Quarterly Review Will Mark 75th Anniversary With Book
Of Classic Essays And A Special Spring Issue
9, 2000 -- D.H. Lawrence and Andre Gide were among
its first contributors. Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, T.S. Eliot
and Thomas Wolfe soon wrote for it too. As did Thomas Mann, Eleanor
Roosevelt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Robert Frost, Bertrand Russell, H.L.
Mencken, George F. Kennan and Robert Graves, to name but a few illustrious
figures who have appeared in its pages over the years.
Virginia Quarterly Review, one of the nation's most venerable
literary periodicals, will celebrate its 75th anniversary
next month with the publication of a special Spring issue and a
commemorative book containing more than 50 classic essays showcasing
a range of distinguished styles and voices from the 1920s to the
VQR, published continuously at the University of Virginia since
April 1925, when it was founded by President Edwin A. Alderman as
"a national journal of literature and discussion," is
one of the few publications in the country that aims to be a true
magazine of general culture, points out its longtime editor Staige
D. Blackford. For each issue the quarterly comes up with a wide-ranging
mix of poetry, fiction, book reviews and essays, often by some of
the country's best known writers.
an age of corporate publishing often geared to light entertainment,
the nation's small-circulation literary periodicals, many operating
on shoestring budgets, are among the few outlets for serious writing
and new writers, adds Blackford, who has guided the magazine since
1975. Like that of its glossier big-city cousin, The New Yorker,
also celebrating its diamond anniversary this year, work from the
VQR is often featured in the annual "Best American Short Stories"
and "Best American Poetry" series.
VQR hallmark, its sweeping range of nonfiction and essays, on topics
from politics to travel to the arts, is being displayed for the
75th anniversary. The commemorative book, "We Write
for Our Own Time," which takes its title from a VQR essay by
the Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Sartre and which is being published
by the University Press of Virginia, has been described in an advance
review by Library Journal as an "extraordinary" and "deliciously
varied" collection, "certain to be an enduring standard."
The book, edited by former New York Timesman Alexander Burnham,
offers a selection from each decade on such diverse themes as Henry
Steele Commager's "Do We Have a Class Society?",
Andre Maurois writing about myth, Kenneth Clark on Thomas Jefferson
and the Italian Renaissance, Mary Lee Settle on wartime London,
and an anonymous 1970s piece on "Attitudes toward Sex."
today remain "the last refuge of the elegant essay. We studiously
avoid here anything that contains jargon," asserts Blackford,
who has engineered few changes in the format of the journal over
the years. He re-styled the type face in 1984 and in 1989 began
adding art to the magazine's distinctive orange cover.
journal now also has an expanding, informative Web site (www.virginia.edu/vqr)
where, for example, a previously unpublished story by William Faulkner
that recently appeared in the VQR may be sampled.
an office in one of the University's original Jeffersonian
buildings ("so original it lacks a bathroom to this day,"
notes Blackford), with tables piled high with books to be reviewed,
he and managing editor Janna Olson Gies handle dozens of manuscript
submissions from around the country each week while shaping the
current issue and planning future ones. One of the pleasures of
the job is discovering a fine new piece of writing, he says. The
poet Gregory Orr, a U.Va. English professor, serves as the VQR's
Spring anniversary volume is typical of the types of articles that
the VQR presents its readers. In one, Edward L. Ayers, author of
the highly acclaimed book "The Promise of the New South"
and a professor of history at U.Va., takes a look at how the quarterly's
native region has been described, deplored and debated in previous
issues over 75 years. "To survey the essays on the South that
have appeared in these pages is to survey much of the region's
history in the 20th century," Ayers observes.
Burnham, the writer and editor who compiled the essays for "We
Write for Our Own Time," looks at an aspect of contemporary
culture in the Spring issue with an article on
The noted child psychiatrist Robert Coles, a frequent VQR contributor,
writes about Anna Freud, and television newsman Paul Duke speculates
about TV and its future.
Dunbar, former director of the Southern Regional Council civil rights
group, examines the enduring effects of the civil rights movement.
Essayist Sanford Pinkser writes on American literature, veteran
political scientist Michael Nelson views the stormy relationship
between presidents and the press, and Williams College art curator
Deborah Rothschild discusses bridging the gap between modern art
and the public in a piece called "Mission Impossible?"
law professor and historian G. Edward White, biographer of Supreme
Court justices, surveys constitutional law and the court over the
last three-quarters of a century, while the Rev. John S. Spong,
retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark and no stranger
to controversy, covers religion with an article on "Is There
a Future for the Christian Church?"
quarterly's editors have always sought this range of subjects,
with the one criterion being good writing, says Blackford. Early
editors included a literary scholar, James Southall Wilson, and
a historian, Stringfellow Barr, who went on the establish the "great
books" program at St. John's College. The magazine managed
somehow to survive the Great Depression and in its 10th
anniversary issue showcased the core of what was being called a
"southern renaissance" with work by Katherine Anne Porter,
Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate
as editor during four decades before Blackford was Charlotte Kohler,
who received her doctorate in English at U.Va. and was one of the
few women at the time to head a national literary journal.
a U.Va. graduate and Oxford-educated Rhodes Scholar, had been a
journalist, staffer at the Southern Leadership Council, editor at
the LSU Press, and press secretary to Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton,
before returning to the University. He says his predecessor explained
the editing tradition: "to get the very best of the best."
He adds that he is particularly proud that in its 75 years the Virginia
Quarterly "has never shirked from publishing articles on the
American dilemma of race."
a new millennium, bringing new as well as timeless subject matter,
he predicts, "the VQR will continue to be what it always has
been a national journal of literature and discussion.'"
arrange interviews or feature stories about the 75th
anniversary, Staige Blackford or Janna Gies may be reached at the
Virginia Quarterly Review at (804) 924-3124.
a review copy of the VQR essay collection, "We Write for Our
Own Time," contact the University Press of Virginia at (804)
Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856