Tagged: kerry temple

Some of that outside validation we all crave

This year’s edition of Best American Essays lands in bookstores today, and alumni magazines and writers are represented. Listed among “Notable Essays of 2011” are:

— Brian Doyle, editor of Portland, for “The Creature Beyond the Mountains,” which appeared in Orion.

— Patrick Dunne, for “Into the Deep,” which appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Notre Dame Magazine.

— Kerry Temple, editor of Notre Dame, for “A Summer Night,” which he scribbled for the Summer 2011 issue of his magazine.

Congratulations to all.

Notre Dame on style

We have a running joke in our office about someday publishing the Johns Hopkins Magazine swimsuit issue. If you know us, know the magazine, and know the school, you grasp the irony, or perhaps the absurdity, on several levels. There is not much that could be classed as unlikelier. But a candidate would be Notre Dame Magazine putting out a special style issue.

For years, Notre Dame has been many wonderful things, but style conscious, style attentive, stylish . . . no. The magazine has reflected its boss, Kerry Temple, and its staff: deeply smart, thoughtful, sober, concerned with matters of mind, heart, and spirit, respectful of what endures and unafraid to question what, perhaps, ought not to endure. I like seriousness when it is in league with an active mind, and that’s how I think of Notre Dame. So even though I’d been tipped that something different was on its way from South Bend—my whisperers are everywhere—when I dug the spring 2012 issue out of my mailbox, I still laughed in surprise.

Starting with the cover, the special issue was brilliantly executed. The cover expertly mimics the fashion magazines that find their way into my house (courtesy of my glamourpuss wife): design, typography, tightly cropped portrait of London Vale, a Notre Dame alumna now working as an actress and model. The TOC lists 18 stories in the feature well, and they range from Kerry Temple’s opening essay, which is typically fine work from him and scores points for employing the word “galoot” and the phrase “a budding boy immersed in puissant femininity”, to Liam Farrell’s reporting on Notre Dame grads working at GQ, to a nicely pointed note from vice president and associate provost Daniel J. Myers about the sartorial shortcomings of university faculty, to a “live” report from fashion week by Arienne Thompson. Interspersed are pictures of Notre Dame students wearing their clothes.

I sent editor Temple a note asking him about the issue, and he replied, “In the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed a couple of cable TV shows, Project Runway and What Not to Wear, which I watch with my wife, of course. So one evening I was talking with Arienne Thompson, the Notre Dame grad who writes about fashion for USA Today, and we got to talking about those shows and clothes and what she writes about. And we talked about her writing a piece for us, with the working title, ‘You Are What You Wear.’

“Then, one day early last fall, I was talking into the office, thinking about that, and the phrase jumped into my head: ‘Notre Dame Magazine‘s First Annual Fashion Issue.’ Like Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue or ESPN‘s body issue. The juxtaposition of Notre Dame Magazine and fashion just made me smile. Preposterous.

“So at our next weekly staff meeting, I put it to the staff and talked about how the executive editor of GQ is an alumnus, then about Linda [Przybyszewski’s] book about fashion, and what Arienne Thompson might write, and what I wanted to say, and it all rolled out from there. Pieces kept falling into place, the momentum got going, we thought it’d be fun to spoof fashion magazine covers, then mimic iconic clothing ads, and we just kept laughing and saying, ‘Let’s do it.'”

(Ed. note: Because I know you’re all wondering, Linda Przybyszewski’s name is pronounced LIN-duh.)

A sampling of the good bits, for me, would include this from Paige Wiser’s essay “An Embarrassment of Clothes”:

Sure, you could blame the ’70s. But when are parents going to step up and take some responsibility? Why don’t they just admit it? “When we dress our kids, we don’t always have their best interests at heart.”

I wasn’t the only fashion victim. Look closely at a photo of any small child dressed up in a sailor suit or reindeer antlers, and you’ll see an unmistakable message in their eyes:

“Help me.”

And this from screenwriter Jamie Reidy, about the suit he bought from Macy’s for the premiere of his first movie:

Then I felt the tightness in the lower back of my suit jacket. I tried to poof it, like a concert pianist prior to sitting down on his bench. But my jacket did not budge. This would have been fine if it had no vents. But it did. Standing on Hollywood Boulevard, merely two first downs from the media lights and red carpet, Jenn [Reidy’s girlfriend at the time] confirmed that two strings crisscrossed the bottom of the jacket flaps: an X marking the spot of my fashion fiasco.

She didn’t need to say the words: That wouldn’t have happened at Neiman Marcus.

And this, from Daniel Myer’s list of 20 popular faculty styles:

[Style #3]: Why tuck in my shirt? I’ll just have to do it again tomorrow.

[Style #7]: That hole burned by 18 molar hydrochloric acid isn’t that bad. Why waste a perfectly functional pair of pants?

Temple ended his note to me about the issue, “I think we responded to an initial fun idea and so intuitively welcomed the departure from our typical heaviness, earnest examinations, and institutional duty that it got us going, kind of gave us wings. Notre Dame takes itself very seriously and the magazine reflects that, we’d been through some internal ordeals, but the time was right for us to throw open the windows and let a gust of fresh air blow through the house. And it did.”


