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Screenshot of Shenandoah OnlineShenandoah Now Online at shenandoahliterary.org

After six decades as a prominent print journal, Washington and Lee's acclaimed literary journal Shenandoah is available at shenandoahliterary.org. 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

  • Writers’ Best Friends

    On April 5, 1905, the Kansas City Star ran the following post about a lost cat: “Large and intensely black; thick, velvety fur; has a faint fringe of white hair acrosstwain his chest; not easy to find in ordinary light.” The author of this advertisement? None other than Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, himself. Though this specific ad was about his beloved cat Bambino, Twain collected a variety of other cats throughout the years as well. He loved cats so much that he once said, “I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.” Twain, however, is not the only writer who fancied feline friendship.

    Ernest Hemingway also enjoyed the companionship of cats. He had a six-toed white cat named Snowball, among others. Cats even made their way into his famous work For Whom the Bell Tolls: “No animal has more liberty than the cat, but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist.” hemingwayTo this day, visitors can find more than 50 six-toed (polydactyl, to use the technical term) cats roaming around Hemingway’s home in Key West. It is said that they are the descendants of dear old Snowball.

    Joyce Carol Oates has even gone as far as crediting her cat for helping her write. She has said, “I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.”

    So what is it with writers and their cats? Why do so many choose to spend their time with those of the feline persuasion? Perhaps, as Oates said, cats encourage writing with their refusal to be dislodged from their resting places. Maybe they dissuade writers’ block with their mysterious air and playful antics. I certainly find cats to be the ideal writing companions. Their warm bodies create a cozy environment and their purring has a calming effect, making for a low-stress writing atmosphere. I can see this being the reason that authors for generations have adored their meowing muses.

    It isn’t only cats that steal a place in writers’ hearts, however. Canine companions have been just as present throughout history. Emily Brontë, a great animal lover, had a trusty mastiff sidekick named Keeper. Some even argue that Emily’s adoration of all creatures influenced her writing in Wuthering Heights, as many characters in the novel have quite animalistic qualities. Her contemporary, Emily Dickinson, also had a love for dogs. Dickinson once said, “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”

    HuxleyA more recent writer shared his predecessors’ preference for pups. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, once explained “the constant popularity of dogs” by saying, “To his dog, every man is Napoleon.” This quote could explain why some writers keep pooches as pets. Take a survey of any authors and chances are some are going to say they write because they want to make an impact on their readers or even on the world. Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald put it best when he said, “You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.” Keeping a dog as a pet allows authors to experience that feeling of heroism on a smaller scale.

    Or maybe writers simply have dogs because they bring a certain level of joy that encourages the writing process. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, asked, “Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness?” Just as cats inspire writers with their furtiveness, dogs can hearten writers’ work with their blatantly unconditional love and loyalty. Conversely, dogs can reveal the negative side of human nature as well. As John Steinbeck said after years with his treasured poodle, Charley, “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” While dogs do not necessarily create the same relaxed atmosphere that cats do, I find their constant cheerfulness to be a definite mood-booster, something that always helps with my writing.

    Dogs and cats are not the only pets that have kept famous writers company, however. Lord Byron, 19th century poet, housed a pet bear during his time at Cambridge, even walking it through campus on a leashoconnor. And let us not forget about Flannery O’Connor and the famed peacocks that kept her company. She once wrote of them, “Visitors to our place, instead of being barked at by dogs rushing from under our porch, are squalled at by peacocks whose blue necks and crested heads pop up from behind tufts of grass, peer out of bushes, and crane downward from the roof of the house, where the bird has flown, perhaps for the view.”

    So, while many authors may use historical figures or real-life acquaintances for inspiration in their writing, some turn instead to their furrier pals, giving a new perspective on the phrase “man’s best friend.”

    — Cara Scott

  • Mostly Harmful (or, The Publisher’s Dilemma)

    AMC’s Better Call Saul, a prequel to the smash hit Breaking Bad, premiered on Sunday to much acclaim and no small amount of trepidation. As Snopes covered recently, many were worried that an inferior second show from creator Vince Gilligan would undermine the immense public respect for the original series. Fortunately, the quality of the pilot episode should be enough to dissuade fan fears for the moment, though undoubtedly such concerns will haunt Better Call Saul until it reaches its own conclusion. But such is the risk run by any long-running narrative; any series, whether it be book, film, or movie, that continues to produce more and more texts risks creating a sub-par product that tarnishes the series as a whole. There’s a reason there is not a The Godfather Part IV, and that reason is The Godfather Part III.

