1991

 

Indonesia

Editors Robert Shapard and Frank Stewart
Guest Editor John H. McGlynn

 

Japan

Editors Robert Shapard and Frank Stewart
Guest Editor Masao Miyoshi

The spring 1991 issue includes fiction and poetry from Indonesia. The stories from Indonesia have been gathered by guest-editor John McGlynn, and our publication of them was special on two accounts. First, it coincided with the Festival of Indonesia, which was celebrated throughout the U.S. in 1992. Second, in printing these works, we helped to introduce Indonesian writing to a new audience. The highly popular, vibrant, and varied literature of Indonesia had been achieving recognition in Europe, but relatively little of it had been translated into English, and still less had appeared in the United States. Indonesian authors in this issue include Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Goenawan Mohamad, Hamsad Rangkuti, Toenggoel P. Siagian, Sitor Situ Morang, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Putu Wijaya, and Umar Nurzain.

In addition, we include fiction from America—some stories unusual in terms of genre, and others more traditional. In this issue, “Batteiger’s Muse,” by Gordon Weaver, and “The Absence,” by Allan Johnson, are fine short stories in the traditional sense. On the other hand, “Public Anatomy,” by Thomas Farber (whose story collections, as well as his book on writing and the writing life, Compared to What? are familiar to many readers) is what he calls a “non-fiction fiction.” With Phil Damon’s “Lost and Found in the Holy Land,” we thought you might enjoy a glimpse into New Age writings, rare to literary magazines. Damon’s writing is decidedly literary, having appeared in many reviews and anthologies such as Best American Short Stories.

Also among the American writing is an essay by W.S. Merwin, “The Tree on the Hill”; poetry from Peggy Shumaker, David Baker, Linda Hogan, and Adele Dumaran; and a poetry symposium, “For Whom Does the Poet Write,” in which twenty American poets respond to Fred Chappell.

Extracts

“While slicing onions, Mirah accidentally cut her hand. She screamed and popped her index finger into her mouth. But then, shocked, she took it out again. Her wet finger was pale. Blood raced from the wound and began to drip from her finger. Mirah was stunned: her blood was white!
    “In the tales of the shadow theater, the only character with white blood was Prince Yudhistira, the hero of pure heart and the eldest child of the Pandawa family. The color of his blood was not only a symbol of his majesty; it was a guarantee that upon his death he would enter heaven. Because he eschewed violence and because he was always willing to sacrifice for others, Yudhistira had been blessed with white blood.”
—from “Blood” by Putu Wijaya

“Dawn was breaking beyond the forest. Still drowsy, I saw it from behind the awning of the boat whose motor roared like a hungry dragon. The journey still wasn’t over. When had I left Tenggarong? The Kelinjau River twisted and turned amid the forest on either bank, sometimes with denuded patches heaped with piled logs. For a day and a night I had lounged about in this boat. I thought we would soon arrive at Muara Ancalong. In my notebook I wrote ‘a journey to examine my heart.’ My fantasies had evaporated, taken by the wind to wherever it would carry them. I thought of Jakarta, of the many-colored lights along the streets, of a hostess’s bawdy laugh during a disco number at a bar.
    “A hornbill flapped its way across the river. At that very moment, Sureni, the steersman’s wife, stuck her head out from behind the mosquito net.
    “‘How far along are we?’”
—from “The River’s Song”
by Seno Gumira Ajidarma

“If you happen to be an expert in some distinct field of learning such as the order Physallidae or cuneiform script, no doubt there are sections of the British Museum that seem to be not just repositories but models of human knowledge, reflecting, proving, serving as emblems of its orderly and progressive nature. The institution originated, after all, in the middle of the eighteenth century and is still haunted by the spirit of that age—in Europe—of achievements at once grand and contained, a time marked there by a faith in symmetry and an adulation of Reason—a word that those generations used to describe their peculiar view of what they thought was everything.”
—from “The Tree on One Tree Hill”
by W.S. Merwin

This issue presents two special fiction features: modern fiction by Japanese women and recent fiction by American writers. Gathered in this volume is a collection of original translations of modern and contemporary stories by Japanese women guest-edited by Masao Miyoshi. Miyoshi's essay in this issue, “Women's Short Stories in Japan,” looks at the short story worldwide and at Japanese fiction in particular, with an eye to past and current differences in U.S. and Japanese literary cultures. Among the authors contributing to this collection are Ozaki Midori, Shiraishi Kazuko, Amino Kiku, Tsushima Yuko, and Hayashi Kyoko.

Fiction pieces by American writers guest-edited by Ian MacMillan are among the best that have come our way. Contributors include Gladys Swan, Michael Stevens, Chris Planas, and Walter Collett. As in every issue, we publish a selection of American poetry and this time we include poems by Denise Thomas, Richard Jones, Michael Hannon, and Phyllis Hoge Thompson.

This issue’s symposium, “The Situation of Reviewing,” is introduced by Alan Cheuse, who regularly reviews books for National Public Radio's All Things Considered. In this symposium, Cheuse invited responses from people knowledgeable about book publishing, including authors, editors, book publishers, an agent and a bookseller—a number of whom are also reviewers themselves.

A new series of photographs of Hawai‘i by Wayne Levin are accompanied by an essay by Thomas Farber, “Sea-Change: A Note about Wayne Levin.”

About the guest editor: Masao Miyoshi is Hajimi Mori Professor of Japanese, English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. His Off Center: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States is being published by Harvard University Press.

Extracts

“The women writers relate to the empire and its people in a considerably different way from their male counterparts. However, as Japan's new affluence softens the edges of its memories of poverty and suffering, its emergent bourgeoisie is embracing commodities with enthusiasm and passion. The erasure of the past deprivation is all that is needed for many people, men and women. The gender gap persists, but the frustration vanishes in the pleasures of acquisition and distraction. In fact, many women as well as men seem to believe that women's acquiescence to men is an integral cause of Japan's unprecedented prosperity. They ignore the presence of the marginal, the poor and the different. The state-corporate combine intensifies the campaign of homogeneity, and difference is made invisible.”
—from “Women's Short Stories in Japan” by Masao Miyoshi

“The ivory of the white keys had aged to a honey color. Her grandmother was supposed to have played this piano seven hours a day, but she never became a concert performer; until her death, all she did was lumber through Chopin and lament that Kikue, the only one of the three sisters with any musical talent, had gone off to America and never come back. And even Kikue, after failing all her music-school entrance exams, never made her living from music, so in the end the piano was just a useless, alien presence, a kind of white elephant for the whole family.”
—from “White Wind” by Oba Minako

“One heard the sound—in my case,
     muffled piano chords—which
set up a slight saw-edged vibration as though
     beneath the skin,

a ripple or a wave, a curled edge lifting
     black beyond the mingling
at the threshold's littoral as it abandoned
     human matter...”

—from “A Terror of Tonality” by Michael Heller

“Every time she picked up the paper it seemed as though hordes of people were moving somewhere else. Whole cities springing up from cardboard cartons and packing crates and old tires, with their little electric wires being run up to the main cable so that all these nameless multitudes could steal their little bit of light as they foraged for their scraps of food in the garbage dumps. Lives built on refuse. Here, Rob and Janet invited her to lift her eyes in order to imagine existence in its more gracious modes. Everything they'd done or planned to do poured out into a gleaming heap.”
—from “Veronica” by Gladys Swan
 

264 pp., spring 1991 (3:1), $20
ISSN 1045-7909

256 pp., fall 1991 (3:2), $20
ISSN 1045-7909