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Screenshot of Shenandoah OnlineShenandoah Now Online at

After six decades as a prominent print journal, Washington and Lee's acclaimed literary journal Shenandoah is available at The digital version - Volume 62, Number 2, is now online. The homepage also includes a Poem of the Week, an Archive Feature of the Month, audio files of contributors reading their work, an essay on featured artist, William Dunlap; brief and extended reviews and a rotating series of 100 arresting quotations. Those seeking information about submissions, prizes and the publication's history - from Tom Wolfe through Flannery O'Connor and W. H. Auden up to Rita Dove and Charles Wright- will find a wealth of information on the site. Further links reveal a description of the WLU English Department's Internship in Literary Editing program, along with comments by both the winter 2013 interns and recent graduates. All aspects of the journal are interactive and invite reader comment. Finally, Shenandoah's blog "Snopes" will introduce provocative topics and encourage readers to engage in discussion. Bloggers will include staff members, interns and special guests.

A Short History of Shenandoah in print.

For over half a century Shenandoah has been publishing splendid poems, stories, essays and reviews which display passionate understanding, formal accomplishment and serious mischief.

Founded in 1950 by a group of Washington and Lee University faculty and students, Shenandoah has achieved a wide reputation as one of the country's premier literary magazines. Work from the magazine's pages has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Poems, Best American Essays, Best American Spiritual Writing, The O'Henry Prize, New Stories from the South and The Pushcart Prize, as well as numerous other anthologies and quite literally thousands of collections by the original authors. Recent issues have featured Pulitzer winners Natasha Trethewey, Claudia Emerson and Ted Kooser, as well as fiction by James Lee Burke, George Singleton, Alyson Hagy, Chris Offutt, Bret Anthony Johnston and Pam Durban.

From the Snopes Blog

  • Trumpus Possumus

    Excerpt from The Secret Lodge Notebooks of the obscure Mr. Mizzle, stork, storekeeper and Walt Kelly scion

    [Trump.  I’ve been seeing and hearing this word on the wind lately, and I wasn’t sure if it was tramp , a trunk, a tromp or a reference to a temporarily designated powerful suit in some card games, maybe even an astonishing hair-do first seen in a Star Trek malefactor, or a realtor or a TV comedian who badmouths, browbeats then banishes masochistic minions with a wave of his wicked wand. As usual, when confounded by the mire of evidence before me, all further complexicated by my own native ignorance, I perambulate and bateau to the island to confab with my old mentor Pogo Possum of Okefenokee RFD and put the question to the nocturnal sage himself, who never fails to ponder powerful, muse mercilessly and shed substantial light, though he’s oft prone to hiss or drop off to dreamland if contradicted.

    Pogo allowed as how a trump is a card that can whallop down or whup upon any other suit, though some using that name seem to be sporting suits which are not so suited to their configuration. And as a slang noun, it was once the word used to designate a fine fellow; as a verb, to excel or surpass. But these didn’t match up well with the palaver I’d been encountering, so Pogo pushed deeper into the swamp of my unknowing, saying that in Old High German it was trumba and meant a horn. Well, now we’re plowing a straight row, I thought. It also points to a kind of flower and a vine and a swan, all horn-shaped, excepting the swan, but I expect the old omnivore could guess by the dullness emanating from the windows to my soul that I still wasn’t able to line up my experience of the word with his information. So he sets in: Somehow trump’s an outlaw version of triumph, but a victory come by through other than gentlemaanly means. My eyes must of brightened up a bit, so he proceeded to add that the whole thing likely weasels around to us from the French.

    Now I know how Mr. Twain felt about the French, but I decided to set that aside and take some heed anyway. “Do tell?” I said, encouraging like, “Dites moi.” “Tien,” says Pogo, in his best mud-Gallic accent, “eef vous go back to zee Meedle Engleach and Vieux Francais, you discover trompe, which eez meaning to deceive, hoodwink, dupe, hornswaggle. Vous have, sans doute, ecoutee of trumpery, weech eez twaddle, nonsense, zometheeng rubbishy. Zumwhere een zat word eez ‘rump,’ n’est-ce pas?”

    I straightaway begged for mercy, merci, having had all the foreign lingo I could swallow for one season. “Shoot straight,” says I, and so Pogo reports the obvious. “Given le monde which we now find ourselves whiching in these days, trumpery is zee watchword of zee zeitgeist, ole buddy, zee flavor of zee decade, better than catfish and onions in a black moon iron skillet over a fire of cypress, cedar and driftwood.”

