Comparing the serious fiction written about Washington to that written about New York is rather like comparing a bungelow to the Empire State Building. Yet, one contemporary author whose literary reputation largely rests on the stories and novels he has written about the nation’s capital is former Washington Post reporter and Vietnam correspondent, Ward Just, and it is his Washington that Michael Nelson discusses in his latest VQR essay.
Michael Nelson is a professor of political science at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is former editor of the Washington Monthly whose scholarly articles have appeared in numerous journals including The Journal of Politics, The Public Interest, Harvard Business Review, and Oxford Review. His articles have been reprinted in more than 40 anthologies of political science, history, sports, and English composition. Mr. Nelson has written or edited and co-authored several books on the American executive, national elections, and other topics including The Culture of Bureaucracy (with Charles Peters, 1979), Presidents, Politics, and Policy (with Erwin C. Hargrove, 1984), and Celebrating the Humanities: A Half-Century of the Search Course at Rhodes College (1996).
Richard O’Mara has been a foreign correspondent and foreign editor for the Baltimore Sun. He served as a Sun correspondent in Brazil, Argentina, and London. He is currently a Sunday feature writer who has a great interest in Central and Latin America as reflected in his essay, “The American Traveller.”
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Hilary Masters was a naval correspondent toward the end of World War II, a theatrical press agent in New York City, and a founder of a weekly newspaper in Hyde Park, New York that still exists. In the 1960’s, he was prominent in New York state Democratic politics. His first novel, The Common Pasture, was published in 1967. Since then he has published seven novels, two collections of short stories, and a family biography. His latest novel, Home Is the Exile, goes from Mexico in 1939 to the Pittsburgh of today and was published last year by Permanent Press.
Morris Freedman is a native New Yorker who received his Ph. D. from Columbia University. He is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland and a former editor of Commentary. His essays have appeared in such journals as Commentary and The American Scholar as well as VQR.
Appearing in VQR for the first time, Eric; Miles Williamson offered these biographical notes: “I was raised in Oakland, California. My mother rode with the Hell’s Angels and the man who raised me worked in a gas station which we lived next to in a 19 foot trailer. After high school, I worked as a professional trumpet player and as a construction worker doing gunite, asphalt, demolition, sandblasting and concrete. I worked on the Alaskan pipeline, as a lumper, a longshoreman . . .and at dozens of other jobs in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Mexico.” Mr. Williamson received an M.A. at the University of Colorado and an M.F.A. from the University of Houston. He now lives in New York City, where he is writing a dissertation on Jack London at N.Y.U.
Billy Collins is the author of The Art of Drowning published by Pittsburgh in 1995. The same press has published his latest collection of poems, Picnic, Lightning.
Sharon Leiter published a collection of poems entitled Lady and the Bailiff Time in 1974 and a critical study entitled Akhmatova’s Petersburg in 1983. She won a 1990 Virginia prize for fiction. Her magazine publications include Defined Providence, Poetry Motel, Pembroke, and The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review.
A former Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, Lisa Williams graduated from the M.F.A. program there in 1996. Her manuscript, the Hammered Dulcimer, recently won the May Swenson Poetry Award and will be published in June by the University of Utah Press.
David Wagoner’s most recent publication is Walt Whitman Bathing published by Illinois in 1996. The same press will publish his Collected Poems next year. He is a professor at the University of Washington.
Ruth Anderson Barnett teaches in San Diego, California. She has had poems in Beloit Poetry Journal, Florida Review, New Letters, Southern Poetry Review and other magazines. David Huddle chose one of her poems as first place winner in last year’s The Sow’s Ear Poetry Prize competition.
Len Roberts is author of a collection The Trouble-making Finch to be published by Illinois this year. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, American Poetry Review, and Boulevard.
Karen Whitehill lives on a small farm in Earlysville, Virginia, where she runs a bed and breakfast cottage. She has been published in VQR previously.
Mary Ann Samyn has published poems in The Ohio Review, New York Quarterly, Verse, Nimrod, and The Laurel Review.
