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Ted Genoways

Ted Genoways is the author of five books, most recently This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm (Norton, 2017). Tequila Wars, his saga of the Cuervos, Sauzas, and other tequila families, is forthcoming (Norton, 2019). He was the editor of VQR from 2003 to 2012.


Photography by Mary Anne Andrei

Ted Genoways’s Notes to Self

Fall 2017 | Articles

Land grabs and blood feuds, ambushes and priests on the run: Few periods are as unhinged as the thirty-five years Genoways covers in his current work, a chronicle of the tequila industry that homes in on the period between the beginnings of the Mexican Revolution and World War II. Genoways says that the process of assembling Romo’s story was typical of the research for the book overall. Traditional sources have been spotty at best: Journalistic oppression, by both the government and powerful families, runs deep in Mexico, riddling newspapers with frustrating silences; and decades of political instability meant that official documents were either not kept or destroyed.

The Horn’s Dilemma

Winter 2012 | Editor's Desk

In spring 1985, with everyone’s expectant parents sweating and wedged into the auditorium chairs, it was my appointed task to kick off the school’s year-end performance by plinking out the opening strains of “We Are the World” on the music teacher’s Casio keyboard.

Dead and Divine, and Brother of All

Spring 2012 | Essays

On Tuesday, December 16, the New York Herald printed a list of soldiers killed or wounded at Fredericksburg, including an entry for “First Lieutenant G. W. Whitmore, Company D,” of the 51st New York Infantry. It was mid-morning when poet Walt Whitman saw the item and surmised that it referred to his brother George.

Dreams of Poetry

Spring 2012 | Editor's Desk

My initiation into contemporary poetry began my freshman year in high school. My family had recently moved to Nebraska—where both of my parents were born and raised and where we had generations of family connections. But the landscape was mostly foreign to me; I had grown up in the narrow vales and hills on the north side of Pittsburgh, and the flatlands of the prairie felt like the moon. 

Back in the USSR

Fall 2011 | Editor's Desk

Twenty years ago, the most grandiose political and social experiment of the twentieth century, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, came to an end. It was a slow and painful death; there was no Soviet 9/11, no sudden implosion of illusions amid smoke and rubble.

The Boundless Sea: Saving Our Threatened Fisheries

Summer 2011 | Editor's Desk

In 1768, Benjamin Franklin, then postmaster general of England's colonies in America, was presented with a mystery: why were British packet ships sailing from Falmouth, England, to New York regularly taking two weeks longer to reach their destination than merchant vessels traveling from London to Rhode Island?

The Rude Wasting of Old Time

Spring 2011 | Editor's Desk

When painter Benjamin Haydon took John Keats to the British Museum to visit the newly unveiled statuary plundered from the Greek Parthenon by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the young poet was struck dumb—not just by the artistic perfection of the marbles but by the bittersweet melancholy of their disintegration.

VQR Grabs Six Ellie Nominations!

April 5, 2011 | Editor's Desk

On the heels of Elliott D. Woods receiving the Digital National Magazine Award for Multimedia Package for Assignment Afghanistan, the American Society of Magazine Editors announced today that VQR has received six Ellie nominations in the print categories

Jean-Paul Sartre in VQR

January 5, 2011 | Articles

 Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946. (Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson)In October 1945, with the tumult of the Second World War and the repressive censorship of the Vichy regime newly ended, Jean-Paul Sartre founded a literary and political quarterly cal [...]

The Price of the Paperless Revolution

Fall 2010 | Editor's Desk

We hiked along a twisting, curse-worthy trail down the craggy face of Brownsberg plateau, hacking our way toward Witi Creek. I had been told by the administrators of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve that many of the waterways that snaked through the country’s only national park on the northern edge of the Amazon were dotted with illegal gold mines, but I wanted to see for myself.

The Voice of the Revolution

Peter Masturzo By June 20, 2009, the protests had been going on for a week. Despite record turnout at voting stations across Iran and defiantly open public support for presidential hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi, incumbent strongman Mahmoud [...]

