Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Harvard Review essay, cover art honored in the Best American series and Print Magazine

  Harvard Review

Alex Camlin’s covers for Harvard Review issues 41 and 42.

By Beth Giudicessi, HCL Communications

April 30, 2014 – Planetary scientist and former Harvard Society of Fellows Junior Fellow Sarah Stewart Johnson’s “O-Rings,” originally published in issue 43 of Harvard Review, was recently selected for this year’s Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology. Covers for the Review’s issues 41 and 42, designed by Alex Camlin, were also featured in Print Magazine’s 2013 Regional Design Annual competition.

Stories from Harvard Review are also slated to appear in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014, Best American Mystery Stories 2014 and Best Canadian Short Stories 2014. “It’s been a great year for us,” said Christina Thompson, editor of Harvard Review. “I’m always so happy for our contributors when their work is acknowledged in this way.”

Johnson’s essay, her first published piece of non-technical writing, reflects on a summer spent in one of the coldest places on earth. There to study bacterial cells living in the hostile cold of inland Antarctica as part of a Mars research project, she was taken by two huts built for turn-of-the-century British polar expeditions to the South Pole.

In 1911, five members of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition reached the Pole only to discover that a Norwegian crew had beaten them to it. All five men died on the return journey, having unearthed a stored cache of supplies only to find that the O-rings, the flexing gaskets that sealed the fuel inside the canisters, had turned brittle and cracked, leading to the evaporation of the much-needed fuel. Seventy-four years later, the same rings were blamed for the Challenger shuttle disaster.

Related Links


  • Facebook
  • Twitter

In her essay, which was written for Thompson’s Narrative Nonfiction course at the Harvard Extension School in fall 2013, Johnson draws a connection between the two tragic events and meditates on the human fascination with frontiers.

Camlin’s award-winning covers feature geometric forms that reflect the lines in the Review’s typeface. Each year, he designs two companion covers for the journal that relate to one another in order to provide a cohesive visual style. Camlin does not base his designs on the content of the issues to “avoid lending any prominence to one piece of writing or art over another.” The covers of HR 41 and 42 were selected as part of Print magazine’s 32nd annual comprehensive survey of graphic design in the United States, a competition that honors and organizes its entries by geography.

Harvard Review is published semi-annually by Houghton Library. In the more than two decades since it launched, first as a quarterly publication for the Woodberry Poetry Room and then as a book review, it has emerged as a major American literary journal, publishing new writers alongside such eminent figures as Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Seamus Heaney, John Updike, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Issue 45, featuring fiction by Eileen Pollack and Suzanne Matson, essays by Sven Birkerts and Lia Purpura, as well as poetry by Cate Marvin, John Tranter, and Jericho Brown, will be released in May.