor of Archipelago, writes us a letter describing how he learned about the Farm Hall transcripts; and a disaffected reader leaves us in the (her) dust.

I look forward to your e-mail: commentary, praise, even objections and displeasures: all welcome antidotes to these torpid days. And then I will be on sabbatical. I will not publish a new issue in September; rather, we will re-play works from our Archive for their, and your, refreshment. With that, I wish you an excellent summer and all the pleasures of reading.

yrs., Katherine McNamara

Editor and Publisher
Box 2485
Charlottesville, VA 22901 USA