Update on Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour

June 19, 2010 | Reporting

We have word from Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour's family within Iran that he is alive but again being held in solitary confinement at Evin Prison in Tehran.

North Africa in the Twenty-First Century

Winter 2010 | Editor's Desk

This issue owes its origins to a day—last Easter, in fact—spent watching the cable news networks report on the fatal shooting of three Somali pirates who had kidnapped Richard Phillips, captain of the MV Maersk Alabama.

Are We Losing the War on Drugs?

Fall 2009 | Editor's Desk

Thousands of deaths in Mexico are chiefly the result of traffic in high-potency pot smuggled across the border with ruthless resolve. But when marijuana legalization came up as one of the most requested questions during a presidential town hall meeting early in Obama’s presidency, he laughed it off.

In Verse

September 8, 2009 | Poetry

Announcing a new poetry project in the spirit of the Federal Writers' Project.

The Land of Broken Promises

I don’t envy Barack Obama. It’s not enough that he inherited two wars and the worst unemployment rate in a generation, but now he has to make good on campaign promises to end those wars honorably and fix the economy from the ground up. Then there [...]

Whose Woods Are These? (A Manifesto, Part 2)

May 14, 2009 | Essays

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that New England Review is now on the chopping block. The Middlebury College Budget Oversight Committee initially announced "that effective June 30, 2009, the College will end its relationship with the New England Review (NER) and wind down operations. The winding down of operations will allow for the redeployment of staff and the fulfillment of existing contracts." That recommendation was amended to: "The New England Review will have until December 31, 2011, to eliminate its current operating deficit. If it cannot, the College will end its relationship with the Review."

This is shocking news. Middlebury College is primarily known as a haven for language and literature. In addition to NER, it is home to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the School of English, the Environmental Journalism fellowships, and the Robert Frost Writer-in-Residence fellowship. (The college also contributes to the maintenance of the nearby cabin where Robert Frost lived during the summers when he was teaching at the Writers' Conference and School of English.) All of these entities support the outstanding undergraduate program in creative writing and Middlebury's English faculty—including Julia Alvarez, David Haward Bain, Robert Cohen, Kathryn Kramer, Jay Parini, Don Mitchell, and Christopher Shaw. And yet, the Writers' Conference and School of English are also being asked to "find ways to maintain balanced budgets" and "increase revenue."


The Future of University Presses and Journals (A Manifesto)

May 9, 2009 | Essays

In February 1935, James Monroe Smith, president of Louisiana State University, decided his institution needed two things—a literary journal and a press. He drove his black Cadillac to Robert Penn Warren’s house and invited the newly-minted LSU professor and his graduate student boarder, Albert Erskine, to go for a drive. He wanted to know what they thought it would cost to produce a top-flight journal. Warren told him $10,000 per year—that’s more than $150,000 in today’s dollars. Surprisingly, Smith quickly agreed on two conditions: 1) he wanted Warren and Erskine to team up with Cleanth Brooks, then a professor in the English department, and Charles W. Pipkin, dean of the graduate school; and 2) he wanted a full proposal from them by the next morning. Warren and Erskine worked deep into the night, and the next day Southern Review was born. Shortly thereafter, Smith appointed Marcus Wilkerson to the directorship of the newly formed LSU Press and set aside money for several ambitious projects, including a history of the university, a two-volume survey of Western civilization, and a doorstop anthology of American literature co-edited by Brooks and Warren (based on Warren’s literature course at LSU)—the now-classic An Approach to Literature. “Although James Monroe Smith was not himself an intellectual,” writes literary historian Mark Royden Winchell, “he valued intellect in others and knew how to put it to work for the good of the university.”

Nearly seventy-five years later, Southern Review remains one of the most important quarterlies in the country, and LSU Press has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most revered university presses. In the last three decades alone, LSU Press’s literary titles have garnered four Pulitzer Prizes, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award, and its exceptional history list has won three Bancroft Prizes and the Lincoln Prize. Yet, LSU’s new chancellor, Michael Martin, has targeted both Southern Review and LSU Press as entities within the university that, due to the economic downturn, will now need to contribute additional revenue to the university—or else. According to the preliminary budget report issued by the university, “it is very possible they cannot generate the revenue needed and will close.” In a prepared statement released after the budget was made public earlier this week, Martin praised LSU’s nationally recognized publications as “a very valuable asset to this university” but insisted that “we must protect the academic core of LSU first and foremost.”


