kate wiseman, “afterglow” libertas arts and literary magazine october 2008

so there are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "morning, boys. how's the water?" and the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "what the hell is water?"

that's not my story. that's a story david foster wallace told when he was giving the commencement speech at kenyon in 2005. his point was, as he said, that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. end quote. david foster wallace died recently. he hanged himself. he was an iconic figure in american literature. there's not a point to that story. maybe his struggles to see and talk about those important realities went from the hardest thing to the thing that was too hard. few writers attack reality with their whole being the way david foster wallace did. the first libertas was published in the spring of 1996. the first band of student writers and editors came together in dr. denham's kafka seminar. it was the first time that class was offered in translation, and as dr. denham says, it was a class to remember. because it was already past the time to apply to the activities tax council for money to support the first publication, dr. kuzmanovich offered to fund the first year out of his own pocket. dean shandley graciously stepped in on behalf of davidson college to relieve dr. kuzmanovich of that duty. the first years of libertas look more like an alternative newspaper, and that's what it was: a publication aimed at voicing political and artistic concerns. their mission statement included two goals: one, that libertas would be a forum "for extensive and intelligent student and faculty discourse," and two, that it would be a place where students could "experiment

with writing, photography, business, and graphic design." in the older issues, the columns line up neatly and the typeset is far more uniform than what you see in today's libertas, which is not to say that one is better or worse, but we do regret that the first objective seems to have been eroded by increased dedication to the second. in those first few years, a few authors stand out as frequent and powerful contributors. zac lacy (class of '96) is one of them. his last piece is one that was reprinted from the semester before, called "waving the white flag." the article stands as the unifying piece in a two-page spread in memory of zac lacy. an article printed at the same time described him, in the theneditor of the davidsonian's words, as a writer who blended casualness and seriousness, a great sense of humor and razor-sharp analysis. end quote. the same editor said that zac lacy set the bar for student publications: "to write critically and constructively; to have as one's goal making things better, and not more antagonistic; to recognize the process as an integral part of the result." all of these things were published in memory of zac lacy because zac lacy committed suicide the year after he graduated — perhaps because of the consistent persecution he endured as an openly gay man at davidson college, a subject he addresses in many of his articles. it's possible, too, that the hard work of seeing and talking about reality was simply too much for him. it's been eleven years since zac lacy's death, and few, if any, of today's students are aware of this

painful part of davidson's history. the role of libertas on davidson's campus has changed since then, too, moving from being a source of critical analysis of our community to an arts and literature magazine. the davidsonian does an excellent job of covering college news, and therefore we are no longer needed to fill that void. one side effect, however, is that the magazine is taken less seriously than it should be, and this open space is invaluable for readers

and writers alike. you don't have to be heavy to make serious points, as the writing of both david foster wallace and zac lacy amply demonstrates, nor is there any particular obligation to be serious on these pages. but no matter what the content of these pages or the tone, we pledge to you, dear world, to make it good. we pledge to make libertas sincere when it ought to be, creative – always, fun – we hope, but above all, we promise to keep on writing.

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