The American University as Pain Slut, Pt. 2

Texas Tech must be seen to be believed. In this earlier post, UD surveyed the school’s long list of sadistic coaches – not to mention its bringing on board and giving all its money to luminaries like Alberto Gonzales and Tommy Tuberville – and concluded that something way kinky was going on there. It’s as if the place seeks after twisted people to hurt its students and its reputation.

Incredibly, this idea – that TTU actually recruits the sadistic as a kind of school policy – seems not so wild. For with all that sadomasochism behind it, TTU went and hired another one … or another two…

Twelve of the 21 women who played for Texas Tech since [Marlene] Stollings took over the program in 2018 have left, [citing player abuse]…. [Also, players accused] former strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella of berating and sexually harassing them … [Stollings has now also been fired.]

Luckily, assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins is still there!

[One player reports she was] told by assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins to snap a rubber band on her wrist when she had a negative thought.

*******************

Plus you don’t have to be selected for a varsity team to get the shit beat out of you in Lubbock. Lubbock is one of America’s most violent cities. Just walk outside.

‘There is no reason, literary or otherwise, to challenge an author’s legitimacy to tackle any topic, much less based on her ethnicity or nationality. In both literature and journalism, examples abound of brilliant authors who have illuminated countries and themes that were, initially, outside their familiar milieu. (Under the Volcano is just one of many great ones.)’


Ah, UD‘s beloved Malcolm Lowry gets a mention in the big ol’ dustup about American Dirt. Here are her Lowry posts.

He did brilliantly with an impossible role.

Albert Finney, the consul in the failed film version of UD‘s beloved Under the Volcano, has died.

William Gass. There was absolutely no one like him.

1924 – 2017

If someone asks me, “Why do you write?” I can reply by pointing out that it is a very dumb question. Nevertheless, there is an answer. I write because I hate. A lot. Hard. And if someone asks me the inevitable next dumb question, “Why do you write the way you do?” I must answer that I wish to make my hatred acceptable because my hatred is much of me, if not the best part. Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world — every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste. There isn’t very much satisfaction in getting the world to accept and praise you for things that the world is prepared to praise. The world is prepared to praise only shit. One wants to make sure that the complete self, with all its qualities, is not just accepted but approved . . . not just approved — whoopeed.

*******************

I know of nothing more difficult than knowing who you are, and then having the courage to share the reasons for the catastrophe of your character with the world.

********************

But really I loved him because he understood the greatness of my even greater love, Malcolm Lowry:

When one thinks of the general sort of snacky under-earnest writers whose works like wind-chimes rattle in our heads now, it is easier to forgive Lowry his pretentious seriousness, his old-fashioned ambitions, his Proustian plans, [his efforts] to replace the reader’s consciousness wholly with a black magician’s.

*******************

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

Thanksgiving.

One evening on the way back from the spring for some reason I suddenly thought of a break by Bix in Frankie Trumbauer’s record of Singing the Blues that had always seemed to me to express a moment of the most pure spontaneous happiness. I could never hear this break without feeling happy myself and wanting to do something good. Could one translate this kind of happiness into one’s life? Since this was only a moment of happiness, I seemed involved with irreconcilable impulses. One could not make a moment permanent and perhaps the attempt to try was some form of evil. But was there not some means of suggesting at least the existence of such happiness, that was like what is really meant by freedom, which was like the spring, which was like our love, which was like the desire to be truly good…

No wonder mystics have a hard task describing their illuminations, even though this was not exactly that; yet the experience seemed to be associated with light, even a blinding light, as when years afterwards recalling it I dreamed that my being had transformed into the inlet itself, not at dusk, by the moon, but at sunrise, as we had so often also seen it, suddenly transilluminated by the sun’s light, so that I seemed to contain the reflected sun deeply within my very soul, yet a sun which as I awoke was in turn transformed, Swedenborgwise, with its light and warmth into something perfectly simple, like a desire to be a better man, to be capable of more gentleness, understanding, love –


Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
“The Forest Path to the Spring”

The Canadian Route Out of This.