    Pogo allowed as how in his Random House Webster’s trump is situated in a column between one column to the left with true in it (c’est vrai!) and a column to the right showing trust. Quelle fromage.

    Sensing that my audience was likely at an end, as he produced a Ball jar of white squirrel-eye stockade from under one of his many stumps, I ventured a parting shot: “What about trumpet creeper? Isn’t that from China?” In betwixt swigs Pogo whispered, “Y’all got fooled on that one. It’s just a misspell. The old folks who dictionaried originally wrote trumpet creepier, like anthropaphagus, which is all I have to pronounce on the matter,” and then he was peregrinating off into the dark to canoodle with Miz Hepsibah, count his own spoondolicks or snout out some rare ripe deceased creature for a snack before Sarcophagus McArbre could spiral down on it. I could hear him humming through the ferns and ringlety mosses and the kent, kent of ghost ivory bills high on the dying trunks, “You get a line and I’ll get a poll, honey.” Bless his heart.

    So I left that swamp a changed man, which is not to say a wiser one, but I got eat up by no see’ums and had to pick off ticks from first light to last – rowrbazzle! – so I’ve decided it’s useful if not vital for my self esteem if I reckon all this trinformation inextimably valuable, the tunnel at the end of the light. Thus self-persuaded, I felt compelled to share. Y’all come.

    “We’ll go down to that écrevisse hole, honey oh baby mine.”]

  • The Tennessee Waltz

    tnsilThe Shadow Waltz

    It’s hard to deny that Pee Wee King’s melody for “Tennessee Waltz” is haunting, mournful, not quite “Wayfaring Stranger,” but similar in its registration of heart-riving sorrow. It makes me lonesome just to listen to an instrumental version, and I’m not musicologist enough to offer a convincing explanation. I know it has darkness in it, a somber tempo and the nip of whiskey we like to imagine will temper loss but which often amplifies all the shivery yearning. The stately pace, repeated chords and weepy strings resist any attempt to buck dance, shag or hully-gully with that tune in the air.

    TN authorsOther melodies have similar affects, but it’s Redd Stewart’s lyrics that really twist and wrench the listener, and not just for the narrative they unspool. The song offers an enigma as Mobius-like, trompe l’oeil and slight-of-hand as Wallace Stevens’s “I placed a jar in Tennessee.” Why is that?

    Various artists have offered their renditions, most of them pretty similar (though I don’t really need Leonard Cohen’s spin on the story or Emmylou Harris’s more explicit version, especially the “it’s stronger than drink and deeper than sorrow”). It was written (partly on a matchbook, if Google has it right) in a limousine en route to Nashville in 1946 after the collaborators heard Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” on the radio, and you have to reckon timing and place played a substantial role. It was producer Fred Rose’s change from “O the Tennessee Waltz, O the Tennessee Waltz” to “I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz” that intensified the nostalgia/regret theme and made the darkness explicit, and the song was recorded the next year by both King and Stewart’s Golden West Cowboys and Cowboy Copas (can you believe spellcheck doesn’t recognize “Copas”?). Both versions became C & W top 10 hits.

    But it’s really with us and in us because Patti Page recorded it on the flip side of “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” for Mercury near the close of 1950. Off and running. Page’s version ran for 30 weeks on Billboard’s pop chart and stayed at number 1 for 9 weeks. Legions of other musicians covered it and had hits (Kitty Wells, Pat Boone, Emmylou, James Brown, Elvis, college bands, African Ray Dylan on his album “Goeie Ou Country,” Tom Jones backed by the Chieftains!).

    The standard version is Page’s, which follows, with two little changes [indicated by brackets] which we hear in Patsy Cline’s more desperate and achy (at least as I hear it) version. I recommend a visit to You Tube to listen to the exquisite pain.cline
    Tennessee Waltz (note the lack of an article in the title)

    I was dancing [waltzing] with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz
    When an old friend I happened to see
    I introduced her {or him} to my loved one
    And while they were dancing
    My friend stole my sweetheart from me

    I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
    Now I [Only you] know just how much [what] I have [‘ve] lost
    Yes, I lost my little darling the night they were playing
    The [That] beautiful Tennessee Waltz

    I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz
    When an old friend I happened to see
    I introduced her [him] to my loved one
    And while they were dancing
    My friend stole my sweetheart from me

    I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
    Now I [Only you] know just how much [what] I have lost
    Yes, I lost my little darling the night they were playing
    The beautiful Tennessee Waltz

