tufts universitytufts magazine issue homepage
contact us back issues related links
features columns jumbolaya planet tufts newswire the big day Departments The Issue Letters Bookshelf Afterimage


While My Sister Sleeps

Molly Snow has grown up in the shadow of her older sister, Robin, an elite marathon runner whose goals have dominated their family life. When Robin suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma, the Snows are plunged into a crisis, and Molly suddenly finds herself the family’s emotional bulwark. Delinsky specializes in exhuming her characters’ long-buried family secrets, and her latest novel, which unfolds over six days, is packed with revelations that change hearts and relationships.

Practical Idealists: Changing the World and Getting Paid

Harvard University Press
Here’s a useful tool for times like these: a roadmap to finding meaningful work that pays the bills. Job search advice bolsters first-person testimony from gainfully employed idealists. A foodie explains how she started a catering company that focuses on job training and hunger relief. A law professor offers instruction in paying off loans on a small salary. One practical idealist works at Timberland assessing the company’s environmental footprint, while another works for a financial services firm overseeing building projects that revitalize neighborhoods.

Great Races, Incredible Places: 100+ Fantastic Runs Around the World

Bantam Dell
Kimi Puntillo guides the runner or would-be runner through more than 100 races on every continent. Enter Italy’s Maratona Delle Terre Verdiane and glide through the Parma countryside to the strains of Rigoletto while savoring local cheese and fruit. For a spiritual experience, try the Self-Transcendence Marathon in Rockland, New York. The race begins with a two-minute meditation and is accompanied by sitars, flutes, and finger cymbals. If you are an ultramarathoner who just wants peace and quiet, consider the sunrise-to-sunset run in Mongolia. The starting line is a six-hour van ride from the nearest airport, and the only spectators lining the 62.1-mile route are wild yaks.

Campus Life in the Movies: A Critical Survey From the Silent Era to the Present

McFarland & Company
Ah, college. Remember frolicking on the snow-covered quad with Ryan O’Neal? Smashing the guitar of an effeminate folk singer at a raging Delta party? Oh wait—that was Love Story and Animal House. Generations of students have had their expectations of higher learning shaped—and usually distorted—by movies. From getting in to going Greek, finding romance to winning the big game, Conklin exposes movie myths dating from 1915’s The College Widow. Proof that college kids have always been perceived as oversexed, the movie’s protagonist is a college president’s daughter who says goodbye to another graduating fiancé every year, the closest the standards of the time would permit to calling her promiscuous. The one activity least likely to be depicted in campus films? Studying, of course.

The Painter’s Chair: George Washington and the Making of American Art

Bloomsbury Press

George Washington was not just the father of his country. He was, after a fashion, the father of his country’s first indigenous school of high-art portraiture. In The Painter’s Chair, Hugh Howard tells the stories of the artists who vied to paint the most distinguished personage in the land, the enigmatic sitter who would crown the reputations of John Trumbull, Charles Wilson Peale and his son Rembrandt Peale, Edward Savage, and many others. “Seeing him through their eyes is like being in his presence,” Howard observes.

In the following excerpt, we see Washington as Gilbert Stuart saw him. Stuart was the British-trained Rhode Islander who in 1796 painted Washington’s best-known portrait (hint: reproductions cost exactly one dollar). We meet the painter and his subject during a sitting for an earlier, 1795 portrait, of which one of Gilbert’s many copies is shown here. The president arrived at Stuart’s Philadelphia studio with, as Howard puts it, “the air of a man who had done this very thing too many times before.”

From long habit, Stuart launched into conversation. He was of the opinion that by conversing with his subjects, he “could draw out the minds of his sitters upon that surface he was tasked to represent” [to quote his friend William Dunlap]. As his attempt at conversation fell flat, it seemed to Stuart that “Washington’s mind was busied within.”

Stuart used his gift for anecdote in an attempt to divert his sitter, to try to animate his features, to relieve the fixed, masklike aspect. . . . He wanted Washington’s manner and expression to seem unaffected. But he wished to reach deeper. He wanted involuntary reactions. He wished to glimpse what he regarded as the man’s natural character. He wanted to loosen the restraints and penetrate through the manner to the man. Along with many of his contemporaries he believed that a sitter’s physiognomy could be read like words on a page. Washington’s outward appearance could reveal his inner qualities, and the man’s thoughts, his genius, and even his soul could be got on canvas if only Stuart might be permitted to glimpse them.

As if to make the task all the more intriguing, Stuart discovered that he beheld a man, as he confided to an English visitor to Philadelphia, whose features were unlike any he had “ever observed in any other human being; the sockets of the eyes, for instance, are larger than what he ever met before, and the upper part of the nose broader.” The characteristics he discerned in Washington’s face were, he surmised, “indicative of the strongest and most ungovernable passions, and had he been born in the forests, it was his opinion that he would have been the fiercest man amongst the savage tribes.”

Stuart set to work to put the man on canvas. . . . He believed that the nose, more than the eyes, mouth, or other facial features, anchored the face. He worked quickly—three or even as few as two sittings were not unusual for Mr. Stuart—as he applied thin layers of paint. He began with white, blocking in an approximation of the features. Once he had outlined the face, he added thin, dark lines to define the mouth and eyes.