The Sword of Damocles

Richard Westall, The Sword of Damocles, 1812 (Ackland Art Museum). Last month, a team of geophysicists at the University of Toronto released a report, published in the February issue of Science, predicting the effects should rising global te [...]

Ghosts of the Cold War

Winter 2009 | Editor's Desk

This new year marks two separate but linked anniversaries: the fiftieth anniversary of Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba—touching off the precipitant Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the spread of paramilitarism across Latin America—and the twentieth anniversary of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe—with the election of Solidarity candidates in Poland, the dramatic dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and the overthrow of the Communist regime in Romania.

Behold the Man

December 19, 2008 | Criticism

J. Hoberman weighs in Steven Soderbergh's epic biopic of Che.

A World War II veteran holds a flag during a service at the Cavalry Cemetery in Eveleth, Minnesota, on Memorial Day, May 26, 2008. Noah Pierce, who is buried there, returned after two tours of Iraq with severe PTSD and committed suicide near his family home on July 26, 2007 (ASHLEY GILBERTSON).

The Price of Aggression

Fall 2008 | Editor's Desk

We, as a nation, seem to believe that, win or lose, the war is nearly finished, done with, history. Unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of American veterans and their families, the war is anything but over.

No Way Home: Outsiders and Outcasts

The storm shall dash thy face, the murk of war and worse than war shall cover thee all over . . . —Walt Whitman, “Proud Music of the Storm” We all watched it on TV—watched as the storm surge breached levees and leveled neighborhoods, w [...]

Pat Robertson Responds

April 18, 2008 | Essays

So, here it is: Pat Robertson's reply to Bill Sizemore. Okay, not Pat Robertson—but Regent University Vice President and General Counsel Louis A. Isakoff, whose self-described job is "to provide a high quality legal product that helps create an atm [...]

The Future of Pop?

April 3, 2008 | Criticism

Radiohead is selling tracks for fans to remix. Our editor is working at home today. You do the math.

Look, Up in the Sky!

Spring 2008 | Editor's Desk

Dulce Pinzón wanted to revise our idea of superheroes.

As a photographer living in New York in the days after 9/11, she became fascinated by the intense images of extraordinary heroism on that day—heroism that, she is quick to point out, richly deserved recognition—while everyday acts of courage went unacknowledged by the media. A native of Mexico City who came to this country in her twenties, Pinzón was especially attuned to the kinds of silent contributions that immigrants, both legal and illegal, were making just to keep a lumbering metropolis like New York moving.

If It Amounts to Torture

“The Water Torture” from Joost Damhouder’s Praxis Rerum Criminalium, 1556. (The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library). In March 2007, the US Defense Department released the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s testimony [...]

VQR Poetry Reading at Sweet Briar College

October 2, 2007 | Editor's Desk

John Casteen and Jennifer Chang, two poets whose first books are forthcoming in the newly launched VQR Poetry Series, will read at 7:30 p.m., this Wednesday, October 3, in the Wailes Lounge at the Florence Elston Inn and Conference Center at Sweet Br [...]

Being Irish Makes You Hard-Hitting? Well, Yes.

September 22, 2007 | Editor's Desk

Jennifer Howard, over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, has taken issue with my earlier blog post about Paul Muldoon. I wrote: Maybe we can also hope that an Irish poet such as Muldoon will have an eye for harder-hitting, more topical poetry t [...]

Muldoon to Take Over as New Yorker Poetry Editor

September 20, 2007 | Poetry

Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Muldoon has been named the new poetry editor for The New Yorker. The Irish-born Muldoon (who also edited the Best American Poetry anthology in 2005) joins the ranks of English-born Glyn Maxwell at The New Republic and Yugos [...]

