A Note From the Editor:
When I was twelve, before a family trip to Disney World in the summer of 1996, I picked out a book from our local library to keep me distracted during the two-day drive to Orlando, Florida. For me, as a child, picking out a book was emotional. Cover art meant more than author prestige or a convincing review on the back cover. It was a deeply personal thing. After agonizing through several rows of fiction, the book I chose was 1984. It was the year I was born.
I journeyed with Winston Smith through Carolina farm fields and uncovered the dark secrets of Big Brother near the Florida/Georgia line. There is a lot I missed out on, to be sure, reading it that young. But by the end of that novel, I was reduced to tears in the parking lot of the Wilderness Resort. Under the spreading chestnut tree. I sold you, and you sold me. It’s something one doesn’t forget. The thing is, despite not peeling back the literary curtain on the book, I knew enough to despise the world in which Winston and Julia lived. And I knew enough to know that Disney World wasn’t that sort of place. At twelve, I found Disney a bit silly, patently uncool for a boy walking the tightrope between childhood and teenage adolescence. But after reading 1984, I made it a point to linger just a few weeks longer in boyhood. I bought the stuffed Humphrey the Bear that I knew was too expensive, I played the extra carnival game that I knew I had little chance of winning, and I went to each attraction that my seven-year-old sister wanted to see. I enjoyed that trip very much, more than I would have otherwise, due in no small part to George Orwell.
No matter what readers bring to the table, literature has the profound capacity to change the way they see and move about the world. That is why editing for Rappahannock Review was such a joy. In fact, here is the great secret of what it was like to edit the journal:
On my desk is a stack of books—books I had strong intentions of reading this semester. They include Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner, and Nobel Prize winners. These are things I’m told are good, that I ought to be reading. And here’s the thing—I haven’t read a single word from these books. Because when I had spare moments to read, I wanted to read the submissions for Rappahannock Review instead. I am reasonably confident about what I am going to receive from each of these books on my desk. I’m familiar with their creators. I’m used to their tricks, and one gets accustomed to the literary voice. But each submission for the journal was something fresh and exciting, sometimes something moving and thought provoking.
Something that took me back to the parking lot of The Wilderness Resort in 1996. Something that my stack of books wasn’t going to deliver this semester. In many ways, I don’t think I’ve changed very much since I was I twelve. Reading is still an emotional event for me. It’s still an exploratory thing. And although at Rappahannock Review we chose our contributors based on stricter criteria than, say, one’s year of birth, that component of excitement and discovery, the surprise, is still fresh within each poem, essay, and story. I hope all of you enjoy the surprises in our issue just as much as I have.
Greg Willett, Editor in Chief