One Hundred And Strong
It is my great good fortune to have selected the 100th issue of Confrontation to review. In it, the editor, Martin Tucker, gives an overview of the magazine's history and purpose. Confrontation put out its first issue forty years ago. Tucker and five other editors, under the patronage of a trustee who lent inspiration and funding to the project, were each a professor at one or another of the three campuses of Long Island University. The journal's name was plucked from the zeitgeist of 1968 and is meant to express "soulful activism."
From the beginning, each issue has had a supplement that deals with as many sides as possible of one theme. The first supplement was The College Freshman. Other themes have included Morality and Prize-giving (the latter something aspiring poets and other writers tend to wonder about), The Copyright Debate, Pacifism, the 100th Anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn and the World, and Long Island Writers.
Each issue contains a memoir. In the beginning, the memoirists were famous people or established writers. In more recent years, following the trend, unknowns have been published as well.
Short stories and poems have been the mainstay of the magazine. A long-time member of the Executive Board of PEN and the Poetry Society of America and other literary and publishing organizations, Tucker has been in a position to attract big names. Among the authors reprinted in this 100th issue are: Cynthia Ozick, W. H. Auden, Jerzy Kosinski, Joseph Brodsky, Arthur Miller, Alvin Toffler, and I.B. Singer.
It has been the mission of the magazine to blend unknown writers with the known. Among the new stories, poems, and memoir in this issue, I recognize only one name, that of Anne McGovern, an author of children's books. In the credits, some authors list numerous publications and prizes; for others publication here is a first.
At a hefty 300 plus pages, each volume is called a "double issue."
Issue 100 begins with nineteen excerpts from Issue 1 in 1968 through Issue 23 in 1982. Big name authors abound. Some ideas have stood the test of time better than others. Ozick faults the typical 1968 freshman for being prudish, unimaginative, and socially conservative--this in the year when all hell broke loose on campuses. Of the notion that Thomas Jefferson had a black mistress, Thomas Fleming writes that such a thesis is "so wacked out, so unsupported by facts, [it] verge[s] on the absurd." Alvin Toffler, on the other hand, presciently lists ten events or changes--including birth control and electronic media--that constitute the outlines of a new civilization. Excerpts from non-fiction are one thing; I.B. Singer's truncated story, on the other hand, left me crazy to know what happens next.
The new material in Confrontation 100 consists of fourteen stories, a memoir, works by twenty-five poets and three reviews. Eight of the stories concern contemporary relationships: two young men are adrift in a series of low level jobs, the deadpan prose--with flashes of the very driest of humor--reflecting their stark existence; a 14 year old boy and his 13 year old sister, who live economically privileged lives, are assailed by a custody battle, earthquake threats, and their own burgeoning sexuality; an older couple, whose marriage is the second for them both, share a life of quiet desperation; a passive young Texan visits his edgy, well- to- do, sister, a Hollywood entertainment lawyer, and finds her life more louche than he had been able to imagine; in the strung together, breathless sentences of a six-year-old, an observant child's literal-minded account of the dissolution of his parents' marriage circles back to the ending provided in the story's first paragraph; a young woman drives across country tape-recording her side of a lovers' botched escapade, while inside her head runs a three-way argument between herself, her mother, and her lover; in a matter-of-fact account of a father and daughter running a sex-toy shop, apt details abound; three generations of males sort out the truths and falsehoods that lie between them.