South America in the 21st Century

In 1507, exactly five hundred years ago, German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller created two maps and his accompanying, Cosmographiae introductio. As a mapmaker, Waldseemüller enjoyed middling success, and today he would likely be forgotten altoge [...]

Remembering Oliver W. Hill

August 7, 2007 | Profiles

Civil rights pioneer Oliver W. Hill Sr. has died in Richmond at 100 years old and will lie in state at the Executive Mansion on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Governor Kaine has ordered the state flag to be flown at half-staff statewide until sunset Su [...]

Kevin Morrissey Is a Book Brahmin

July 27, 2007 | Editor's Desk

The good people at Shelf Awareness have anointed our managing editor, Kevin Morrissey, one of its "Book Brahmins" and posed the usual set of questions. His answers can be found here. We were especially pleased to see his plug for Driving and Drinking [...]

Summer Issue Preview

June 25, 2007 | Editor's Desk

The Summer issue of VQR is in the mail to subscribers and will be on newsstands in early July, but we’re offering a preview of one of our most thought-provoking issues yet. The issue opens with a special portfolio on the war in Iraq. The political [...]

Interesting Times

June 17, 2007 | Essays

These are interesting times for literary magazines. Don Lee, longtime editor of Ploughshares, recently announced that he is stepping down in order to take a teaching job at Macalester College. Lee's departure leaves the top spots vacant (to my knowle [...]

Our Hearts Go Out to All at Virginia Tech

April 18, 2007 | Editor's Desk

We responded with deep sadness to the news out of Blacksburg on Monday—and with growing despair as the details have continued to emerge. John T. Casteen IV, a member of our poetry board and a past contributor to VQR on the subject of gun control, [...]

McCarthy, Trethewey Win Pulitzers

April 16, 2007 | Editor's Desk

Cormac McCarthy and Natasha Trethewey, both recent VQR contributors, have been honored with the Pulitzer Prizes in Fiction and Poetry, respectively. These are great writers with great books; it's always nice to see this kind of recognition for deserv [...]


April 7, 2007 | Editor's Desk

NPR's "On the Media," produced by WNYC and hosted by Brooke Gladstone, features an outstanding segment on Mark Twain's unpublished faux letter to the editor "The Walt Whitman Controversy," available for the first time in our new Spring 2007 issue. Gl [...]

Posthumous Mark Twain

When Samuel Clemens “went out” with Halley’s Comet in 1910, as he had long predicted he would, he left behind a wealth of unpublished material composed under his famous pseudonym Mark Twain. Slowly, works trickled out that Clemens either hadn [...]

The Crossing

 It’s one of my earliest memories: riding my father’s shoulders, as he waded across the Rio Grande. We were headed south toward Boquillas del Carmen, a tiny Mexican village that sits just across the border from Big Bend National Park. We did wha [...]

Pauline Chen on “Weekend Edition”

January 27, 2007 | Editor's Desk

This morning, Saturday, January 27, our own Pauline Chen will be interviewed by Scott Simon on NPR's "Weekend Edition." And if you're in the Charlottesville area, now would be a good time to mark your calendars for Thursday, March 22, at 2 PM. Paulin [...]

Pauline Chen reviewed in NYT

January 11, 2007 | Interviews

Williams Grimes reviews Pauline Chen's book Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality (Knopf) in today's New York Times. Grimes praises the work as a series of thoughtful, moving essays on the troubled relationship between modern medical [...]

Saddam Is Dead

December 30, 2006 | Reporting

Saddam Hussein has been executed in Baghdad. In the coming days, we can all expect renewed debate about whether deposing and executing Hussein has been worth the human and political toll. (I think our stance is clear.) As a background for this discus [...]

The Quandary of Oil in Africa

On November 10, 1995, after four botched attempts, Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged by the neck and finally pronounced dead. For decades, Saro-Wiwa had been among Nigeria’s most prominent writers—a novelist, a journalist, and the creator of Africa’s mo [...]