Yvonne, a character in Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano (1947), talks to Hugh, the brother of her alcoholic husband, about her plan to take her husband, Geoffrey, out of Mexico, and move with him to a farm in Canada. She is also hoping to escape, there, the oncoming European war.

She and her husband’s brother are riding horses together near Cuernavaca.

*********

‘Well… What’s to stop us going to Canada, for instance?’

‘… Canada?… Are you serious? Well, why not, but… ’

‘Perfectly.’

They had now reached the place where the railway took its wide leftward curve and they descended the embankment. The grove had dropped behind but there was still thick woodland to their right (above the centre of which had appeared again the almost friendly landmark of the prison watchtower) and stretching far ahead. A road showed briefly along the margin of the woods.

They approached this road slowly, following the single-minded thrumming telegraph poles and picking a difficult course through the scrub.

‘I mean why Canada more than British Honduras? Or even Tristan da Cunha? A little lonely perhaps, though an admirable place for one’s teeth, I’ve heard. Then there’s Gough Island, hard by Tristan. That’s uninhabited. Still, you might colonize it. Or Sokotra, where the frankincense and myrrh used to come from and the camels climb like chamois my favourite island in the Arabian Sea.’

But Hugh’s tone though amused was not altogether sceptical as he touched on these fantasies, half to himself, for Yvonne rode a little in front; it was as if he were after all seriously grappling with the problem of Canada while at the same time making an effort to pass off the situation as possessing any number of adventurous whimsical solutions. He caught up with her.

‘Hasn’t Geoffrey mentioned his genteel Siberia to you lately?’ she said. ‘You surely haven’t forgotten he owns an island in British Columbia?’

‘On a lake, isn’t it? Pineaus Lake. I remember. But there isn’t any house on it, is there? And you can’t graze cattle on fircones and hardpan.’

‘That’s not the point, Hugh.’

‘Or would you propose to camp on it and have your farm elsewhere?’

‘Hugh, listen – ’

‘But suppose you could only buy your farm in some place like Saskatchewan,’ Hugh objected.

An idiotic verse came into his head, keeping time with the horse’s hooves: Oh take me back to Poor Fish River, Take me back to Onion Lake, You can keep the Guadalquivir, Como you may likewise take. Take me back to dear old Horsefly, Aneroid or Gravelburg…

‘In some place with a name like Product. Or even Dumble,’ he went on. ‘There must be a Dumble. In fact I know there’s a Dumble.’

‘All right. Maybe it is ridiculous. But at least it’s better than sitting here doing nothing!’

[…] At this moment the best and easiest and most simple thing in the world seemed to be the happiness of these two people in a new country. And what counted seemed probably the swiftness with which they moved. He thought of the Ebro. Just as a long-planned offensive might be defeated in its first few days by unconsidered potentialities that have now been given time to mature, so a sudden desperate move might succeed precisely because of the number of potentialities it destroys at one fell swoop…

… He all but shook her horse with enthusiasm. ‘I can see your shack now. It’s between the forest and the sea and you’ve got a pier going down to the water over rough stones, you know, covered with barnacles and sea anemones and starfish. You’ll have to go through the woods to the store.’ Hugh saw the store in his mind’s eye. The woods will be wet. And occasionally a tree will come crashing down. And sometimes there will be a fog and that fog will freeze. Then your whole forest will become a crystal forest. The ice crystals on the twigs will grow like leaves. Then pretty soon you’ll be seeing the jack-in-the-pulpits and then it will be spring.

***************

Canada is the perennial place, the sanctuary which draws you into a crystal forest. Yet Point One wherever you go there you are. And Point Two

Life is, in fact, a battle. Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting, but rare; goodness very apt to be weak; folly very apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places, people of sense in small, and mankind generally unhappy. But the world as it stands is no narrow illusion, no phantasm, no evil dream of the night; we wake up to it, forever and ever; and we can neither forget it nor deny it nor dispense with it.

