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The Virginia Quarterly Review - The literary dark horse. By Meghan O’Rourke

Saturday March 18th 2006, 3:28 am

The Virginia Quarterly Review - The literary dark horse. By Meghan O’Rourke

Virginia Quarterly Review: Winter 2006 issue
Over the past two days, New York media gossip turned away from its usual concerns—like Graydon Carter’s latest hairdo—to consider an improbable question: What is the Virginia Quarterly Review? On March 15, the nominations for the annual National Magazine Awards—the Oscars, if you will, of the magazine world—were announced. To the astonishment of glossy magazine types everywhere, a small journal in Virginia garnered not one nomination, as is sometimes politely handed down to such journals, but six. This made the Virginia Quarterly Review the second-most-nominated magazine, behind the Atlantic, which received eight, and ahead of The New Yorker, Harper’s, New York, and National Geographic, all of which received five. It was as if a scrappy farm team had demolished the Yankees in an exhibition game.

I first heard about VQR two years ago, from my friend David Baker, a poet and critic, and got a subscription soon after. The issues arrived on my desk, thick and fat and glossier—also more colorful—than I’d expected. Many New Yorkers assume that journals with the words “quarterly” or “review” in the title have the stuffy predictability of a baked potato, and perhaps unsurprisingly VQR’s most vocal champions to date have been poets, critics, and novelists who live in the world beyond New York. So far, it has received only a sliver of the media attention devoted to The Believer or N 1, to name two small magazines to have made an impression recently. But, in its new incarnation, edited by Ted Genoways, VQR is easily as good (and in certain ways better) a magazine than its hipper peers—a journal that makes a practice of emulating the best on offer in the Atlantic and The New Yorker, while publishing lots of poetry and fiction.

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