VQR Wins “Eddie”

October 23, 2006 | Editor's Desk

We've just been informed that VQR has won FOLIO: magazine's Gold Eddie Award for editorial excellence in the nonprofit category. We're delighted by this news—and not a little humbled. The other finalist were two exceptional magazines: OnEarth (winn [...]

Runnning with Scissors

October 21, 2006 | Criticism

Has anyone out there seen the limited release of Running with Scissors? Back in February 2005, we received a request from a production assistant working on the film adaptation of Augusten Burroughs's memoir for a few sheets of old VQR letterhead. See [...]


Writers on Writers | Editor's Desk

  As Chris Ware makes so abundantly clear in his outstanding (and bitterly accurate) cover illustrations, writers have always been a favorite topic of other writers. Their private foibles and public follies make ready fodder for gossip and snark [...]

Günter Grass and the Legacy of the Holocaust

Fall 2006 | Editor's Desk

In this issue, we have assembled four of our favorite writers, each taking his own perspective on the Holocaust. Tony Kushner’s wrenching short play But the Giraffe! was written as a curtain raiser for Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibár. Composed in the early years of World War II, Brundibár was smuggled by its conductor, Rudolph Freudenfeld, into the Terezin concentration camp where the opera was performed more than fifty times by the children of the camp. It is an inspiring story but also a complex one—as film of one of the performances was used by Nazi propagandists to show how happy Jews were in the camps. Kushner’s play confronts this hard reality, the double-edged sword of remembrance and forgetting. Brundibár is rescued from destruction, but its rescuers are not so fortunate.

Alan Heathcock on NPR

August 30, 2006 | Interviews

Alan Heathcock was interviewed on an Idaho NPR radio show, "New Horizons in Education." A good part of the interview is spent discussing "Peacekeeper"—which originally appeared in VQR and has since won the National Magazine Award for Fiction and be [...]

A Symposium on a Lost Poem by Robert Frost

Fall 2006 | Essays

  Just seven years ago, I was lucky enough to find an incomplete draft of a Robert Frost poem that had escaped the attention of Frost scholars. The poem was published and ballyhooed as the last scrap of Frost verse we could ever expect to read. [...]

VQR profiled in Richmond, VA weekly

June 28, 2006 | Editor's Desk

Richmond's Style Weekly has a very nice profile of VQR and me in their new issue. Amy Biegelsen is kind to me, mostly—though she couldn't resist making fun of my wearing socks and sandals. Luckily, Michael Schaub over at Bookslut notes that, despit [...]

The Lessons of History

Summer 2006 | Editor's Desk

On May 21, the people of Montenegro voted to secede from Serbia. The European Union had insisted that it would not recognize Montenegro’s independence unless at least 50% of Montenegrins turned out to vote and of those at least 55% cast their vote [...]

We’re Big in Australia

March 29, 2006 | Editor's Desk

As part of the ongoing long, strange trip of being nominated for a half dozen Ellies, I was interviewed today for "The Book Show" with Ramona Koval on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Koval says: Few things spark the public imagination lik [...]

Some Fireside Reading

March 18, 2006 | Editor's Desk

So it’s been a pretty good week for all of us at VQR. As if six National Magazine Award nominations weren’t enough (and believe me, they were), we got word that Tom Bissell’s and Morgan Meis’s travel piece “After the Fall” (from the Fall [...]

VQR: “Best F**king Magazine on the Planet”

March 16, 2006 | Editor's Desk

In the wake of the National Magazine Award announcement, much of the media has reacted with no small amount of puzzlement over our wealth of nominations. The New York Post hailed our six nods as “the biggest surprise of the day,” Women’s Wear D [...]

Live from AWP in Austin

March 10, 2006 | Editor's Desk

The AWP Conference got into full swing yesterday. The bookfair is more enormous than ever—somewhere around 750 exhibitors. The Austin Convention Center is hosting a basketball tournament, a car show, and the bookfair, if that gives you any idea of [...]

Oscar Cowardice?

March 6, 2006 | Criticism

After all the hoopla about how Hollywood is out of step with middle America, did the MPAA lose its nerve? It certainly looks that way. Munich, a film many viewed as covert criticism of the war on terror (co-written by recent VQR contributor Tony Kush [...]

