December 10th, 2006

ozarque figure

Why you should rush out and buy the new Oxford American...

Just a few small samples of the delights inside the current (#55) issue of the Oxford American:

1. Here's Roy Blount, Jr., on page 10, in "Deep in the Heart of It," quoting one of George W. Bush's suggestions for things citizens can do to help fight terrorism...

"If you find a person that you've never seen before getting into a crop duster that doesn't belong to you, report it..."

Hello, FBI? I was driving down route 183 here and saw somebody I never saw in my life. I've seen a lot of people in my time, but not this one. And sure enough he was getting into a crop duster plane -- and it wasn't mine!"

2. Here's Jack Butler, on page 19, in one of a set of tributes to Donald Harington:

"It has been said that writing poetry is like standing out in the lightning. If you get hit a half-dozen times, you are a great poet."

[The opening line of Butler's tribute, by the way, was this: "Praising another writer is the hardest work of all -- bestowing on someone else the honor and attention that should by all rights be one's own."]

3. Here's Chris Bachelder in "The Mulcher," on page 36:

"According to Horace, the purpose of writing is to instruct and delight. To those noble ends, I would like to offer a full account of my thoughts and feelings in the moments immediately following my discovery that I had owned a mulching mower for three years without knowing it."

4. Here's Barry Hannah, on page 51 of "Dark Harvest: On the pleasures of teaching an underdog genre" [cover page title, "The Dangerous Allure of Crime Noir"]:

"As Alfred Hitchcock eloquently put it, 'drama is life with the dull bits cut out.' His Psycho -- so frightening in 1960 that I saw a grown man crawl on the aisle carpet to leave the movie house in Jackson, Mississippi -- was halfway between noir and horror, a revolution in film. In horror we look for a bloodthirsty beast; in noir, human monsters."

5. Here's Sven Birkerts, in an astonishing review of Lucinda William's CD, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," on page 97:

"For me, these lines ink in the backdrop and create not only the general setting -- a backwater South -- but also provide the human terms, the basic milieu -- ground-level funky, country-music simple. I'm sure that I pull toward it because it's Other, so different from what I live that it becomes a version of freedom. But before I indict myself, I remember that Lucinda herself is the daughter of a college professor and poet (Miller Williams), not originally to the shanty born -- it could be that she's escaping herself as much as I am."

There's also a wonderful short story about a man who accidentally acquires God's overcoat. There's another short story about unspeakable things taking place in a tollbooth, full of words I don't use.. There are two excellent poems. There's a fine article about barbecue. There's a photo feature that's beyond belief, titled "The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors." There's a terrific account of a man's attempt -- a man with a bad temper's attempt -- to run for governor of Arkansas as an independent. There's a heartbreaking personal account of a Hurricane Katrina episode. Even the ads are superior.

Highly recommended.