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“The Men Can Now Reveal Themselves”

This post is the work of Seattle writer Nancy Jooyoun Kim, and responds to Perkins-Valdez’s “The Clipping” from the KR summer issue.

Perkins-Valdez’s “The Clipping” begins with a textbook image of representational dissociation, anonymous racial violence in a presumably-distant, almost-static past.

ANOTHER NEGRO BURNED. The eyes were burned out and hot irons rolled all over his body. Both testicles were removed before the pleading Negro was set afire.

The lynching (and castration) of a great-grandfather haunts the protagonist and his family to religious proportions and functions as a narratorial obsession of the protagonist who creates and recreates the story of his great-grandfather, Octavius Benedict, in an attempt to create and define himself.

The difficulty of identity becomes thoughtfully and amusingly explored through the protagonist’s romantic and anonymous adventures in internet chatrooms.

Marie: Why R U still a virgin?

Long pause.

Theone: Just cause.

Marie: U never had a girlfriend?

Theone: Of course I’ve had a girlfriend.

Marie: And?

The protagonist (chatroom identity “Theone”) admits to being a twenty-four-year-old virgin. According to him, he chats nightly on the Internet, “random associations that allow [him] to change, metamorphose into the faces of [his] imaginings, where [he] can emerge potent and invincible.” He can be “Theone” or “SlickWillie” if he wants. He can be Octavius Benedict. He can be a lynch mob. The internet allows him the anonymity and freedom to interact with others on his own terms, on his own turf until he wants or needs to log off.

The woods in which the lynching occurs provides the white mob a similar sense of anonymity as well as the agency to reveal and pursue a complicated matrix of racist and sexual desire:

These men are now remnants of the selves they occupy outside of this secret space, closeted by trees so thick that it seems as if there is no yesterday, no tomorrow. If he strains, Octavius can hear their rapid, uncontrolled breathing over the quieting wind. Their bodies flex with desire.

In “The Clipping,” the internet gives the protagonist (and us) “the woods,” a space in which we may play out desire or transgression in an anonymous and seemingly-consequence-free environment. However, the key word and difference here is “play.” No one dies. (Most of the time!) And this play, this experience lived through the net seems fleeting, disposable. Dialogues, sign-in, sign-off. Narrative and ideas are born but seem to live and die quickly. As we engage in this play, life itself seems to be living without us, threatening to leave us like Octavius who “cannot remember who he is,” who “wonders how he got there” (67), and it is this mob, this impending loss of memory that the protagonist writes and outruns.

Nancy works as the Managing Editor at the Seattle Review.

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The Kenyon Review Associates Program provides Kenyon students with valuable experience in literary editing, publishing, and programming. KR Associates work closely with Kenyon Review staff, gaining valuable experience in a number of editing, publishing, and programming areas including manuscript evaluation, publicity and marketing, copy editing, developing web site and social media content, outreach programming, event planning and promotion, and other creative and editorial projects

KR Associates attend regular seminars conducted by Kenyon Review editorial staff, visiting readers, and publishing industry professionals. These seminars cover a wide range of topics including editorial philosophy, evaluation of submissions, print and electronic production, marketing, and design.

KR Associates enjoy also enjoy exclusive access to visiting writers and speakers, free issues of The Kenyon Review, and valuable work experience and employment references.

This program is made possible through an initiative of the Kenyon Review, part of the mission of which is to contribute to the enrichment of the academic, cultural, and artistic life of the Kenyon College community.

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  • Submission Evaluation: All Associates are required to read and evaluate eight Kenyon Review submissions per week. Associates who are not able to complete their weekly submission assignments for more than two weeks in a row may not be allowed to continue in the program.
  • Trainings and Seminars: In-person attendance is mandatory at all trainings and seminars. We plan on scheduling six to eight seminars per semester, and most will take place on Thursdays during common hour.
  • Literary Engagement: Associates are expected to participate in literary events on campus and throughout the local community.

Application Details

The application deadline for the 2023-24 program has passed. Applications for the 2024-25 program will open in the fall of 2024. Please check back then for more details.

Questions? Please contact Tory Weber for more information.