Volume 2, Number 3

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 2. Number 3

CONSIDER GIVING A BOOK FOR CHRISTMAS: EASY TO ORDER; GREAT READING ALL YEAR.  For signed, personalized copies of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu.

A couple of weeks ago she arrived, this new book called AMBITION.  She is shy and skinny and extremely proud of herself in her classy blue and red outfit.  But you can tell, from the scarlet A she wears and from her sidelong glance, that she’s self conscious.  And no wonder.  This book of essays, as the cover points out, examines the dark side of ambition.  “Questions about ambition are more urgent now than they have ever been.  What is ambition, exactly, and is it okay to be ambitious?”

This book, which Luci Shaw and I have been editing for several years, is the sort of problem kid who “outs” her parents in a crowd, making them look strident and pushy.  After all, trying to sell a book about ambition takes a certain amount of ambition.

But the truth is, these essays are remarkable and I can’t wait for you to read them.  The ten writers address questions about ambition in a variety of ways and in wonderfully different voices. The pieces range from personal musings to thought experiments and more formal reflections.  The writers raise and reflect on the question that I believe lies at our most intimate core of being and at the very center of our culture.

Want to see a picture of the problem child?  Here’s a link:  http://imagejournal.org/ambition/

And here is a confession:  without Dain Trafton, Greg Wolfe, and Lynda Graybeal, there would be no AMBITION.  Thanks, guys.


Sunlight is breaking into colors around me
like a catastrophe I can neither
shake nor explain–
how the sun’s gold finger
dusts the tops of maples.
how the maple’s articulate roots
wrestle with dumb earth.
How our houses, breaking free of foliage,
stare candidly at one another’s naked bodies.
Time washes all the bridges out, dismembers
the maples, expires like a parking meter.
we check and recheck our watches and
pay costly tickets anyway.
Yet look what a little thing can defeat time.
I made this from bits of salvage–
my own breath
and a few second-hand words.

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From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman


All the Light We Cannot See is a novel of astonishing skill and power.  I have also been reading Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation by John Phillip Santos and Margaret Livingstone’s fascinating Vision and Art:  The Biology of Seeing.  When you get a chance, let me know what you’re reading.

An Excerpt from The Geography of Memory

Worrying about money allowed us to enjoy vivid wishes.  I longed for a brown heather sweater from the Sears catalog.  My mother hoped that I would forget the sweater and just pass geometry so I could graduate from high school.  My brother yearned for a shortwave radio.  The longing beneath all our other wishes, like the bottom box in a stack of Christmas gifts, was the home that our mother would stay healthy and keep working so she could pay the mortgage.  We kids wanted that just as much as our mother did.  Nowdays the theory is that you shouldn’t let children worry about the big griefs afoot in the adult world.  But it was probably better for us to know what was at stake than to be forced to guess.  I, for one, would have woven nightmares much scarier than the truth.

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Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu