Audacity and I had a test of wills a few weeks ago. On a whim, I’d signed up my teenaged son, my brother–eight years my junior–and myself for a mud run. We had eight weeks to train for the run, my first 5K, but there was no way to prepare for the obstacles: walls, nets, slides and a whole lot of mud. After a sleepless night of agonizing over what I’d gotten myself into, it was race day. Once we started moving, there was no time to think, to doubt, to say, “I’m doing something audacious.” I was climbing 20-foot walls and going over the other side.
For most of us, audacity comes and goes. Sometimes, we can call up the chutzpah required to do wild, wonderful or dangerous things like crawling through mud pits for fun. Other times, we have to hold back, become cautious. The blind enthusiasm of youth is in constant conflict with the experience and limitations of age. As submissions came in for our Summer 2012 issue, I was gratified to see that potential contributors explored both the audacity of the young and the audacity that can only come with experience. This diversity was reflected in our final selections.
Representing youthful audacity in the upcoming issue, Dee Roy’s short story “Different Kind of Snake” introduces us to Barbara-Jean, a shotgun toting 12-year-old who outdoes her older brothers when it comes to nerves. There is also a young voice in the poem “Watermen 1979,” where Dennis M. Kirschbaum takes us oystering. Just as Barbara-Jean is egged on by her brothers, Kirschbaum’s speaker is induced to act audaciously by peers.
Representing a more mature form of audacity, LPR Art Consultant Michael Salcman walks us through Baltimore painter Raoul Middleman’s career, which has taken him from abstract expressionism and pop art to a revisiting of the old masters and, finally, to his own artistic voice. Middleman is a master portraitist, as is poet Dan Vera. Vera sketches a wily, wild old man outsmarting the Feds in “Mr. Guzman Makes a Fool of Himself.” If Vera shows us that age can be used to advantage, Moira Egan counters that age should be both celebrated and bemoaned in “Dryness Sonnet,” a savvy look at sex in later life.
Like Egan, a number of other contributors equate audacity with sex, exploring how it breaks down or bumps up against our inhibitions. Angie Chuang’s engaging essay “Thanksgiving with the Shirzais” describes her complicated relationship with an Afghan-American family and the wayward, attractive son.
Our Audacity issue also features art by Towson University Assistant Professor Amanda Burnham. Her work has transitioned from ironic sketches of Baltimore’s urban landscape to whole-room installations that leap from walls into the viewer’s space. Our featured author is fiction writer Edith Pearlman, interviewed by LPR Contributing Editor Susan Thornton Hobby. In her short story “Self-Reliance,” Pearlman spends an afternoon with retiree Cornelia Fitch, who chooses her audacious moments with steely self-control.
I learned from the mud run that audacious behavior is a means of testing courage and resolve. The outcome can be laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking or disastrous. Whatever the result, audacity–like the pieces in our summer issue–is always memorable.
Online Editor’s Note: To learn more about some of the contributors mentioned, read the previous post “Concerning Craft: Raoul Middleman” and catch “Shapeshifting Through a Short Story Collection,” a piece on Edith Pearlman coming next Tuesday. And if you’d like to meet these two remarkable people, join us for our free Audacity issue launch event on June 23, where Middleman will discuss his work, and purchase a ticket for Pearlman’s appearance on June 27. Both events are part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which runs from June 15-June 30 and is well worth attending.