And Point Three (intimately related to Points One and Two):

There may be useful reconsiderations and redescriptions, but you really did have those parents, you really did make of it what you made of it, you really did have those siblings, really did grow up in that economic climate. These are all hard difficult facts. Redescribed, they can be modified, things can evolve. But it isn’t magic.

You’re a problem; and now your president is a problem too. Okay. But this place is where you really are. Dig your heels in and put up your dukes.

Hunter Patterson, a one-time student and sometime correspondent of UD’s…

… (he wrote me once to ask whether one should be drunk when reading Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano), is the author of the notorious, and apparently very funny, Fake Steven Knapp parody Twitter account (Knapp is George Washington University’s president).

UD says apparently because she has not read Hunter’s parody; but she vividly remembers him as a rough-and-tumble class presence who would likely have the knack for this sort of thing. The Washington Post wrote about Hunter last year.

Anyway, he’s looking to pass the thing on to a new Twitterer (he feels it’s time for him to stop), and, in a badly written article (“he’s ready to give up the comedic reigns and hand the torch over to a new, fitting replacement”), In the Capital spreads the word about Hunter’s search for a replacement.

Don DeLillo – a writer UD has been praising and teaching and getting excited about for years –

has been named the first recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The new lifetime achievement award, announced Thursday by Librarian of Congress James Billington, will be presented at the 13th annual National Book Festival in September.

Essays about DeLillo by UD can be found here and here.

And here’s a short essay of hers about a story of his – “Midnight in Dostoevsky.”

“Once a year the dead live for one day…”

… writes Geoffrey Firman of the Mexican Day of the Dead in Malcolm Lowry’s novel, Under the Volcano.

Tonight children dressed as vampires will come to UD‘s house, and she’ll give them chocolates.

Tomorrow and the next day Mexico and other countries will celebrate and summon the souls of the dead.

The calm piety of the Mexican attitude toward death stirs Firman, an alcoholic and a depressive for whom the facts of human suffering and death are an intolerable bafflement and outrage. He thinks of his soul as

a town ravaged and stricken in the black path of his excess, and shutting his burning eyes he had thought of the beautiful functioning of the system in those who were truly alive, switches connected, nerves rigid only in real danger, and in nightmareless sleep now calm… : a peaceful village. Christ, how it heightened the torture … to be aware of all this, while at the same time conscious, of the whole horrible disintegrating mechanism, the light now on, now off, now on too glaringly, now too dimly, with the glow of a fitful dying battery – then at last to know the whole town plunged into darkness, where communication is lost, motion mere obstruction, bombs threaten, ideas stampede –

Under the Volcano is an extended day of the dead on which Firmin, killed in an act of violence he all but invites, is summoned back to life, reanimated as we read. Passages like the one I just quoted describe a person who has nothing to do with his hyper-awareness of being-toward-death but be tortured by it, to want above all to blot it out. The whole horrible disintegrating mechanism sickens him and makes the goods actual human life, such as it is, offers unreal to him. Here are his thoughts as he’s dying:

When he had striven upwards… had not the ‘features’ of life seemed to grow more clear, more animated, friends and enemies more identifiable, special problems, scenes, and with them the sense of his own reality, more separate from himself? And had it not turned out that the further down he sank, the more those features had tended to dissemble, to cloy and clutter, to become finally little better than ghastly caricatures of his dissimulating inner and outer self, or of his struggle, if struggle there were still? Yes, but, had he desired it, willed it, the very material world, illusory though that was, might have been a confederate, pointing the wise way. Here would have been no devolving through failing unreal voices and forms of dissolution that became more and more like one voice to a death more dead than death itself, but an infinite widening, an infinite evolving and extension of boundaries, in which the spirit was an entity, perfect and whole: ah, who knows why man, however beset his chance by lies, has been offered love?

In his final moments, Firmin’s remorse takes the shape of a dialectic involving reality and unreality. Whether any firm basis for the gesture in fact existed (“the very material world, illusory though that was…”), Firmin nonetheless always had the option to “strive upward,” to create the sort of “spirit” passionate human love represents.

