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Missing/Not Missing

I am visiting New Hampshire for the weekend, and the pile of snow at the end of my parents’ driveway is still about five feet high. No feet high is the Russian Living Language Conversation Manual I cannot find, sadly. It’s often one of my favorite parts of coming home, browsing through the passages whose progression comes not from meaning, but rather from grammar and spelling. I was going to type out my favorite passage, a series of mildly connected sentences about Tolstoy and his wife, and I think you would have enjoyed them, but as I said, the book is invisible and gone.

Gone too is a family friend whose memorial service my mother and I are about to go attend. He was a (promininent) member of the church I grew up in, and so we are returning to the room where I was baptized and then never confirmed. (Though I was and am proud to know that New Hampshire’s Episcopalians stood behind Bishop Gene Robinson in the face of the Anglican schism.)

Next to the church stands the hospital where I was born, and where, a few years later, my mother would take my sister and me for our favorite outing: grilled cheese sandwiches at the cafeteria and then a viewing of the newborns. (There are no area zoos.)

Across the street from the church and the hospital is the Wolfeboro Public Library. My mother still has my library card, which I sometimes use when I visit, happily presenting my 10 year old self’s signature for verification. I was so careful! In writing, not in reading. In reading I had no taste, only appetite. I stayed up all night to finish Jurassic Park.

Not missing from my parents’ bookshelf is The Standard Book of Essential Knowledge (1961), which was born at a yard sale, and offers this advice to young writers:

The story that will sell is a story people like to read. Most people do not like to read about unpleasant subjects. Since they identify themselves with the hero or heroine, they do not like to read stories in which those characters come to grief or end up in a state of bafflement or bewilderment.

Oh I am so sad I cannot find the Manual. Maybe you would like to hear the ending? That part, at least, I know by heart:

She loved him once.
And he loved her too.
But that was a long time ago.

The Kenyon Review was founded in 1939. The resources for the new literary journal were provided by Gordon Keith Chalmers, President of Kenyon College, while the inspiration to establish the journal and raise the national stature of the institution had come from his wife Roberta Teale Swartz, herself a poet and a friend and protege of Robert Frost. Frost encouraged the idea and visited Kenyon more than once. The poet and critic John Crowe Ransom was recruited to Kenyon by Chalmers with the express purpose in mind of his launching a distinguished magazine. During his 21-year tenure, Ransom published such internationally known writers as Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, William Empson, Mark Van Doren, Kenneth Burke, and Delmore Schwartz, as well as younger writers: Flannery O'Connor, Robert Lowell, and Peter Taylor, to name a few. It was perhaps the best known and most influential literary magazine in the English-speaking world during the 1940s and '50s. In 1969, discouraged by the quarterly's financial burdens and sagging reputation, Kenyon College ceased publication of The Kenyon Review. The journal was revived in 1979, and in June 1990, internationally acclaimed poet and editor Marilyn Hacker was hired as the Review's first full-time (and first female) editor. She quickly broadened the quarterly's scope to include more minority and marginalized viewpoints. In April 1994, the trustees directed that The Kenyon Review be continued, but with significant cost-reducing and revenue-enhancing initiatives. Hacker left and David Lynn (acting editor in 1989-90), Kenyon English professor, was named editor on a two-thirds time basis. The magazine's financial picture has since stabilized and improved dramatically. The creation of a Kenyon Review Board of Trustees and a renewed commitment by Kenyon College combined to guarantee the financial health of the Review and to free its editors to pursue increased excellence. Such is the status of The Kenyon Review today.