The Roast Issue
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Heather Steffen


Jeff Williams doesn’t shy away from recognition, but he shines the spotlight on others far more often than he appears in it. Much of his most brilliant work takes place behind the scenes—editing, writing reader’s reports and letters of recommendation, commenting on student essays, prepping for interviews, and talking endlessly to those who require his advice, his humor, or a well-meaning kick in the ass to keep them going. When we do see Jeff’s work, the writing’s deftness and simplicity obscure the hours, days, maybe months of drafting, revising, re-revising, and revising again that it takes to get to his level of polish and panache.

So to partially correct this imbalance between the impact of Jeff’s work on all of us and the public thanks he garners for it, there is this “Roast Issue”—a Festschrift to mark the close of his eighteen-year editorship of the minnesota review. The pieces collected here represent critics writing in two modes rarely found in academe: heartfelt, honest, and clear; and quick, devious, and clever. In that many of them do both at once, they fittingly reflect their object of study and celebration.

During a recent installment of our multi-part conversational series, “What to Do with All the Free Time We’ll Have after minnesota review,” Jeff said, only half-jokingly, that without the editorial job he’d be “just like everyone else.” Jeff, we’ve all heard a lot of bullshit from you, but that was by far the worst yet.

Enjoy the roast!