• Begin Again

    Adam Ross

    Winter 2024

    A couple of decades ago, when I was a journalist at my adopted hometown’s alternative weekly, the Nashville Scene, my editor-in-chief was Bruce Dobie, a great reporter and editor. A Louisiana native, he knew Nashville more intimately than some of its oldest families, privy as he was to its secret histories and backroom deals, its luminaries’ off-the-record predilections and politicians’ vices. And he was a person of extraordinary energy. Recognizing in me either the perfect exercise partner or the perfect mark, I regularly spent my lunch hour at the downtown YMCA with him, lifting weights or undergoing a torturous circuit, driven so hard that by the end I could barely lift my car keys. Sometimes, Bruce would appear at my cubicle in shorts and a T-shirt and say, “Let’s go for a run.” This being long before Nashville’s real estate boom, our office was in an area that was mostly industrial sprawl and storage facilities, auto body shops adjacent empty stretches of fenced-off blacktop. These workouts were great for me, because they always concluded with a free lunch and Bruce wasn’t paying me much. But they also gave me a chance to see Nashville’s underbelly, as it were, and they provided me time with my boss, from whom I coaxed invaluable pointers about my new position as an editor and staff writer—or who was, more likely, surreptitiously taking me under his wing. It was during one of these runs that I asked him a question which had been giving me tremendous anxiety in my new role. “Do you ever worry that one week there won’t be any stories to tell?” And he in his wisdom, as we ran beneath the I-65 overpass, said without hesitation, “Never.”

    I have also found this to be the case here at the Sewanee Review. Every time we are approaching our issue’s close date, and I fear we won’t be able to fill our pages with writing that’s fresh and resonant, we find ourselves inundated with work that electrifies our staff. In the case of the current issue, we welcome a bevy of new writers who open up vistas of understanding to us, like Cindy Juyoung Ok, whose poem “Before the DMZ” tells of a mother’s return to North Korea to meet the brother she never knew she had, only to discover that the borders separating them are porous when it comes to blood relations. Poets Keith Leonard, Derrick Austin, Michael McGriff, Rachel Rinehart, and Rob Colgate are also first-time contributors. As are every one of our fiction writers: Olivia Nathan and Madeline Cash; also Peter Kispert, who gives us a rare peek into the seedy world of online phishing scams; and Sonia Feigelson, whose story about a tropical getaway with her disaffected father will forever change how you view a margarita. Novelist and critic Ryan Chapman takes the helm from Tara Menon in our annual essay on the Booker Prize finalists. Holly Goddard Jones pens a craft essay about the generative power of negative space—of the unsaid—in fiction. Returning contributor Garth Greenwell offers a close consideration of “Bartow Station” from Jamel Brinkley’s most recent story collection Witness, demonstrating how the short form, practiced at the highest level, contains unseen multitudes. Michael Bazzett, whose work appeared in our summer 2020 issue, and 2018 poetry contest winner Cate Lycurgus are also featured. Take the issue with you on your lunch break, whether it’s on a treadmill or, if you’re lucky during these short days of February, to a comfortable chair, by a tall window, flooded with sunlight.  

    Adam Ross is the editor of the Sewanee Review, as well as the author of the novel Mr. Peanut and the short story collection Ladies and Gentlemen.

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