The forthcoming issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine went to press Monday, which means The Dale is back in business as UMag Supreme Blogger. Some of what’s come in the last few weeks:
I usually have an allergic reaction to life-affirming stories about plucky individuals who overcome obstacles to do great things, because they are almost always badly written. So when I came to Jason Ryan’s story “Life’s Rich Pageant” in College of Charleston Magazine, I nearly paged right past it, and would have were it not for Diana Deaver’s striking photography. I mean, not only is the story life affirming, it’s about a beauty pageant winner, for God’s sake—to my amazement, Charleston has a “Miss College of Charleston” pageant. Anyway, I started the piece, and kept reading, and kept reading, and damn if I didn’t read the whole thing. Beauty queen Meagan Orton is, indeed, a beautiful young woman, but she’s also tough as a boot. She’s been a medical disaster ever since her premature birth, enduring injuries and illnesses and serious allergic reactions, the last of which, at the end of her sophomore year, left her deaf. Deaf but undaunted—her pageant performance was as a dancer. For the story, she gamely pulled her hair up so Deaver could photograph the hearing device implanted in her skull behind one ear. The story has some treacly bits, at least to my grumpy taste, but it held me to the end. Mark Berry edits the magazine, which is worthy of attention for its photography throughout.
Reach, from the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, notes that Poets & Writers has ranked the school’s creative writing program 14th out of 140 nationwide. Poets & Writers ranks writing MFA programs? Apparently this ranking nonsense has been proliferating. Can’t wait for Saveur‘s ranking of dormitory cafeterias, Turkey World‘s list of the best ag school poultry programs, and from Turf the nation’s 100 top quadrangles. Remind me . . . what does this have to do with education? My favorite item was that the Minnesota program ranked “10th for placement of grads in highly regarded post-MFA programs.” That’s one more way of saying creative writers still can’t make any money as creative writers. Meanwhile, Reach scored Garrison Keillor for its cover and seven pages inside; Keillor conversed with six undergraduates about “academic happiness.” There’s not much Keillor here; he wrote the intro and a postscript, but the story is all quotes pulled from the student interviews. Must be said, though, the Lake Wobegon man is spiffy in red retro Adidas runners. Editor is Mary Pattock.
I’ve come to expect fine stories from David Brittan’s Tufts Magazine. The summer 2010 issue contains two. One is Hugh Howard’s discussion of slavery in Boston; Howard notes that Massachusetts was the first of the original U.S. colonies to legalize human bondage. The other, by Al Gore’s former speechwriter Robert A. Lehrman, is an informative and entertaining explication of what makes a good political speech. In a sidebar, I learned that not only did Patrick Henry not write his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, he didn’t deliver it, either. Accept for that one notable line, the whole thing was made up 40 years after the fact by an inventive biographer.
The summer issue of Dartmouth Medicine has a great lead sentence: “My first case at Saint Francis Designated District Hospital in Ifakara, Tanzania, was to close a hippo bite.” That from a story by Meredith J. Sorenen. Dana Cook Grossman edits.