July 4, 2011KR BlogKRReading

KR in the 60’s: “America goes on, goes on”

a whirlwind survey of the Kenyon Review’s final Old Series decade, part of this special summer blog series and a follow-up to these previous surveys of the 40’s AND 50’s!

SPRING 1960 — Pynchon plays host for the first time, to “Entropy,” where “Downstairs, Meatball Mulligan’s lease-breaking party was moving into its 40th hour.” Despite the morning rain, this literary who’s who is certainly “gathering its second wind,” not to mention “three coeds from George Washington all of whom were majoring in philosophy” (and bearing Chianti)…

Rejoice! The gang’s all here! Converse with Robert Penn Warren, in verse. Or, let Flannery O’ Conner put you at your [dis] ease. Ever the paragon of southern hospitality, she’s serving up the nyphomaniac invader Sarah Ham and “The Comforts of Home.”

Further down the sm??rg??sbord, Sylvia Plath serves up her mouth-watering “The Colossus” and her more than welcome +1, “The Beekeeper’s Daughter.”

Go ahead, wave your hair back AND forth, cause we haven’t even hit ’61 yet! Once there, we’ll detour, to “President Harding’s Tomb in Ohio” with James Wright:

As the years go by, old friends return to the party. Robert Lowell translates, spending “Saturday Night in the Village” while Howard Nemerov sings “Summer’s Elegy.” Our sources say even Doris Lessing and Muriel Rukeyser were both spotted near the punch bowl for a time. Sailing drink in hand to ’64, we get a straight-faced treat, a series christened point-blank: Five Stories from Hot Countries. Here, we are introduced to the young V.S. Naipaul over “The Baker’s Story” and Clarice Lispector (pictured below) by way of “Marmosets.” And, it’s not just idle party chatter either…we hear Elizabeth Bishop considers her–in a letter to Lowell–better than Borges!

At the height of the hour, in ’65, Joyce Carol Oates makes an elegant debut, all dolled up “At the Seminary,” and bearing “Gifts” again in ’66.

Back then, even the band leader was playing our song. Listen for it! as John Cage reviews the epistolary Arthur Schoenberg in ’65.

Even as the party nears its end (and the Review its intermission, in ’69) the guest list extends and the party goes on. Don DeLillo is “Coming Sun. Mon. Tues,” and he brings along an iconic young couple too, a boy and a girl who are somehow either here or there. “They go to Coney Island or Brighton…They see what their life together is going to be like.”

with love, the 60’s!