After the face assumed a satisfactory shape, he brushed in the hair, which was swept back into a queue tied with a black ribbon in Washington’s usual fashion. . . . Aside from the shirt ruffle at the throat and the narrow hair ribbon that curved at the back of the neck, the clothes were unremarkable. Stuart chose to leave the background unadorned, and the sitter’s hands were off the canvas, so nothing would draw the viewer’s attention away from the president’s face and head.

Stuart set his painted Washington high on the canvas, so as to draw the eye up to the quite evidently tall and stately figure. Stuart softened the features on the left side of the face, adding shadows. When he finished, Stuart was not entirely happy with the somewhat empty expression on the likeness’s face. But it would have to do.

Photo: Steven Vote

Franz Wisner, A88

The jilted usually hole up with a pint of rocky road or tequila, but when Franz Wisner was dumped at the altar, he turned to the world for consolation. Following his bestselling debut, Honeymoon with My Brother, Wisner sought out love lessons all over the planet. He’s surprised by India, where the Kama Sutra is regarded as a joke but the love that begins in arranged marriages deepens and endures, and Botswana, where optimism about love prevails amid AIDS and poverty, and Brazil, where sensuousness melts his defenses. In the end, he finds love with an actress and single mother in, of all places, his hometown.

“The honeymoon with my brother was a life-altering event, but I came back to America single. I reentered the dating scene in LA and found it to be absolutely bizarre. You go into singles bars, and it’s dark so you can’t see, there’s music blaring so you can’t hear, everyone’s plugged into iPods so they can’t concentrate on each other. Then add alcohol. And this is our idea of the best place to find a partner.

Egyptians have a dating ritual that’s as intricate as any on the planet. At an Egyptian market, our guide showed us a man buying fruit. There was a woman next to him wearing a veil. ‘Watch that guy,’ our guide said. The man casually brushed up against the woman. ‘That’s it,’ he said. ‘That’s how Egyptian men hit on women. The rest is all in her reaction—if she looks at him and doesn’t do much, then she’s interested.’

Cheating is rampant in the Czech Republic. People who grew up with the secrecy of communist society can’t help but keep secrets in all areas of their lives. Young people would tell me, ‘We saw our parents say one thing at home and do exactly the opposite once they left the house.’ To survive, they led double and triple lives.

My travels made me realize that I was the George Costanza of love. Everything I believed, the reverse turned out to be true. My wife and I never would have dated before my trips—we were complete opposites. I had never dated a single mom before, let alone thought of marrying one, but seeing the importance that a lot of cultures place on parenting made Tracy seem even sexier.

Ask people around the world what they want in an ideal partner, and the answers are strikingly different. In India, they’ll say, ‘someone who’s going to take good care of my parents.’ In Brazil, it’s ‘somebody who makes my heart flutter.’ In most of the world, physical appearance falls much lower on the list than in America. In other countries, six-pack abs and golden tans do nothing to help plow the fields.

Also of Note

The poems in Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth (Cervena Barva), by KATHLEEN AGUERO, J71 , critique and update the character of Nancy Drew. Amusing vignettes by CATHY BAO BEAN, J64, spice up The Chopsticks-Fork Principle: A Bilingual Reader (Homa & Sekey), an innovative textbook that teaches English and Chinese. Whether getting into garbage or digging up petunias, an incorrigible pup dreamed up by CORINNE DEMAS, J68, is Always In Trouble (Scholastic). BARBARA WALLACE GROSSMAN, associate professor of drama, showcases a once-acclaimed Victorian actress in A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage (Southern Illinois University). JUSTIN B. HOLLANDER, assistant professor of urban and environmental policy and planning, examines five American cities’ handling of contaminated land in Polluted and Dangerous: America’s Worst Abandoned Properties and What Can Be Done About Them (University of Vermont). Packing Light: New and Selected Poems (Black Widow), by MARILYN (ZIMMERMAN) KALLET, J68, explores themes ranging from love to the Holocaust. In The Donation (iUniverse), a medical thriller by MILES EDWIN LEE, M65, organ donation becomes the means of execution for death-row prisoners. In Faith (Finishing Line), by SUSIE MESERVE, J95, twenty taut poems limn the subject of belief in the unknown. After the Taliban: Life and Security in Rural Afghanistan (Rowman and Littlefield), by Neamatollah Nojummi, DYAN MAZURANA, research director at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts, and ELIZABETH STITES, senior researcher at Feinstein, highlights the importance of stable livelihoods, women’s rights, and civil society development to the war-torn country’s security. LIZ RAZIN, J00, offers tips on taming bridezillas in She’s Gone Bridal: A 9-Step Program for Dealing with Your Bride from Hell (Kensington). The poems of SARAH JANE WOOLF-WADE, J57, in Down the Bristol Road (Snow Drift) celebrate midcoast Maine.

  © 2009 Tufts University Tufts Publications, 80 George St., Medford, MA 02155