Wen Stephenson is the managing editor of the Web edition of PBS's
Frontline and the former editor of The Atlantic Online.
Wen StephensonSep 16, 2002
All Over but the Shoutin' By Rick Bragg. Vintage Books, 329 pages, $14.00 Ava's Man By Rick Bragg. Random House, 272 pages, $13.00 An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood By Jimmy Carter. Touchstone Books, 288 pages, $15.00 I am not a southerner, though I was raised like one. I grew up in a small suburb in the foothills near Los Angeles, where I was born, far from the thick air and dark soil of northeast and south central Texas, where my parents were born and raised. Some of my earliest, foggiest memories are of biscuits and gravy on Saturday mornings and hellfire sermons on Sundays. But there is one morning I'll never forget, a summer morning in California in 1989, when I was 21 years old. I was home from my New England liberal-arts college, sitting at the kitchen table with my father -- a man born in 1932, the fifth of six children, whose parents got through the Depression as sharecroppers and day laborers in Paris, Texas. The conversation turned to a book I'd just read...
Wen StephensonJan 24, 2002
I was in Bombay on January 17, 1991, sitting in the Indian Airlines office in the financial district, when I heard the first rumors of bombs falling on Baghdad. My mission was to make last-minute ticket changes while my traveling companion, a fellow American, went to Bombay's Victoria Terminus to book us on that evening's eastbound train to Aurangabad. We had decided to change our itinerary, which was rather loose to begin with, in order to do the "tourist thing" and see the famous Hindu caves at Ellora and Ajanta. We were not quite at the midway point of our half-year trek across Asia. Everyone in the ticket-office waiting area--mostly Brits, Americans, and Australians--was trying to make sense of the spotty reports relayed by those who'd caught snippets of CNN in a hotel lobby. Somebody said that a major ground offensive was under way and that a column of U.S. armor was moving toward the Iraqi capital, which was being heavily bombarded. (Only the bombardment, of course, proved to be...
Wen StephensonNov 05, 2001
Poor, old Robert Frost--destined to be knocked around as a political tennis ball ever since that day in December 1960 when John F. Kennedy called him at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and asked if he would read a poem at the upcoming inauguration. According to Frost biographer Jay Parini, Kennedy first suggested that Frost compose something new for the occasion, but the poet demurred. So Kennedy, who was well acquainted with Frost's poetry, fell back on Plan B and suggested that the 86-year-old national icon read his poem "The Gift Outright" (first published in 1942, in A Witness Tree ), the 16 lines of which go like this: The land was ours before we were the land's. She was our land more than a hundred years Before we were her people. She was ours In Massachusetts, in Virginia, But we were England's, still colonials, Possessing what we still were unpossessed by, Possessed by what we now no more possessed. Something we were withholding made us weak Until we found out that it...