But the compensations of the material world, and of love, were uncompelling to Lowry’s Faust; he preferred exploring infernal realms, which promised the deepest reality, the deepest knowledge, of all.

After I lectured on The Catcher in the Rye this afternoon…

… to a group of students I don’t know (I was substituting for a colleague), a woman came up to the podium to talk to me.

I don’t know why I want to share this with you, but… A couple of winters ago, I was sitting with a friend in her house during a terrible snowstorm. The house had big windows everywhere, and the snow was falling really beautifully in all the windows and we took out Catcher and spent the whole day taking turns reading it aloud to each other. Start to finish, one sitting, with the snow falling… This is why I’ll never forget one page of that book…

I told the student that was a beautiful story and I thanked her for it (and I wondered – as I often do – why students tend to share things like this with me privately, after class, even though I’d love it, and it’d be great for discussion, if they’d tell everyone…), and she rushed off before I had a chance to tell her my story along those lines.

One summer UD was alone for a couple of weeks at the little Soltan house in upstate New York, and, over the course of a few sunny quiet days, she sat on the deck in a butterfly chair and read Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. The solitude, the slowness with which she read, the powerful natural setting — it made it so that, like her student today, UD took in that novel for good.

“The experience of one happy man might be useful…”

… says Malcolm Lowry’s autobiographical narrator in his story, The Forest Path to the Spring, and he’s right; but useful only if a writer can narrate the man’s experience well.

You know UD as a mad lover of Lowry’s despairing novel, Under the Volcano. She admires just as much the totally different Forest Path, an extended meditation on happiness.

Like Lowry during the 1940’s, the narrator is an artist who lives as a squatter in a shack on the water in Dollarton, Canada. He writes a strange story, with no real plot beyond a spiritual one which traces, through his general love of nature and his particular daily ritual of carrying a water canister through the forest to a spring, his recognition of the character of happiness.

A long story like this one, with little event, has to carry you along on the strength of its mood and language, and Lowry’s open-hearted, earth-besotted prose accomplishes this from the outset. (Another great example of this sort of story is Katherine Anne Porter’s Holiday.) We are accompanying a man whose mood is happy, first, because the woman he loves is with him and loves the water and forest and sky as much as he does. And he’s also happy because, engrossed in natural life, he suspends his customary anxious self-consciousness.

His awareness is overwhelmingly of the earth, the “ever reclouding heavens” which, when they finally clear at evening, reveal a stand of pines that “write a Chinese poem on the moon.”

Awareness itself – this astoundingly sharp perception of the natural world – is a symptom of his happiness, one that he sees too in his lover:

[I]t was … her consciousness of everything that impressed me …

“Joy,” wrote Simone Weil, “is the overflowing consciousness of reality.” That overflow is what the writer gathers when he goes to the spring. “Ah the pathos and beauty and mystery of little springs and places where there is fresh water near the ocean… [S]uch happiness… was like what is really meant by freedom, which was like the spring, which was like our love, which was like the desire to be truly good.”

The writer says the same thing at the end of his long story as he remembers his years in Dollarton:

[I]t was as if we were clothed in the kind of reality which before we saw only at a distance…

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Burdened, to be sure, by thoughts of the war in Europe (“The shadow of the war was over everything. And while people were dying in it, it was hard to be really happy within oneself. It was hard to know what was happy, what was good. Were we happy, good? Or, being happy at such a time, what could one do with one’s happiness?”), and, more immediately, by the gradual encroachment of the nearby city into his paradise, the writer nonetheless spends most of his time moving unselfconsciously through the natural world and reflecting upon that world.

His little community of fragile shacks and penurious squatters represents

something that man had lost, of which these shacks and cabins, brave against the elements, but at the mercy of the destroyer, were the helpless yet stalwart symbol, of man’s hunger and need for beauty, for the stars and the sunrise.

