Maps & Legends: a sampler
Take a tour of the offerings in our latest issue, now in print and available for purchase on our website and at select bookstores nationwide.
I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking. — John Cleves Symmes, Jr., Symmes’ Circular №1, 1818
Every map represents both truth and imagination. No matter how carefully a medieval ship’s captain described a shoreline or how sophisticated a modern engineer’s tools, there is always space left for interpretation: “Here there be dragons”; “Somewhere beyond this line lies the kingdom of Prester John.” These are the mapmakers’ truths, but no one can reach such a place without a leap of faith….
Kat Meads: “Leaving the House”
A photograph, forgetting.
Daughter takes a last photograph of her childhood home at first-dark. From where, exactly? South of ragged front-yard grass, across a cattail-wild ditch, in/on a dirt road that crunches. First dark, it is. Possibly twilight. Classifications matter. Memory, by nature, is rebellious. If classifications are not defined, agreed upon, adhered to, against which baseline will memory rebel? Troublesome: the inability to fix upon either first dark or late twilight. It must indicate that already, essentially, she misremembers the taking of the final photograph of her childhood home….
Julie Anderson: “It Cannot Be Conceived”
American idealists in two Chinese revolutions, Cultural and capitalist.
Beijing airport, 1991: Out of nowhere, a gaunt man of thirty dashed toward me and grabbed my hand in an enthusiastic handshake that lasted several seconds. He wore a cheap black polyester suit with a white button-down shirt, and he had thinning hair and a smile that managed to be both goofy and arrogant. He introduced himself as Mr. Wu and explained to me that he was the waiban of Beifang Gongda, which basically meant that his job was ensuring that the six foreigners on campus — four Japanese and two Americans — were happy.
Outside the airport, in Beijing’s damp, fierce August heat, a black sedan waited for us. The sedan, with its white-walled tires, chrome trim, and tail fins, looked straight out of the 1950s. Lace curtains covered the windows but I peeked out occasionally as Mr. Wu rattled on, eager to practice his English. This turned out to consist of an astonishing string of proverbs and clichés.
“Your plane was a little late,” he said, “but better late than never. At any rate, you will have plenty of time to adjust to life in China. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
I smiled politely, wondering how long it had taken him to memorize these silly phrases. I didn’t yet understand that one of the marks of an educated person in China is a mastery of chengyu — idioms and allusions — liberally sprinkled into speech. In fact, they’re so important a part of Chinese education that there are, to this day, chengyu competitions and even TV game shows….
Bradley Dicharry: “Letters and Arts”
How vernacular typography and letterforms map our America.
The shapes of letters help shape our experience of a place and, later, our memories of it. Vernacular typography is about identity…. Through the years, I have explored over 100 cities across the country, documenting vernacular typography in signage. Along the way I have tried to photograph both machined and handmade letterforms that typically go unnoticed. Though these letterforms are usually rooted in commerce, typography is more than a commercial endeavor. It is a method of communication that helps shape our collective cultural identity….
Deborah Jiang-Stein: “Generous Bonus Doses”
Dark prison experiments could have cost a mother’s and child’s lives.
Lexington was the first institution of its kind in the United States, a combined hospital and federal prison. At its peak capacity, it housed 1,500, mostly men. About a third of the population had been convicted of federal charges related to drug use. The Narcotic Farm’s original purpose was to treat people who were admitted “voluntarily” for drug abuse problems. William S. Burroughs wrote about it in his book Junkie, where the autobiographical main character checks in to quit his heroin addiction.
There in the administrator’s tiny office, I read something I wished I hadn’t: During the time of my birth mother’s incarceration, a “bold and ambitious public works project” encouraged prisoners to volunteer as human guinea pigs for drug experiments. These records did not state what the tests entailed. As a reward for participating, subjects were given “generous bonus doses of heroin.”
Bryant Mangum: “An Affair of Youth”
In search of flappers, belles, and the legendary Fitzgeralds.
One unseasonably warm autumn night in 1970, three young scholars took a martini-fueled joyride to tour the cemeteries of Rockville, Maryland. They’d decided they needed to visit the final resting place of their beloved author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and ask some questions….
My own work ended up centering on Fitzgerald’s search for heroes and heroines who manage to reconcile the new existential quest of the modern age with the genteel chivalric tradition….
The Southern-set stories in particular work largely because of the carefully balanced tension that Fitzgerald identifies in the opposition the stories present between a value system founded on romantic ideals — as is the Southern belle’s in its attachment to the chivalric notion of noblesse oblige — and the flapper’s pragmatic philosophy of gratifying the senses since all gods are dead and all faiths in man are shaken, the human condition after World War I….
Once we’d found the gravesite, things went glimmering. I watched Rick lie flat on Zelda’s grave while Jim knelt on one knee at the headstone, like a Virginia gentleman in an old photograph.
Myself, I saw flappers come out of the earth off the dust cover of Tales of the Jazz Age and speak to each other in soft Montgomery, Alabama, voices while Rastus Muldoon’s Savannah Band began the first bars of Vladimir Tostoff’s “Jazz History of the World.” One of the flappers crooked her finger toward me in what seemed a “come hither” gesture. I did — and never looked back….
Ron Smith: “Suitor”
When George met Martha.
She liked him, though she knew exactly
what he was after, this tower of a man, topped
to put her tiny hand in his prodigious one, but
he bowed, as he always did, and began to speak
oh so carefully, yes, as he always did. Yes, she
would walk with him. Yes, it was
a fine day….
