In 1978 James Alan McPherson made history as the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Told from the perspective of one of McPherson’s closest friends and students, “Old School” is a celebration of writing, memory, and true friendship and its importance in our lives. It provides a brief yet touching glimpse into the life of one of the United States’ most distinguished writers.
In 2013, Eli Mandel decided to recreate the 642-mile trek that John Keats completed in the summer of 1818, hoping to learn more about the famous poet who died at the age of twenty-five. As Mandel matches his “ghostly companion’s” journey step-for-step, the moments of discovery turn inward and Mandel is forced to face his own ghosts.
In 1990, the avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra arrived at Dartmouth to collaborate with the school’s jazz band, where Michael Lowenthal–an anxious, 20-year-old senior–played trumpet. As rehearsals got underway and two musical worlds collided, Lowenthal struggled with the improvisation that Sun Ra’s sparse, yet spiritual, melodies demanded. In this essay, Lowenthal recounts his “otherworldly” experience with the famous jazz star who claimed to be from Saturn.
In this touching and humorous essay, John Philip Drury recounts coming of age during the Vietnam Era. With a low draft number and an exit from college looming, Drury faces the imminent possibility of fighting in a war that he opposes. In the meantime, he tries and abandons a dream to become a songwriter, labors mightily to lose his virginity, and looks to the adult world around him for models of what he most wants to be -- an artist.
When Robert Howard is assigned James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in his Catholic high school, his teacher, a Jesuit priest, announces, "Other people may read about it, but you are LIVING it!" As promised, the young Howard, growing up in 1970s Detroit, feels an intense identification with the protagonist of Joyce's first novel, Stephen Dedalus.
In this meditative and flavorful essay, Alexandra Johnson visits Viggiano and the large, extended Italian family that would have been her own—had she married the youngest son, Giorgio, her old boyfriend. Now married to another man, she returns to the house to help Giorgio improve his English as he thinks about leaving southern Italy and its struggling economy behind.
Young and naive, Kathleen Hill moves to newly independent Nigeria with her husband to teach at Igbobi College. It is the early 1960s, and Hill is soon caught up in the swirl of the times: the legacy of colonialism, chaos back in America, and violence and racism across the globe that touch even the quiet school where she teaches English literature.
In this gripping and wide-ranging essay, Nadelson deals with his grief after the premature death of a close friend, coupled with the joy accompanying the birth of his first child. Everything he now does—from caring for his daughter to wandering the streets of his run-down neighborhood in Oregon—starts to feel like a betrayal.
“A mathematician,” G. H. Hardy wrote, “like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns." Throughout his childhood, Jim Tilley was encouraged to discover such patterns through the mathematical puzzles his father posed for him to solve. Never satisfied with ordinary solutions, his father insisted on mathematical elegance. Always more comfortable in the realm of the mind, he could never bring himself to give Tilley a hug; they'd merely shake hands on parting.
Stuck with a plane ticket to Israel bought for her by a Polish Catholic ex-boyfriend, Eileen Pollack sets out on a hectic, solitary journey around the country, cataloging the region’s rich history, natural beauty, and troubled politics, while examining her own complicated relationship to her Jewish faith and heritage. In this darkly comic, incisive, and nuanced essay, Pollack upends the reader’s expectations as well as her own.