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Foreword Lewis Thomas, winner of the first annual Missouri Review Editors' Prize in the essay, has a reputation for asking questions as large as a child might ask and having the most amazingly good time trying to answer them. His "Song of the Canary" asks how human language began. While he calls on several learned disciplines in pursuit of an answer, he finally rests his case on the far side of science, somewhere between the plains of common human experience and the mountains of intuition. Both of the other winners of the MR Editors' Prize, as it happens, share an interest in a related, and equally substantial, theme—the lessons of war. Kyoko Mori's lucid poem "Fallout" describes the young poet's journey to Hiroshima, in a pilgrimage that finally transcends commemoration, while Baine Kerr's rollicking story "Light Sweet Crude" watches the reportage of Desert Storm through the eyes of maverick emigres in a central American jungle village—a place where another kind of struggle is unfolding. Also in this issue, feisty, plain-talking novelist Margaret Walker describes her long struggle with Alex Haley (who died in early February, after this interview was completed), and she gives us an insider's view of some of the stresses and strains in Chicago's South Side Writers' Group of the thirties and forties, among writers like Nelson Algren and Richard Wright. In a recent issue of The Missouri Review, we presented a hitherto unpublished diary by Jean Clemens, daughter of Mark Twain. We continue with the subject of the Clemens family in this issue by offering parts of Resa Willis's upcoming book Markand Livy, exploring the courtship, marriage, and working arrangements between Olivia Langdon Clemens and Twain. What is the "former Soviet Union?" There's a question that's being asked these days by children and by think tanks, alike. Not only is the "former Soviet Union" still in flux, but our previous interpretative myths of it, including the great superstructure of a half-century of Cold War culture, politics, propaganda and counterpropaganda, have crumbled like a vast city in a cataclysmic earthquake. The old landmarks are gone but the psychological dust surely hasn't yet cleared. C.W. Gusewelle recently went on the adventure of a lifetime in the former Soviet Union, and in "A Great Current" he tenders a preliminary report. Gusewelle organized and went on an expedition on the nearly three-thousand-mile-long Lena River in Siberia, ending on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. From there, he flew back to Moscow, arriving on what turned out to be the night of the August coup. One of the things that his trip dramatizes is the vastness of the former USSR. When he flew back to Moscow, Gusewelle crossed six time zones, a distance of about as far as from Kansas City to Bogota, Colombia, or Kansas City to the North Magnetic Pole, and his trip did not by any means cover the full length of the Soviet Union. From Western Ukraine to eastern Siberia is about as far as from Kansas City to Finland or New York to Moscow. The fundamental fact of its geographic hugeness and its ethnic diversity helps me to understand the former nation's dissolution. The end of Moscow's dominion over this colossal estate may be the last major instance of the collapse of empires in the twentieth century, and the effort to rebuild as a Commonwealth of Independent States may be the only realistic solution. The saga of the Dead Sea Scrolls should be made into a series of novels to be written by Lawrence Durrell reincarnate. Middle Eastern mysteries of the past, melodramatic revelations, intrigue, an overriding sense that all things are relative to the observer—Durrell must be brought back for this! The only problem is that there's no way he'll be able to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls in four books. Recently, the scrolls have been in the headlines again, as they often have been over the half-century since their discovery. The team of scholars officially in charge of much of the unpublished scroll material for the last thirty-five years lost their...


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pp. 5-12
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