Editor Roundtable: Which Writer Would You Bring Back From the Dead?
There’s a specific sadness in the passing of an artist we cherish and whose work we enjoy. It’s not only in mourning a life that has been lost, but also for a body of work that we have no choice but to accept has reached finality. We offered a few editors the power to bring one of their favorites back from the dead in order to extend their repertoire.
- Matt Broderick, Reviews Editor, TRR
Question: If you could bring a writer back from the dead to give us one more book, who would it be?
Jennifer Lee, Fiction Editor, Baltimore Review:
Before naming the author I wish were still around to write another book, I have to admit I’m not a completist. I can think of no one whose complete works I’ve consumed, though I’ve come close a couple of times. Still, the question provokes an immediate answer: I want Sebald back. I want Sebald because I know he wasn’t finished. He had more to tell us, and with his deeply introspective hybrid style, his books have a way of leading the reader to a place of great reflection. We need that more than ever now. Sebald always looked back, trying to make sense of the atrocities of the 20th century. In so doing he shed light on what it means to be human, which is all we can ask of literature, really.
When I read “Emigrants,” my first encounter with W. G. Sebald’s fiction, I marveled at the inclusion of photographs. It may have been the first time I’d seen a writer do that. There was one tiny print of a man walking through a field with a butterfly net. The image, the activity it described, caught my attention. I puzzled over the significance. I’d read a few books by Nabokov (again, not a completist), but did not make the connection. I’ve just finished reading Nabokov’s memoir, “Speak, Memory,” and his passion for lepidopterology reminded me of the photograph in Sebald’s book. A satisfying line of tension sprung up between the two authors and their works, each informing the other despite the chasm of time between them.
I can’t have another book from Sebald, but I can reread. Now that I have those butterflies on my mind, I might pick up “Emigrants” again. Or I might move on to “The Rings of Saturn” and risk becoming a Sebald completist.
Matthew Girolami, Senior Poetry Editor, Cleaver Magazine:
Gwendolyn Brooks. I recently read "In the Mecca," and was astonished to learn that it's out of print and rarely discussed as much as her more well-known books, such as We Real Cool. "In The Mecca" is a pages long narrative poem about the Mecca apartments in Chicago. The poem itself weaves in and out of the lives of the residents, investigating class, race, family, and simply the lives of those on the margins. While the very length and coherence of the poem is itself impressive, more so is Brooks' inventiveness: the tone drifts from the elevated to the vernacular, from fable to reality, and is simply a beautiful, complicated, nuanced portrait of populations who are otherwise neglected, especially so when the poem was written in 1968. That poem aside, Brooks was an activist in every aspect of her life, even moving from publishing with Harper and Row to Broadside Press, a small, independent African-American publisher. She also organized groups to teach creative writing to Chicago gangs, as well as other disprivileged creatives. Even with a Pulitzer and countless other honors, Brooks never retired from activism. I think she's a crucial example of not only creative brilliance but also of what poetry can do outside the academy, outside the ivory tower, which is a question I pose to my own writing daily; I often feel that I am not doing enough to radicalize my writing and my sphere. I think especially now Brooks' voice and leadership is necessary. She reminds us of poetry's--of language's--radical impulse and influence.
Jessica Rosevear Fox, Editor/Publisher, Killing the Angel:
Virginia Woolf and Nora Ephron would both come back for a collaboration of epic proportions.
Angie Cruz, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher/Founder, Aster(ix):
I would love to bring back Gloria Anzaldua who wrote Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza back in 1987. Her book, a hybrid of poetry and theory, has influenced so many writers and thinkers. I would love to see what she would write today when the borders between literary genres have become more and more fluid and the the geographical borders more and more fixed.
Philip Elliot, Editor-in-Chief, Into The Void:
After living through the horrors of World War II and joining the French Resistance in Paris and almost getting caught by the Gestapo a number of times, I am curious to see how Samuel Beckett would reconcile humanity's disastrous turn towards fear, hate, discrimination and oppression once again.
JT Lachausse, Editor-in-Chief, The Matador Review:
James Baldwin. Right now, we need another Baldwin. Or the man himself. We need his social criticism, his exploration of sexuality and racial tension, his fervor toward prejudice and classism. He was not a panicked activist, but an intricate and forward-thinking revolutionary. He used his words, and he marched, and he got connected with folks who mattered. We need to carry Baldwin’s torch.
“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
-- James Baldwin, No Name in the Street (1972)
Zafar Anjum, Editor, Kitaab International:
For me, it has to be Kafka or Chekhov. I just can't have enough of them!
RM Cooper, Editor, Sequestrum:
Steinbeck gave us characters and narratives which are now synonymous with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. I'd love to read his take on America today. Also, Mary Shelley. She might be better suited for the task today.
Michael Prihoda, Editor, After the Pause:
David Foster Wallace. Another collection of essays. We need his levelheaded ingenuity more than ever in these days. I can't imagine how incisive and thoughtful he would be about the greater-than-ever challenges facing our country.
Joe Ponepinto, Publisher, Tahoma Literary Review:
Perhaps a strange choice, but I'm going to say W. G. Sebald. A master of weaving history and politics into existential narrative—an approach I think could serve us well in the current political upheaval we seem to be going through. He died (car accident) well before he was done writing. I can't help but wonder what he would make of current events.