Part of the answer to the question of happiness has to do with the realization here of the perilousness, the jerry-built vulnerability, of oneself even as you brave the elements of mortal life. Part will have to do with – despite this – fashioning your life as “a continual sunrise… a continual awakening.”

An ideal of all-transcending serenity flickers occasionally in these pages – “the Tao… came into existence before Heaven and Earth, something so still, so changeless, and yet reaching everywhere, and in no danger of being exhausted…” – but the writer knows that he exists confused, in a human world of suffering. Like Thoreau, he also knows the extremity of his human-world-estranging gesture:

Often I would linger on the way and dream of our life. Was it possible to be so happy? Here we were living on the very windrow of existence, under conditions so poverty-stricken and abject in the eyes of the world they were actually condemned in the newspapers, or by the Board of Health, and yet it seemed that we were in heaven, and that the world outside – so portentous in its prescriptions for man of imaginary needs that were in reality his damnation – was hell.

He can’t keep his own hell off the forest path to the spring, though, and another part of happiness is somehow admitting into this new lucid consciousness one’s own ugliness:

Half-conscious I told myself that it was as though I had actually been on the lookout for something on the path that had seemed ready, on every side, to spring out of our paradise at us, that was nothing so much as the embodiment in some frightful animal form of those nameless somnambulisms, guilts, ghouls of past delirium, wounds to other souls and lives, ghosts of actions approximating to murder, even if not my own actions in this life, betrayals of self and I know not what, ready to leap out and destroy me, to destroy us, and our happiness…

These theatrics, though, these anticipated beasts, weren’t really what his unfolding spiritual life was about:

I became convinced that the significance of the experience lay not in the path at all, but in the possibility that in converting the very cannister I carried, the ladder down which I climbed every time I went to the spring – in converting both these derelicts to use I had prefigured something I should have done with my soul… [As] a man I had become tyrannized by the past, and… it was my duty to transcend it in the present.

Those derelict objects – his own dereliction – would not be rejected, avoided, denied, made ghoulish; they would be made useful in the capture of something beautiful.

Having, on the path, encountered and to some extent calmed these ghouls, the writer enters into a lucid stillness in which

I dreamed that my being had been transformed into the inlet itself… so that I seemed to contain the reflected sun deeply within my very soul, yet a sun which as I awoke was in turn transformed … into something perfectly simple, like a desire to be a better man, to be capable of more gentleness, understanding, love –

It is the same selfless stillness that Norman Maclean describes at the end of A River Runs Through It:

Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

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The Dollarton shacks. Long bulldozed; now aestheticized.

“In Sedona, at a time before it became a popular destination, they confronted lizards, scorpions and snakes and basked in the town’s ‘landscape of wild fantasy,’ as she wrote in her autobiography.”

What a pleasure for UD, on this quiet Sunday (in bed, recovering from bronchitis), to follow, in the wake of Dorothea Tanning’s death, her life. What a pleasure, having just returned from that same landscape, to bask in photographs of Tanning and her husband Max Ernst in surrealistic Sedona.

The iconic artist’s life – how strong its pull. How one wants to be there – in the house they built beside the hills, or in the squatter’s shack on the British Columbia coast where Malcolm Lowry lived with his wife and wrote Under the Volcano…

Creative intensity and beauty and freedom – it’s all there in the photographs: the ocean, and the hills like white elephants, shining in the background.

Tanning lived for more than a century and had time to reflect on the artist’s life.

********************************

Sequestrienne


Don’t look at me
for answers. Who am I but
a sobriquet,
a teeth-grinder,
grinder of color,
and vanishing point?

There was a time
of middle distance, unforgettable,
a sort of lace-cut
flame-green filament
to ravish my
skin-tight eyes.

I take that back—
it was forgettable but not
entirely if you
consider my
heavenly bodies . . .
I loved them so.

Heaven’s motes sift
to salt-white — paint is ground
to silence; and I,
I am bound, unquiet,
a shade of blue
in the studio.

If it isn’t too late
let me waste one day away
from my history.
Let me see without
looking inside
at broken glass.