Browning Porter is a founder and director of the Charlottesville Writing Center, poetry editor for the on-line journal Blue Moon Review and the lead singer and lyricist of the folk rock band Nickeltown. He has an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry East, New England Review, Calliope, Agni, and Marlboro Review.
John Piller was the 1997 recipient of the Richard Hugo Memorial Prize awarded by Amelia magazine. His poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Talking River Review, Midwest Quarterly, and The Plum Review. His manuscript, Great Wind, was a finalist in The Journal/The Ohio State University Press contest in 1996. In 1994, Mr. Piller was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Helen Barolini is the author of Umbertina, a novel of the Italian American experience as well as other works of fiction. She is also known for her ground breaking anthology, The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writing by Italian American Women. She has published four other books, many stories and reviews, and numerous essays, two of which are cited in Best American Essays (1991 and 1993 respectively). She has also translated the work of Italo Calvino, Eugenio Montale, and her husband, Antonio Barolini. Her most recent book, published in 1997, is Chiaroscuro: Essays of Identity.
A native of southwest Virginia, Mariflo Stephens now lives in Charlottesville where she is married to a local attorney and is the mother of two children. A former newspaper reporter, she sewed on the staff of the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville and the Bergen Record in New Jersey. Her stores and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including The Charlottesville Observer, The Washington Post, and VQR.
A native of Australia, George Watson is a fellow at St. John’s College in Cambridge. He is the author of Politics and Literature in Modern Britain and British Literature Since 1945. He has been a visiting professor of English at New York University and at the University of Georgia.
Stephen Dixon published his 19th book of fiction since 1976, Gould: A Novel in Two Novels in March 1997. His other novels include Work, Too Late, Fall and Rise, Garbage, Frog, and Interstate. The last two novels were National Book Award finalists. “The Subway Ride” is part of an interconnected collection of fictions, Thirty, to be published by Henry Holt in the spring of 1999.
Robert Mason grew up in Mebane in Piedmont North Carolina when it was a small manufacturing and market town. A railroad ran through it and country people called it “the Depot.” Mr. Mason received his B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and became a reporter in Sanford, North Carolina at the height of the depression. He later worked in Raleigh and Durham before joining the Norfolk Virginian Pilot just as World War II broke out. He served as a naval officer in the Pacific in World War II and then returned to Norfolk. He left the Pilot briefly to return to Sanford as editor of the newspaper there, but he returned to Norfolk in 1957 as the Pilot’s managing editor. When Lenore Chambers retired as editor in 1962, Mr. Mason succeeded him and remained as editor until his retirement in 1977. He now resides and writes in Southern Piaes, North Carolina.
A professor of American Studies at Brandeis University, Stephen J. Whitfield is spending this semester as a visiting professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. He is a frequent VQR contributor.
As is Jeffrey Meyers, one of the country’s more distinguished biographers. His biographies include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Poe, and lastly, Humphrey Bogart.
Sanford Pinsker is professor of English at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and a prolific author and essayist. He is also editor of Academic Questions.
Lisa Russ Spaar is a poet whose work has appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, VQR, Ploughshares, Shenandoah and elsewhere. She has published two collections of poems, Cellar and Blind Boy on Skates and her new collection, Rapunzel’s Clock won a 1996 Virginia Commission for the Arts Individual Artist’s Award and was a finalist in the 1997 National Poetry Series. She teaches at the University of Virginia.
Marjorie Perloff’s most recent books are Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (Chicago, 1992), Wittgenstein’s Ladder-Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (Chicago, 1996) and Poetry On and Off the Page: Essays for Emergent Occasions (Northwestern, 1998). She is Sadie Demham Patek Professor of Humanities at Stanford University.
Capitol Building—from personal slides of Jack Robertson, Fine Arts Library, UVA.
Ward Just—permission from Houghton Mifflin/Ward Just. Photo of Just by Sarah Catchpole.
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