Rushdie and the Mohammed Cartoons

March 2, 2006 | Reporting

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that originally published the Mohammed cartoons, has now posted a manifesto, denouncing the ensuing violence, signed by twelve intellectuals—including writers Salman Rushdie, Irshad Manji, Taslima Nasreen, Cha [...]

More Fictional Nonfiction

March 2, 2006 | Reporting

This time it’s in the Village Voice that’s been caught running made up stories—and in a totally inconsequential cover story on Neil Strauss’s ridiculous book, The Game, no less. The Gothamist has it right when they say that the most embarrass [...]

Tooting Our Own Horn

March 2, 2006 | Editor's Desk

VQR has been honored as the winner of the Phoenix Award for Significant Editorial Achievement, presented by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ), the major international organization supporting editors of academic journals. The Phoenix A [...]

Faulkner Letter Sells for $18,000

February 21, 2006 | Reporting

According to the Washington Post, a letter by William Faulkner complaining that he had been “conned” into a screenwriting contract with Warner Brothers sold yesterday for nearly $18,000, according to auction house Bonhams & Butterfields. Faul [...]

Lost Larkin Tapes

February 14, 2006 | Reporting

The London Telegraph reports that a collection of lost recordings of Philip Larkin have been found in the attic of a former BBC sound engineer—who recorded the British poet in his garage studio. The engineer’s son jokes with the Yorkshire Post To [...]

Nancy Milford on Memoir

February 12, 2006 | Essays

I somehow missed Nancy Milford’s excellent essay on the “false memoir” until today. Maybe everybody else has already read this, but in case you haven’t, check it out. It’s the most thoughtful and intelligent essay I’ve read on the whole J [...]

Nobody’s Fool

February 11, 2006 | Reporting

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo has devised a novel plan to raise money for the Community School in his hometown of Camden, Maine. It seems Camden is facing a $79,000 budget shortfall (somebody has to pay for those tax cuts, right?), so R [...]

Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq

February 11, 2006 | Reporting

Read Paul R. Pillar’s article, “Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq,” on the Foreign Affairs website. Pillar’s article is going to be excerpted, spun, and debated into the ground in the coming week. Thanks to the editors of Foreign Affa [...]

The Seahawks Are Bad Poets, Too

February 9, 2006 | Poetry

Kerry Carter, former back-up running back for the Seattle Seahawks, has found something to fill his idle hours since being cut by the team before this season. He’s been writing poetry. This must-have gift for the Seahawks fan on your Valentine’s [...]

Neil Azevedo, Where Are You?

January 31, 2006 | Poetry

Five years ago, when I learned that Neil Azevedo—a former editor at Columbia University Press—was starting a literary press in Nebraska, I was delighted. Even if it was called Zoo Press, I’m a fourth-generation Nebraskan, so I wanted very much [...]

Arthur Sze Named Poet Laureate of Santa Fe

January 30, 2006 | Poetry

Congratulations to Arthur Sze on becoming the first Poet Laureate of Santa Fe. There's a very nice profile of Arthur in the Santa Fe Free New Mexican, and you can read one of his poems in the current issue of VQR. [...]

Is Frey Really That Bad?

January 29, 2006 | Essays

Edward Wyatt, in yet another investigation of the James Frey case published in Saturday’s New York Times, says that the book industry is beginning to ask questions about Kassie Evashevski, Frey’s agent, and Sean McDonald, who edited A Million Lit [...]

Move Over James Frey, Here Comes… Upton Sinclair?

January 29, 2006 | Reporting

CBC Arts is reporting that a newly discovered letter reveals that Upton Sinclair—the famed muckracker and author of the novel Boston, impassioned fictionalization of the conviction and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti—had direct knowledge that the [...]

Portrait of John Donne for Sale

January 29, 2006 | Reporting

British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion is leading the charge to raise money to help the British National Portrait Gallery buy a rare painted portrait of metaphysical poet John Donne. Trouble is, they need £1.6 million. The London Telegraph quotes Motio [...]