    But the risk of churning out a sub-par installment is just one of the risks of extending a series out over years or decades. Not to be morbid, but one of the biggest concerns in such literary works is the entirely literal death of the author. It seems this is hardly a new phenomenon; scholars think that Chaucer died before completing even a quarter of his Canterbury Tales.

    So what does one do when an author dies before completing a long-running and immensely popular series? For hundreds of years, the only real answers to that question have been to shrug and make do with the existing material or consume unlicensed fan fiction. But in the last few years, publishing companies unwilling to part with cash-cow franchises over so trivial a matter as an author’s passing are increasingly resorting to another tactic: hire another well-known author to write a new “official” installment in the series.

    British humorist Douglas Adams was mulling over writing another installment of the wildly popular Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series when he died of a heart attack in 2001. Though Douglas had publicly expressed regret for the “very bleak” ending of his last Hitchhiker’s book, Mostly Harmless, he had not written a word of the proposed novel at the time of his death. So fans were surprised at Penguin Book’s announcement in 2008 that it had hired Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer to pen another book in the series, aptly titled And Another Thing. . .

    colferInterestingly enough, the fans of the series were generally supportive, possibly because the new book undoes the downer ending of Mostly Harmless. Despite fan acceptance, however, Colfer announced he did not intend to write another Hitchhiker’s book, telling Wired, “I do think somebody should write another [ . . . ] I think it’d be interesting to see other Hitchhiker’s books from different authors—to see how different imaginations and voices present that universe.”

    This phenomenon seems especially common in British literature. Snopes has already discussed how the passing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did little to stem the tide of Sherlock Holmes stories and movies.  Ian Fleming wrote twelve James Bond novels; since his death, different authors have put nearly three times that number of fully licensed Bond stories—and that’s not even counting the movies. In an interesting twist, the newest novel featuring Bond will be written by Anthony Horowitz, but based off of a scrapped story treatment written by Fleming back in the 1950s.

    On this side of the pond, however, not everyone takes such a sanguine view toward different authors’ exploring the universe of a dead colleague. George R.R. Martin, the author of the current popular culture phenomenon A Song of Ice and Fire, has denied the possibility of another writer finishing his narrative if, for any reason, he should be unable to. (He’s also sick and tired of fans speculating on when he’ll die, resorting to some rather colorful words to describe his feelings towards the swarms of individuals predicting his imminent demise.) Martin has long been critical against any kind of fan fiction, describing it as lazy, and has promised to never allow another author to write a story set in Westeros “while I’m alive.” Interestingly, this stance only seems to apply to the printed word; after all, the mere existence of the Game of Thrones television show and its recent spin-off video game (both of which Martin actively promote on his blog) show that Martin is amendable to adaptions of his work in other mediums. Perhaps the key to this apparent paradox is that the Game of Thrones universe represents a tweaked, streamlined “alternate universe” version of the world of Ice and Fire. Perhaps Martin does not have a problem with other creators playing with his characters, as long as they don’t do it in his sandbox.

    You can look, but you can't touch

    You can look, but you can’t touch.

    Of particular interest to this debate, however, is that Martin has publicly expressed his fear of what will happen to his world once he does pass on, telling the Sydney Morning Herald, “one thing that history has shown us is eventually these literary rights pass to grandchildren or collateral descendants, or people who didn’t actually know the writer and don’t care about his wishes. It’s just a cash cow to them. And then we get abominations to my mind like Scarlett, the Gone with the Wind sequel.”

    Martin’s disgust at the idea of another author appropriating his universe does speak to the more unsavory ethical aspects of the practice. No one really seems to mind that much that Eoin Colfer took up the Hitchhiker’s series, but it is not like Adams ever proscribed such a practice. Even though Martin has publicly expressed his desire to have the world of Westeros left unmolested after he leaves it, he is absolutely right that there will come a day when he will not be around to prevent such “abominations.” One can hope that publishers and Martin’s descendants will respect his wishes, but really, there is nothing to stop them if they chose to resurrect the franchise after the senior Martin passes away.