    A terrible beauty is born? Brevity is the soul of wit?
    Some small change: * why, after “darling” and “sweetheart,” the demeaning or endearing “little darling,” back to “darling,” back to “sweetheart,” to end with “little darling”? Is this just the way that songwriters who say, “You decorated my life” or “You are the magnet; I am steel” differ from poets, who want to consider (some would say “micromanage”) ramifications and options, nuances and undertones? Call it “genre differences”; say musical accompaniment relaxes lexical responsibility; I can’t puzzle it out.
    *Twice we’re told that the “old friend” (no comment) STOLE the sweetheart, but also twice we hear “I lost.” Sounds as if the narrator is torn between believing that the friend is a culprit, but four times there’s a suggestion of some blame for the narrator, two each in the four line stanzas. Ain’t that just the way of things? We can’t wholly resist the temptation to blame the victim, even if we’re the victim. Maybe especially.
    * With Patsy’s preferred lyrics, we get implicated. “You” do. The “you” brings it all home, identifies the listener as a fellow sufferer, knowing and probably wounded kindred. It makes me feel buttonholed and drawn into the drama, a little like the wedding guest in Coleridge’s “Rime.” I mean, I’m just trying to get a beer here and rejoin my own sweetheart; why did you pick me to share this sad story? Which makes this song a cautionary tale, as well as a plaint. Maybe the “you know” is a little arch, faux-polite for “you’d better know, because those who don’t find out from hearing the story will have to live it.” Maybe we’re all really walking around in a country song and ought to remember what stuff happens in that free-fire zone.
    *But my favorite aspect of the lyrics is that they name a song called “the Tennessee Waltz” which has no reality outside the song that names it. When I was younger, I was desperate to hear the song they were dancing to, because how could they be dancing to a song that already contains the narrative of the impending betrayal and torturous memories? But I’d never heard of Borges or seen a Renaissance painting of the artist painting that painting. Probably Pee Wee and Redd hadn’t either, but the air inside a limousine can have strange effects on people, pickers especially. Given the “you” in the Cline version, the singer’s not only in the song, but so am I. All makes me hear a lonesome whip-poor-will and feel I need to respond.TN sheet

    But my responses are always somewhat tangled, and every thoughtful effort eventually overridden by a need to hum or sing the song, which dogs me like nothing else in Tennessee, Virginia, Carolina, Georgia, Alabama . . . Verona, Paris, the Forest of Arden.

  • Is It a Sin to Kill a Watchman?

    A question I’ve been hearing from students and acquaintances since winter is whether or not Nelle Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman ought to ever see the light of day. One source of the question seems to be an apprehension that the new book, which was Lee’s first attempt to write about the Finch family (sounds ornithological), would somehow tarnish the widely revered To Kill a Mockingbird. Although I haven’t yet seen the new (but older) book, I know a few things about it and read the first chapter in the Wall Street Journal last week. Adult Jean Louise’s narration is not so spellbinding as Scout’s, the background information is often mechanically wedged in, the impending drama forced, skids abound, though some gift is in evidence. Wise Blood’s train opening is better, though. Stylistically, Mockingbird displays an overall grace that Watchman might well lack, if the opening is representative. I don’t want to conclude too much from the sample, but it hasn’t altered my opinion about publication.


    Though the recently discovered narrative is likely to be disappointing, of course it should be available for those who want it, since the author and publisher are willing to show it. Students of the process of fiction are certainly curious, and I’m assuming that the earlier fears that Lee was being manipulated by lawyers and false friends were mostly hogwash. Lots of other lawyers and companions have weighed in, the Sybil herself is sometimes lucid and has spoken. Harper Collins does not act injudiciously, which is not to say “without greed,” which is indigenous to the publication business, because it is a business. The critics will raise the banner of caveat lector (I recommend Natasha Trethewey’s prudent and carefully considered review in the Washington Post), and devotees of Mockingbird should be guided by their own needs and fears, calculate their own sensitivities, read it now or later or never, then revisit the book they love, whether for its virtues or its forays into the sentimental and the “back in the day” atmospherics. Alabama’s motto is “We dare defend our rights.” The home guard is already mustered and armed. Let the games begin.

    Reviewers are likely to discuss the altered natures of the characters (a now-flawed and more realistic Atticus [“from Attica, or Athens”], especially), the point of view, the novels’ different tactics for configuring the question of civil rights, pace, humor, childhood, human compassion, guardian angels, mob mentalities and the rights of man (and woman and child). What I want to recommend, aspirant owner of a copy that I am, is that we take the occasion of this book’s full public birth to consider what and how we think about the first one and what this volume has to show us about the mysterious way books get written.

