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FOREWORD Contrary to the assumptions of some critics, both literature and popular entertainment today greatly concern themselves with the quest for Something Better—with characters in search of wholemess, a better state, a truer love. Alas, too, there is as much sentimental quest writing as there ever was. Contemporary fiction, poetry, and movies are beset by tidy little parables of fulfillment or missed fulfillment, and by the handmaidens of such stories— wispy yearnings about aging and mortality. Such sentimentality derives today, as it always has, from two-dimensional idealism and unearned warmth, shaped and closed by neat allegory, untested by the world. "Heaven is where your dreams come true," Kevin Costner tells the ghost of his dead father in a popular current movie, in which the son is given a chance to "ease the pain" of his old dad by building a baseball diamond in a cornfield and bringing him back as a ghost to play baseball. A young ghost, of course, before he had been "beat down by life." Such a story is typical of the current sentimentalism. The theme is familial wholeness, filial love, but there is no sense of hard truth wrested from complex reality. Instead, we are presented with heaven in the family, achieved by a handshake and a game of catch. Many of the stories in this issue are about searching for an ideal or for a better state, but from less sentimental points of view. Wally Lamb's remarkable "Astronauts" recounts a high school teacher's quest for true communication, as he seeks some meaningful way to touch others. Steven Schwartz's "Uncle Isaac" is about the pursuit of a sexual identity, when personal sexuality clashes with norms. Jean Matthew's "It's Love, Buddy" is the story of one man's urge to find the meaning and nature of parental love, while both Thomas Kennedy's "The Great Master" and Ruth Yunker's "The Corner View" are skeptical looks at the very nature of questing, or of the urge for some imagined perfectedness that lies in the future. Will Baker's "Chiquita Banana Muy Bonita" is the odd man out in this issue; it is not a quest tale but a realistic crime story whose theme is cultural and class condescension, handled in a wonderfully sly way. "The Great Hash Toss" is part of a collection of oral histories about hippies in Kansas—the quests of the sixties told by older, more seasoned voices, recounting their own ridiculous adventures, their delusions, their maddening insouciance toward the future, and their splendid fun. Kay Bonetti interviews Peter Matthiessen in this issue. Matthiessen is one of the more eloquent and credible writers today about journeys, both outward and inward. Much of his life has been a quest, and he describes it with great subtlety and humor. SM C/*u»n/)ro&¿ "WÊK-, AJO , IT'S A)?? YeJR FAUt-T exetUÍ^£tYf ÍJT TWC FAeT RtMAiHi TtfAT ALL TUt GREATf Atte DEAD.' ...


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pp. 5-6
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