I believe in the healing of story. I think it’s good for people to talk it out. There is something clarifying, curative, restorative in the telling; some would call it “therapeutic.” Ernest Hemingway once said, “If he wrote it, he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them.”

The act of sharing is good for the recipient, too. The hand-off from storyteller to listener is an exchange of trust and understanding. And more is imparted in that transaction than the story itself. Storytelling is gift-giving.

—Kerry Temple, “Let me tell you . . . ” Read all of it.

Best American Essays taps alumni magazines

Not for the first time, the annual volume The Best American Essays has honored a couple of alumni magazines. The 2011 edition’s editors, Robert Atwan and Edwidge Danticat, selected Pico Iyer’s “Chapels”  from Portland (you will need to scroll through the PDF to find it on pg. 50) for inclusion in anthology that includes work by Hilton Als, Christopher Hitchens, Charlie LeDuff, and Zadie Smith. Here is the opening paragraph:

Giant figures are talking and strutting and singing on enormous screens above me, and someone is chattering away on the miniscreen in the cab from which I just stepped. Nine people at this street corner are shouting into thin air, wearing wires around their chins and jabbing at screens in their hands. One teenager in Sacramento, I read recently, sent 300,000 text messages in a month—or ten a minute for every minute of her waking day, assuming she was awake sixteen hours a day. There are more cell phones than people on the planet now, almost (ten mobiles for every one at the beginning of the century) Even by the end of the last century, the average human being in a country such as ours saw as many images in a day as a Victorian inhaled in a lifetime.

The back pages of each edition of Best American Essays lists other notable essays published in the previous year, a sort of honorable mention. Among the pieces honored were Joseph Epstein’s “The Symphony of a Lifetime,” published by Kerry Temple’s Notre Dame Magazine:

I have taken to saying that my wife and I are at the grandparent stage of life. I don’t before now recall using the metaphor “stage” to describe any other segment or portion of my life. The notion of stages of life has been around for a long while, of course, and doesn’t look to be going away.

Go-o-o-o , Lemmings!” by Brian Doyle, published by The American Scholar:

The first sports team I remember loving as a child, in the dim dewy days when I was two or three years old and just waking up to things that were not milk and mama or dirt and dogs, was the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame. They were on television every day, it seemed, in our bustling brick Irish Catholic house. Inasmuch as I was hatched and coddled near Manhattan, there were also Metropolitans and Knickerbockers and Rang­ers and Islanders, and as I shuffled shyly into high school, I met snarling and roaring mammalian mascots, notably the Cougars of my own alma mater, which was plopped in marshlands where I doubt a cougar had been seen for 300 years.

“An Intimate Geography” by Barry Lopez, also published by Portland:

It was night, but not the color of sky you might expect. The sun was up in the north, a few fingers above the horizon, and the air itself was bluer than it had been that afternoon, when the light was yellower. A friend and I were sitting atop a knoll in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska on a June “evening.” We had our spotting scopes trained on a herd of several hundred barren-ground caribou browsing three miles away in the broad, treeless, U-shaped valley of the Anaktuvuk River. The herd drifted in silence across an immensity of space

Finally, the Spring 2010 edition of Portland, “Water as Soul,” was cited as a “notable special issue.”

Congratulations to all.

Eight Questions for Kerry Temple

Kerry Temple edits one of the smartest periodicals I know. Notre Dame Magazine does, with every issue, what the best magazines do: informs me and prods me into thinking about many of life’s more important questions. Temple shies from the spotlight, but that did not save him from UMagazinology.

How long have you been in your job?

Since 1995, and managing editor for 10 years before becoming editor.

What has proven to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do that job?

To make sure to plan ahead and, personally, how to handle criticism and angry readers.

What has been your best experience at the magazine?

Overall, the gratifying collaboration of staff, writers, artists, and photographers whose great creative work all comes together in each issue. If you mean a specific experience as editor, it was taking on the subject of homosexuality and doing 25 pretty forthright pages on the topic. Or maybe stories I’ve gotten to write, the opportunity to go places, learn stuff, and then write about it.

What has proven to be your biggest frustration?

I think a university magazine should mix the best ideals of journalism and education, so I get frustrated by forces that constrain dialogue, or by any unwillingness to listen or to think about difficult topics that need an airing or examination.

What part of your magazine never quite satisfies you, despite everybody’s best effort?

We talk a lot about our magazine being lighter, airier, less serious. Despite trying to lighten up, and even getting more levity and humor onto our pages, there’s still a density there—maybe even an intensity—that seems so apparent, but after the fact, after the issue is out. With every issue I see things that disappoint me.

What story are you proudest to have published?

The issue we devoted to homosexuality, a very provocative subject for our readership. But maybe, as a single story, the very honest and revealing first-person account by an alumnus who had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a student. Catholic stuff, like our coverage of the controversial Obama commencement a couple of years ago, always invigorates our readers. And the tough ones always make me a little prouder to have gone there.

If you could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

Right now, this morning, my answer would be Fareed Zakaria or Andrew Sullivan (now that Dale Keiger has been on our pages).

If you weren’t an editor, what would your dream job be?

I got into this business because I love to write. My dream job would be that—to have somebody pay me write.