One hot southern lit mag mess

Josh Spilker

VQR  virginia quarterly review

VQR was a publishing success story. Via LA Times.

Though the summer is unofficially-officially over now, there's still a hot mess lingering at the University of Virginia and their lit mag, the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Usually, lit mags don't cause any stir whatsoever except for the stroking of egos on English Department couches.

But this one is different, because in the past five years The Virginia Quarterly Review has “arrived” as the parlance goes. This particular mag got a new editor in 2003, who sought to “turn things around” and burned through some cash to bring the magazine national prominence. A bunch of glossy, colored pages later and several non-fiction stories on social policy issues and wars, The Virginia Quarterly Review netted some hefty hardware, taking home national magazine awards for a magazine under 100,000 subscribers and also beating out the likes of The New Yorker and The Atlantic for fiction.

This was masterminded by Ted Genoways a young-ish, brash-ish editor who was once viewed as a savior of literary magazines, but is now becoming a pariah.

What caused the bottom to fall out? His managing editor, Kevin Morrissey, committed suicide in late July and there's been some controversy over whether Genoways “bullied” Morrissey or not in his workplace performance.

According to this excellent Hook article, Morrissey felt that Genoways was too demanding and demeaning in when and how to deal with a staff editing a magazine. On Morrissey's bedside table found after he died: A book on how to deal with narcissistic personalities in the workplace. Yikes.

Adding intrigue to insult is the fact that Genoways started palling around with a young, rich female “intern”-slash-liaison who began to take all of Genoways' attention and usurp the traditional structure of the staff.

Yikes. You know it's a big deal when The Today Show picks it up.

No doubt this is a sad and tragic situation for all those involved. Everyone has to be asking–how did it come to this? Finding the next Faulkner or Robert Penn Warren or whichever other southern genteel writer shouldn't be this big of a deal. Take a break. Take a hike. Genoways can't put out a magazine himself (well, I guess he could…) but it's not a great experience unless he experiences it with others. (Read The Hook article for how he tried to divert attention away from
Morrissey when telling the staff about the death of Morrissey. And oh
yes, he didn't attend Morrissey's memorial service).

Then again, Genoways sounds like an egomaniac. One who deems himself more important than he is. Maybe he's in the right profession. Self-inflating your worth is what publishing is all about these days.

No doubt Genoways will have some type of true-crime mystery thriller to come out of this.

For now, the doors are locked at VQR and there are two different versions of the fall issue. Two sides to every story, of course.

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