Called a latter-day Rome by some, denigrated as a one-company town by others, and always a center of controversy, modern Washington, D.C.bears about as much resemblance to the capital city of the Founding Fathers as the 747 jet airliner to the Wright brothers’ craft at Kitty Hawk. Yet as much as Washington has changed over the course of two centuries, so, in some respects, it remains the same—a place where politics reigns supreme and the name of the game is government, one with the oldest written Constitution in the Western World. And the city still attracts some of America’s most talented minds as well as many of its most talented young people. Nevertheless, as political scientist Michael Nelson notes in his essay, there is a difference: where once young Americans came to the nation’s capital with the idea of serving their country, today they are often more interested in service to self—in the perks of power and the pursuit of profit. In his comparison between what author James Young called The Washington Community of the early republic and what is now deemed “the capital of the Free World,” Mr. Nelson observes, “Washington remains a community.” It is a community, moreover, with which the young Vanderbilt scholar is well acquainted as well as one whose workings he has been pondering ever since he read Mr. Young’s book more than a dozen years ago. MR.NELSON received his Ph. D.degree from Johns Hopkins University, subsequently served as an editor for The Washington Monthly, and is currently a member of the department of political science at Vanderbilt, where he was recently promoted to associate professor. Mr. Nelson is editor and coauthor of The Presidency and the Political System and coauthor of Presidents, Politics, and Policy, both of which were published in 1984, the former by Congressional Quarterly Press and the latter jointly by Johns Hopkins and Knopf. He was also coauthor and editor of a recently published study, The Elections of 1984, another CQ Press book.
Like Mr. Nelson, Ward Just is another veteran observer of the Washington scene, having worked in the capital city in the early 1960’s as a reporter for Newsweek and the Washington Post.Mr. Just later served in Vietnam as a Post reporter before turning from journalism to fiction. His Washington background was reflected in his first collection of short stories, The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert and Other Washington Stories.He has also written six novels, one other collection of short stories, and two nonfiction works. At present a contributing editor to The Atlantic, he served in 1983 and 1984 as writer-in-residence at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. His most recent novel, The American Blues, was published by Viking last year. A native of Indiana, Mr. Just now lives in New England.
Spence Perry holds a B. A. from Harvard and a J.D.from Duke University. After law school, he was commissioned as a Navy lieutenant and served as assistant staff judge advocate for international law on the staff of Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) in Saigon. While in Saigon, Mr. Perry undertook a number of assignments, including prisoner of war releases, teaching on the Faculté du Droit of the University of Saigon and as legal affairs officer for the staffs long-range planning group. Since the war, he has practiced law in the public and private sectors, primarily in the areas of economic regulation and national security affairs. He currently is a commander in the Navy Reserve. His article reflects his personal views.
Eleanor Ross Taylor is the author of New and Selected Poems, published last year by Stuart Wright. While she is a prolific and distinguished poet, her work has been compared to such Southern fiction writers as Eudora Welty, Caroline Gordon, and Katherine Anne Porter. Her earlier collections include Welcome Eumenidesand Wilderness of Ladies.
She received VQR’s Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry in 1981.
Ed Ochester teaches in the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh. His latest book, Miracle Mile, has just been published by Carnegie-Mellon Press.
A widely published poet and wellknown essayist as well, Hayden Carruth is on the faculty of the graduate writing program at Syracuse University. His recent books include Effluences from the Sacred Cave: Selected Essays and Reviews, a volume in Michigan’s Poets on Poetry Series, and a poetry collection, If You Call This Cry a Song.A former editor-in-chief of Poetry magazine, Mr. Carruth has received numerous awards for poetry, including the Vachel Lindsay Prize, the Carl Sandburg Prize, and VQR’s Emily Clark Balch Prize. He is a member of the editorial board for the Hudson Review.
Ron Slate has published poems in Antaeus, The Georgia Review, Poetry Northwest, and other periodicals. A resident of Massachusetts, he has for the past eleven years edited and published The Chowder Review.
Dabney Stuart’s last collection, Common Ground, was published by Louisiana in 1982.His previous VQR contribution, “The Birds” appeared in the Summer 1983 issue.Mr. Stuart has been a member of the faculty at Washington and Lee University for many years.
William Heyen recently edited The Generation of 2000: Contemporary American Poets for Ontario Review Press. His own most recent collection is Erika: Poems of the Holocaust, a Vanguard publication.
Monroe K. Spears is the Moody Professor of English at Rice University. He served as editor of The Sewanee Reviewfrom 1952 to 1961.He is the author of The Poetry of W.H.Auden, Dionysus and the City, Hart Crane, and The Levitator and Other Poems.He was coeditor (with H.B. Wright) of the Literary Works of Matthew Prior.He has poems in the current issue of Southern Review and forthcoming in Hudson and Sewanee.
A native of Richmond and a graduate of Bryn Mawr, Anne Hobson Freeman is a poet, essayist, and short story writer as well as an historian. She is currently completing a history of the prominent Richmond law firm of Hunton & Williams. Mrs. Freeman teaches a course in nonfiction writing at the University of Virginia.
Henry Petroski is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in civil and environmental engineering at Duke University. He is the author of To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, in which he writes, “Though ours is an age of high technology, the essence of what engineering is and what engineers do is not common knowledge. Even the most elementary principles upon which great bridges, jumbo jets, or super computers are built are alien concepts to many.” The book will be published by St. Martin’s in July.
Although she is appearing in VQR for the first time, Pamela Painter is a professional short story writer, having published stories in such publications as Ascent, Epoch, Kansas Quarterly, North American Review, Ploughshares, and Transatlantic Review.A resident of Boston, she will have a collection of her stories published in the Illinois Short Story Series this year.
Having grown up in Hollywood as the daughter of well-known columnist Sheilah Graham, Wendy W. Fairey forsook tinsel town at an early age to pursue the course of English literature. An English major at Bryn Mawr, where she received her B.A., she did her graduate work at Columbia University, earning both her M.A.and Ph. D degrees. She taught at the University of Hawaii, the University of Surrey, and Bowdoin College before going into academic administration, first at Bowdoin, where she was dean of students. MRS. Fairey later became associate dean of the faculty at Barnard College and since 1983 has been dean of the college at Hollins College in Virginia. She is married and the mother of two children. An earlier essay, about her father, “Nothing Can Come of Nothing,” appeared in VQR’s Summer 1981 issue.
A native of Tennessee, Edward L. Ayers received his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee. He holds a doctoral degree in history from Yale University, and he is now a member of the history faculty at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the 19th Century American South, published last year by Oxford.
George Core is the editor of The Sewanee Review and an authority on American literature. He recently served as coeditor of a collection of the letters of JohnCrowe Ransom published by Louisiana.
Philip F. Gura serves as director of graduate studies in the department of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published widely on American Transcendentalism and is the author of, most recently, A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620—1660.
Ronald Weber is Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His most recent book is Seeing Earth: Literary Responses to Space Exploration,just published by Ohio University Press. Mr. Weber is now working on a study of the impact of journalism on American writers from Crane and Dreiser through Hemingway and Agee.
Oliver Conant, a native New Yorker, is a literary critic whose interests include the history of the English novel, romanticism, and the relations between politics and literature. His articles and reviews have appeared in such publications as Book Forum, American Book Review, The New Leader, The New Republic, and Dissent.
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