Thursday, March 03, 2011

An Interview with Peggy Shinner

Top row: Nathan Leopold, ca. 1924 (via Wikipedia)
RBM's final post this week for Colorado State's Center for Literary Publishing engages Colorado Review contributor Peggy Shinner in a conversation about her fall/winter 2010 essay "Leopold and Shinner." The essay centers on a letter her mother received from Nathan Leopold, one of two University of Chicago students convicted in what newspapers called the “Trial of the Century” in 1924. An excerpt from the interview:
RM: “The letter was an artifact,” you tell us, “like her wallet, wristwatch, key chain, social security card, also put away in a drawer -- a memento of my mother.” What compelled you, 29 years after her death, to examine it anew?

PS: I’ve had this letter for a long time, and from the very beginning was intrigued, puzzled, and moved by it. I’ve attached a certain amount of longing to it, my own longing. What did it mean? Who was the woman on the receiving end? The questions, the same questions, don’t stop coming. I tried writing about it before, but to no avail. I had nothing to push against the letter, no context or resistance or countervailing force. It wasn’t until I started searching for her letter, and immersed myself in the other letters, that something began to shift, that I could sense a gathering of momentum within myself, and simultaneously that I could go beyond myself, in fact needed to go beyond myself, to investigate the place or places where this personal history intersected the history of the larger world, which was very important for this essay. That’s the boundary I find interesting -- where personal concerns nudge or collide against the larger polis.
For the rest of the interview, an excerpt from Shinner's essay, and RBM's earlier posts, visit the CLP Editor's Blog.

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