The Scourge of AIDS in Africa

Winter 2006 | Editor's Desk

In August 2001, I was strapped into the passenger seat, speeding along the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. On the edge of every shantytown and encampment, we passed two invariable landmarks: shacks with men sel [...]

On the Necessity of Negative Capability

Fall 2005 | Editor's Desk

In the winter of 1945, New Yorker managing editor William Shawn pitched an idea to staff writer John Hersey: an in-depth, on-the-ground description of Hiroshima on the day the atomic bomb was dropped. Shawn wanted the article in time for the first an [...]

On Meeting Writers

Summer 2005 | Editor's Desk

It’s after midnight, and I’m tapping on the murky aquarium glass to see if the two scrawny lobsters inside are, as the sign promises, “LIVE.” We’re in some dive a few blocks from Ground Zero, and John McNally and Tom Bissell are playing poo [...]

Inventing Walt Whitman

Spring 2005 | Editor's Desk

But more than that, we see the earliest example of that most American trick: self-invention. Walter Whitman had been born into a humble family of Quakers on Long Island, and his social standing had allowed him to rise no further than fleeting stints as editor of various small-time newspapers. For the better part of the 1840s, Walter had fashioned himself a dandy, complete with cane and boutonniere, in a vain attempt to boost his status. But for the frontispiece of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman changed all that. His broad hat tipped back, his beard thick and mottled, he stood defiantly, one hand crooked at his hip, the other thrust in his pocket. Most importantly, he was dressed in the clothes of the common man. No waistcoat or tie, he posed with his collar open, revealing a workingman’s undershirt. And this new persona required a new name; Walter became Walt.

The Walt Whitman House, Camden, New Jersey

“This Heart’s Geography’s Map”

Spring 2005 | Photography

Walt Whitman was fascinated with photographic images of himself. From the 1840s until within a year of his death, Whitman sat for photographers, collected and commented on the results, admired certain poses and disliked others, had hundreds of copies [...]

Here Be Monsters

Winter 2005 | Editor's Desk

In this issue, George Garrett reflects on his loopy and ill-fated role in writing one of these pictures. (In Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster the aliens aren't just after earth women; they're singling out go-go dancers!) These movies feel like high camp to us today, a kind of kitsch that seems trapped in time, but what held thousands of viewers at drive-ins across America in thrall? Surely, it didn't feel safe and distant then. It must have something to do with deep-seated anxieties about the future of our own planet, about our place in an uncompromising universe. Or even new parts of the world we thought we knew. Steve Ryfle, in his essay on Godzilla, reveals that the original 1954 Japanese version of the film—before the bad overdubbing and the cheeseball scenes with Raymond Burr inserted—was an overt commentary on the dangers we pose to ourselves in the nuclear age. The film's central figure, a scientist, has developed a weapon more terrible than the bomb and faces the dilemma of whether or not to use it against the monster awoken from the ocean floor by an atomic test. If we unleash this weapon, won't it only lead to another? Won't every new unknown be more horrific than the last?

Reporting the Report

Fall 2004 | Editor's Desk

It was almost 11:30 a.m., July 22, 2004, and we were awaiting the arrival of the ten members of the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (informally known as the 9/11 Commission). Most of the journalists gathered in the cavernous marble hall under the gilt dome of the Mellon Auditorium had been there for hours, busily skimming the 570-page final report of the Commission with the aid of the accompanying cheat sheet, looking for any juicy tidbits—new details, shocking revelations, finger-pointing.

Can Stories Matter?

Summer 2004 | Editor's Desk

This issue owes its origins to Michael Chabon—though I'm sure he doesn't know it. Chabon stirred controversy last year by confessing in his introduction to McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales that he had grown bored with "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story."

Under the Big Top

near Grand Island, Nebraska, July 23, 1913 I.Heat Lightning Fields of flax and sweetcorn flash under a half-moon climbing the trellised treeline. Distant clouds tremble each time the horizon flares, and the mare's hipbones glisten as if sun-li [...]