    First cobweb to clear away: Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel or a prequel, no progression from the finding of the One Ring to its casting into the flames. It’s action occurs long after the events of Mockingbird have transpired, but the appearance of passages identical to those in Mockingbird, accompanied by complete reboots of some events in the earlier publication, make it clear that the pair of books is not a sequence, not a relay, but rather two separate heats, two very different encounters with some basic material concerning where and when and who and why. Watchman was written first, and an amazingly perceptive editor named Tay Hohoff said something akin to, “Not yet, ma’am, but keep trying,” but also made a major suggestion, to focus more on Scout, her mind and her involvement with the central public narrative in Maycomb. So Lee set aside the typescript and went back into the same woods by a different path and different phase of the moon, seeing things from an altered perspective, one that charmed out of her a song that was far more spellbinding than the one she’d found for Watchman. Maybe the books are like fraternal twins, one just developed smarter and more beautiful than the other, but a reader can’t start cross-referencing and try to mesh them into one plot. From my seat of high ignorance about most of the text, that looks like a fool’s errand. The people have not simply gotten older, they started older, and by the way, they’re not people at all.

    Though based, sometimes loosely, sometimes precisely, on real people, who have been pulled apart and reconfigured by fictive imperatives and the prism of the imagination, Dill, Boo, Jem, Jean Louise and Atticus are constructs, fictional manifestations of a dream dreamed while waking and while working like a mule and a thoroughbred at once. This fact eludes many of the spellbound, who want to see the characters as subjects of a jigsaw biography of Monroeville. The Finches follow the rules of plot and character, rather than the rules of life and personality, and though those two fields are similar (else all fiction would be mere distraction and entertainment), they are not identical. I’d wager there’s a demographic who constitute almost a cult of devotees, not quite Trekkies (or Mockies), but people whose feelings about Atticus and his cadre are not primarily about an aesthetic appreciation of fine writing, the old verities, the whole question of how the narrative theater offers story as vicarious experience. They’ve left the “vicarious” behind and so admire Atticus that they might feel a hankering to sue or duel someone for defaming Galahad’s character. Maybe even sue his creator for meddling after the book became a public treasure.

    I might have been one of those Mockies when I was young, but I was confused by something I suspect jangled quite a lot of Mockingbird fans from the start. I cannot now say whether I read the book before I saw the movie. The former is more about the coming of age story, human development and dignity; the latter is more about the trial and the civil rights conflict, the application of the concept of dignity to the explosive (then, now, let’s pray not forever or even much longer) question of race. And the movie has Gregory Peck, not to shortchange the exquisite performance of ten-year-old Mary Badham (who could not pass for the six-year-old prodigy of the novel, but who’s counting?). If I got the word imagery first, it was quickly complicated by the cinematic version, and I was more taken with picture shows back then than with books about serious moral dilemmas and atrocities. Even when I read the novel again about five years ago, the knot was too tight for me to untangle it – Gregory Finch. The novel and the film and what we know about Peck’s life and career have all created a strange piece of psychological architecture in a fashion that might resemble the Huckleberry Finn complex, except that the text in that example is so revolutionary and (even with is problematic ending) bold and brilliant that even Twain’s remarkable life doesn’t amplify or impede the text. Lee’s novel may be unique in the way it engages us, and the fact that she never wrote another book after Mockingbird feeds the speculative, myth-making crowd. We do love our intrigues.

    While I don’t believe that Go Set a Watchman will very much alter the peculiar way American readers (we few, we happy few?) cherish (or chastise – see the opinions of writers like Francine Prose) To Kill a Mockingbird, I do believe that the conversations – about fiction, childhood, even race – will be refreshed in many healthy and useful ways, which is not to say that foolish things may be said, not even to guarantee that I haven’t just said some of them, but it’s too late, isn’t it, to post my own caveat lector sign? And yet: BEWARE OF BLOG.

    n.b.  This morning I had a thought and prospected till I found my old Signet paperback of  Mockingbird.  Scout narrates the story of those early years from a distance: “When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident.”  Readers of the novel know it was no accident that left Jem’s arm damaged, but Ewell’s vicious attack on the children, but besides the camouflaging rewrite of personal history, what Jean Louise reveals here, as the style of her narration does throughout Mockingbird, is that J. L. F.  is seeing these famous childhood events from an adult perspective, with the rhetorical powers of an adult.  She could be the same Jean Louise going home on the train at the beginning of Watchman.  The same, but more savvy and wise, as Lee probably was when she wrote the very good book, after she wrote the one that didn’t cut the mustard but which everyone’s wolfing down right now.

    And the movie scene on the cover of my copy means the movie was out before I owned a copy.  But had I seen it yet?  I can’t afford the squad of shrinks needed to ferret that answer out.

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