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The brilliant portmanteau title – sequestrienne. The famous artist’s semi-famous widow is sought after in her elderly semi-sequestered life, consulted for her wisdom about iconic times. She rides – an equestrienne – those times, rides them in memory, mounts them, relives them for herself and for those who come to her and want her to cover that territory again. But she begins her poem with a warning:

Don’t look at me
for answers. Who am I but
a sobriquet,
a teeth-grinder,
grinder of color,
and vanishing point?

I’m just wife-of, after all. Just an old woman who grinds her teeth at night and grinds her paints as she still tries to paint, even as her life vanishes. Why assume I have any wisdom? I’m still caught up, in my very latter days, in the daily grind, the ongoing anxious business of trying to understand, and trying to create.

There was a time
of middle distance, unforgettable,
a sort of lace-cut
flame-green filament
to ravish my
skin-tight eyes.

What I can tell you is that there was this past, this undeniable, authentic stretch of time during which I was alive in every conceivable way: erotically, aesthetically. That sharp green incandescent stem – it was actually there, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, as one of Tanning’s Sedona guests put it. It ravished me, and I saw the world as one great true thing, not as fragments.

I take that back—
it was forgettable but not
entirely if you
consider my
heavenly bodies . . .
I loved them so.

My love keeps that sense of fulfillment – full-filament – from disintegrating entirely; I’ve tried to keep the bodies of my loved ones aloft in the heavens.

Heaven’s motes sift
to salt-white — paint is ground
to silence; and I,
I am bound, unquiet,
a shade of blue
in the studio.

Yet everything reduces and sifts down and fragments. My beloved becomes a mote, fading to the salt-white of death, just as our paintings eventually withdraw into silence. Only I, still alive, remain in the studio, restless, anxious, earthly blue, sadly blue.

If it isn’t too late
let me waste one day away
from my history.
Let me see without
looking inside
at broken glass.

Let me sequester myself away, let me ride away, from history, from the temporal realm with its incoherences and failures and anxieties, and yes, from its mystifications, with which you come to me, wife-of, expecting wisdom. Let me lose this self-consciousness, this always looking inside, this play with fragments. Give me a clear day and no memories.


A Clear Day and No Memories

No soldiers in the scenery,
No thoughts of people now dead,
As they were fifty years ago,
Young and living in a live air,
Young and walking in the sunshine,
Bending in blue dresses to touch something,
Today the mind is not part of the weather.

Today the air is clear of everything.
It has no knowledge except of nothingness
And it flows over us without meanings,
As if none of us had ever been here before
And are not now: in this shallow spectacle,
This invisible activity, this sense.

“There was so much sad irony that Nora immolated herself on the track.”

No, said Mr UD. “Not irony. You leave the world in the place that meant most to you…”

UD quoted the statement in my title about irony to Mr UD as he ate breakfast.

It’s from a blog written by someone who knew Nora Miller, a Wesleyan student who a few days ago immolated herself on the university running field. Miller was a massively award-winning track star, first at Stanford, and then at Wesleyan, where she majored in film.

*******************************

Like many suicides among the intense and intensely promising, this one was as expressive as it was enigmatic. It meant, it meant, it meant. It meant like hell. But what did it mean?

A student writes in the Wesleyan campus paper:

Self-immolation is not a quiet act of suicide; it is clearly an intentional statement. I understand that the University had to respect the parent’s wishes to keep details about Nora and her death private, but when a suicide occurs in such a public way on campus property, it is the student body’s right to be able to mourn [publicly] and to be given time to process and think about what has happened.

It bothers this writer that Wesleyan hasn’t said and done more about the event; she suggests that a day be set aside for campus reflection. In this, she registers the staggering impact of the gesture. More should be made of it…

[A] status update on a Facebook account under Miller’s name read, “when there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire,” a lyric from a track by the band Stars.

Which made UD think of Cocteau’s famous answer.

Someone once asked Jean Cocteau, “Suppose your house were on fire and you could remove only one thing. What would you take?”

Cocteau considered, then said, “I would take the fire.”