    Maybe some people don’t have a problem with that, but I do find it a depressing prospect that there is nothing to protect the sanctity of Martin’s wishes. Hopefully, once everything is said and done, his descendants and the publisher that he has made so much money for will respect his wishes and let sleeping franchises lie.

    — Ryan Scott

  • Mockingbird, Be my Valentine?

    by Anna DiBenedetto

    Valentines-Day-Roses

    This Valentine’s Day, some people will take their loved one to a romantic dinner, others will send their daughter roses and some will even venture to the premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But my plan for this year is to snuggle up on my sofa and celebrate my love of literature by rereading my favorite book, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

    I will admit that staying in and reading a book is not my ideal Valentine’s Day evening. However, the recent news that Lee will soon publish Go Set a Watchman, an accompaniment to her beloved classic 1960 novel, sparked my interest to revisit the novel.

    mockingbird-coverLee’s first novel (widely thought to be her only) is well know, having sold over thirty million copies and been translated into forty different languages. With the announcement of the release of Watchman, fans are re-reading the tale in preparation. According to The Telegraph, “sales of To Kill a Mockingbird [have rocketed] by 6600%.” I think it is safe to say that I’m not the only one who thinks of Lee’s novel as a favorite.

    But what exactly about Lee’s novel makes it such a cherished read? After thinking about the question for a while and thinking about the new novel, set to publish in July, I came up with three specific reasons that I love the book as much as I do.

    The first reason I love Mockingbird is because of the nostalgic feeling that comes over me when I think of the first time I ever read the novel. The book was first introduced to me in my 7th grade English class. I remember reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and discussing racial issues for one of the first times in my sheltered, predominately all-white school. In high school, another one of my English classes read the same novel and examined the book’s title and the theme of loss of innocence (seemingly fitting for high school students). Perhaps my sentimental feelings surrounding the book exist solely because I read it when I was younger, but I think there is something more to it. Just as most people have beloved books from childhood years, I think of Mockingbird as a milestone book for me in forming my interest in literature as a young girl.

    Scout Finch is the second reason I admire this book. Scout’s tomboy persona and mischievous attitude aligned with myself as a young girl. I found her youthful and innocent nature to be a sense of comic relief in the narrative. This is exhibited in the part of the story when she, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill decide to play “Boo Radley.” The three create a game of acting out the life and times of the Radley’s, the odd family of Maycomb. Scout elaborates, “As the summer progressed, so did our game. We polished and perfected it, added dialogue and plot until we had manufactured a small play upon which we rang changes every day.” Her enacting the reclusive Boo reminds me of “playing house” with my own siblings. Her carefree attitude speaks to a young girl that I could identify with as a young girl, and even now that I am older.

    Finally, and most importantly, Scout and Atticus’s relationship is the third reason I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout’s relationship with Atticus emulates a picturesque bond between a father and daughter that I did not appreciate the first time I read the novel. But having matured since 7th grade, a relationship with my dad is something I value and cherish greatly. In the novel, Scout goes to Atticus after she and Jem have been attacked by Bob Ewell and saved by Boo Radley. After imagining Boo’s character in the first half of the book and listening to Atticus’s demands to stop messing with him, she finally tells her father:

    ‘When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .’ His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. ‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’

    Her recognition of Boo’s character and harmless nature align with everything that Atticus had previously told her. Scout’s admittance to him that Boo is “real nice” acknowledges Atticus’s influence on her. His fatherly role is solid and resilient, and his sense of right and wrong remains constant throughout the novel. Atticus’s strong presence in his daughter’s life stands as one of the most important bonds in the book and is one of my favorite relationships in literature.

    mary-badham

    My favorite novel may very well be shared with a million other readers out in the world. So maybe I won’t be the only one reading it alone this Saturday night. But who knows, maybe with another reread of To Kill a Mockingbird, I will have to expand my list of why I love Lee’s book so much.

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