Yes, of course, she would
write to him, for she loved
receiving his courtesies in that
controlled, precise hand. Come again, she said, and
returning his bow (a little ironically), felt
her palms aching, though
she didn’t know why.
Amira Pierce: “Corniche”
Sea and city: Beirut 2004.
People rest on benches and along railings, kept company by the sad, squat palm trees that line the walkway made of large concrete slabs. Swimmers jump off the rocks below. Loungers bring lawn chairs to set up on the flat rocks and concrete juts where they play cards and smoke argileh. Hotels and fancy apartment buildings stare at us from across the busy street. The people inside them are lucky; they can always see the water, so close, from their windows. But we are lucky to be even closer. The glow across everything thaws some deep and usually frozen part of us.
Bea Chang: “The River My Father Promised”
A quest through more than fifty countries.
You can say that my growing up, that jerky, stop-and-start, incoherent narrative of packing and unpacking and packing again, messed me up. You can also say — or at least this was how I sometimes explained it — that I was mesmerized by the stilted huts on the Mekong River and the graceful strides of a Guatemalan woman holding a basket on her head. Passing by, I imagined whole stories unfolding, saw myself asleep on the bare teak floors and twirling tortillas by an open flame. These images were like a rolling film to me, the flipping pages of a novel….
Henry Walters: “Call & Response”
— A carnival game?
— To pass the time.
— How come the moon should fit the shape of the sun?
It does to our eyes only! …
Interview: “Forget About Everything Else”
Matthew Phipps’s talk with TyRuben Ellingson, cinematic art director and visual effects designer.
TyRuben Ellingson was part of the team that devised innovative special effects in movies such as Jurassic Park, Star Wars: A New Hope, and Disclosure. He has also designed for director Guillermo del Toro and the Blade series of films, and while working for James Cameron at Lightstorm, he designed the vehicles that helped remap cinematic and imaginative history in the movie Avatar.
Ellingson: One of my interests was always that kind of supernatural universe where people were having dynamic experiences. You know, Frankenstein’s monster is made in a lab, and the lab is filled with all kinds of electricity. I was stimulated by the technology and the idea of putting dead people together and creating life. It made me think, even at a young age, That’s creepy but would that work, and how would it work, and could it work? It was an expansive kind of experience. I also liked, as most children do I guess, the stimulation of being afraid. It’s very seductive; it makes you giddy in a kind of horrific way, if there is such a version of giddy horrificness….
Harry Kollatz, Jr.: “The Evolution of 817 West Broad”
The storied past of our magazine’s office, a microcosm for the Southern U.S.
… The trolley made Broad Street the center of Richmond’s mass transit and supported the foundation and growth of commercial enterprises on both sides of the street. The “both sides” element is crucial, as the trolley tracks effectively became a color line downtown: On the south side of Broad were located large department stores and fine shops for white customers, while the north side housed businesses catering to the substantial African American population who lived in wards and neighborhoods behind….
The legends of this issue’s Contributors:
Julie Anderson’s essays and stories have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Other Voices, and Writing From the Inside Out, as well as various anthologies.
Since 2007, Bea Chang has lived in and backpacked through fifty countries. Her work has appeared in Colere: A Journal of Cultural Exploration, Memoir Journal, and Frostwriting.
Deborah Jiang-Stein is a national speaker and founder of the unPrison Project, a nonprofit organization working with women and girls to build capacity for successful lives after prison. Her memoir is called Prison Baby.
Harry Kollatz, Jr., is the author of True Richmond Stories and Richmond in Ragtime: Socialists, Suffragists, Sex & Murder.
Bryant Mangum is a scholar of F. Scott Fitzgerald and twentieth-century American literature. His books include A Fortune Yet: Money in the Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Short Stories, and the edited collections Best Early Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context.
Kat Meads’s most recent essay collection, 2:12 a.m., won an Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal and was a Forewords Reviews INDIEFAB Award finalist. Her sixth novel, In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These, will be published in 2017.
Matthew Phipps, who interviewed TyRuben Ellingson, is a past lead editor of Broad Street. He interviewed costume designer Paloma Young for our themed issue “Hunt, Gather.”
Amira Pierce’s work has been featured in publications such as The Colorado Review and Asian American Literary Review.
Ron Smith is a former Poet Laureate of Virginia. His books are Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery, Moon Road, and Its Ghostly Workshop.
Henry Walters is a naturalist, teacher, and falconer who has served apprenticeships in Sicily, Ireland, and Ghana. His work has been featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Asymptote, The Literary Bohemian, and Hawk Migration Studies, and in his poetry collection, Field Guide A Tempo, which was a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
Bradley Dicharry (photo essay) is a designer, educator, and letterpress printer whose work has appeared throughout the United States. He is currently working on a series translating letterform photographs into letterpress prints.
TyRuben Ellingson (interview) is a cinematic visual effects art director and conceptual designer who has worked on films such as Avatar, Jurassic Park, Star Wars: A New Hope, Mimic, and the Blade series.
Masami Inoue, who also works under the name Masa, creates both digitally and traditionally. More of her art can be seen on Broad Street’s website, in a series about dreams on which she collaborated with the poet Judith Serin.
Lee Strasburger has mounted one-person shows in Tokyo, Toronto, Manchester (UK), and Boston, and her work has been featured in group shows all over the globe. She has lived and been inspired in places from Boston to London, Kenya, and Venice.
Eric Van Marter’s photographs have been displayed throughout the Amarillo, Texas, area, most notably at the Southern Light Gallery, the Amarillo Public Libraries, and the Amarillo Museum of Art.
Mark Wyatt has been building his portfolio of street portraits since around 1980. His work can be seen and followed at his WordPress site.