There’s the swift intensity of life; there’s life burnt out.

I encountered the Cocteau story in Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, a novel about our subterranean fires.

Two Centenaries

I’ve just sent off a post to my blog at Inside Higher Education about Malcolm Lowry and James Agee, both of whom have centenaries this year. The post should be up pretty soon.

UD will be giving a paper at this year’s Malcolm Lowry Conference at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It’ll be as much about Richard Rorty as about Malcolm Lowry.

About Margaret Soltan


Margaret Soltan is Professor Emerita at George Washington University, in Washington, DC.

She has childish crushes on James Joyce, Malcolm Lowry, Henry Miller, and Don DeLillo.

Her 2008 book about beauty — cowritten with her friend and colleague, Jennifer Green-Lewis — is titled Teaching Beauty in DeLillo, Woolf, and Merrill. Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan. Click on the title to go to its Amazon page, and to read some excerpts from it.

Many people encounter Soltan for the first time via her timeless classic, “The Faculty Bench.”

You can see Soltan in all her glory if you download an interview she gave in 2007 – a chat on the PBS Lehrer News Hour about Doris Lessing.

Soltan made a second appearance on the Lehrer News Hour to talk about Dan Brown’s book, The Lost Symbol.

You can hear her talk to Radio Poland about her memories of the Polish artist Wojciech Fangor here (click the listen icon).

You can also hear her talk about Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It, to the BBC, if you go here. I’m toward the end of the December 14 program.

Soltan began, in March 2012, a series of lectures on poetry, available to the world via Udemy, a MOOC. Her course is part of Udemy’s Faculty Project. In October 2015, she had 11,877 students. The course is now closed.

Soltan’s husband is a professor of political science at the University of Maryland.

You can watch a seminar he recently gave on economic development at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development here.

With Peter Levine, he founded the Tufts Summer Institute of Civic Studies. In summer 2015 he co-directed the Summer Institute of Civic Studies and Civic Education in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.  In 2016, he co-directed the same institute in Augsburg, Germany.   In 2017, he co-directed both the Tufts and Ukraine sessions. His Ukraine co-director is Tetyana Kloubert.

He’s named – Karol Edward – after Charles Edouard Le Corbusier, in whose Paris atelier his father worked after the war.

(Footnote 54, The Final Testament of Père Corbu: “See the letter [Jerzy] Soltan wrote [to LC] from Warsaw on 27 April 1950… ‘Hanka (my wife) is most probably pregnant – if it is a boy, he will certainly be named Charles-Edouard!'”)

Her daughter, Ania Soltan, lives in Washington, DC, where she works at Durable Capital Partners.  She spent the summer of 2013 at the Abbey Theatre, on an internship. Before that, she worked for Congressional Quarterly Press while finishing up at GW. She was a member of the GW Sirens, winners of the 2010 Battle of the A Cappella Bands at GW (Ania’s the blond in glasses just to the left of the soloist). She sang in a gospel choir with Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl. Her group also sang with him at the Obama inauguration concert.

On Sunday, December 6, 2009, she performed with the same group at the Kennedy Center Honors. They sang The Rising in honor of Bruce Springsteen, one of the honorees. Instead of singing it with Springsteen, who watched from the audience, they sang it with Sting. Here’s a You Tube, with the kid – long blond hair, glasses – showing up at 1:48. (UD thanks a reader for telling her that an earlier You Tube of the event was no longer working.)

In December 2011, La Kid sang with Jennifer Hudson at the annual Christmas in Washington event. Front row, blond hair, glasses.

In December 2013, she sang with Diana Ross at the same event.

In December 2014, she sang with Rufus Wainwright at the Kennedy Center Honors to honor Billy Joel. Catch La Kid at 2:50 on this YouTube. Also in December 2014, she sang with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and other notables at Christmas in Washington. She’s the blond standing just above The Rock starting at 6:17 in this YouTube.

Soltan’s sister, Frances, is a Morrissey fanatic. Her niece, Carolyn, is the indispensable webmistress of University Diaries.

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