Genoways Agonistes

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

An unexpected development, but isn’t life full of surprises?

Editor at Embattled Literary Journal Will Stay


The University of Virginia has released its audit investigating workplace conditions at the Virginia Quarterly Review, the prizewinning literary journal it oversees, but nearly three months after the suicide of its managing editor, Kevin Morrissey, the journal is still on hold. Carol Wood, a spokeswoman for the university, said on Friday that Ted Genoways, the editor of VQR, had been invited to stay on as editor, and Mr. Genoways confirmed in an e-mail that “Yes, I will be remaining on as editor.”

Staff members have not yet returned to work, Ms. Wood said. The nine-page audit, made public this week, was ordered after Mr. Morrissey’s suicide, when some of his family and friends suggested that Mr. Genoways and stresses in the workplace contributed to his decision to kill himself. The audit said that there were “no specific allegations of bullying or harassment prior to July 30th,” the day Mr. Morrissey died, but also recommended that Mr. Genoways’s “responsiveness on administrative matters and his management style” needed to be addressed.

In an e-mail on Friday, Mr. Genoways criticized the report for lacking “a clear statement of the facts.” “I suppose they don’t want to state my innocence too plainly, because it makes their actions — cleaning out my office, canceling the winter issue — look panicked and ill-considered,” he said. “But I think moving on will require greater honesty.”

In Praise of the Light-Footed Indie Publisher

April 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Jay Nicorvo, in a recent Guernica essay, offers a convincing examination of what is wrong (and right) in publishing these days, and begs to differ with Ted Genoways’ recent essay on “The Death of Fiction.”  Nicorvo’s argument, in brief, is that the big NYC houses have lost their connection to readers, while limber, light-on-their-feet” indie publishers see nothing but opportunity in the new media new market.  He makes good sense, and give us hope.

Read on:

These days, editors at commercial publishing houses … no longer know how to reach the reader. Old media had a direct line to the audience that bought books, newspapers, and magazines. Publicity and marketing departments knew where to effectively (if not cheaply) spread the word about forthcoming titles and upcoming issues, expecting to get out what they put in. They’d print a few hundred or a few thousand galleys, mail them first-class to reviewers, watch the reviews roll in, and count the sales. But reviews no longer sell books. New media is the internet, and publicity and marketing departments have little central control over the flow of information … And so what do editors do? They cling to what’s working, if not working well — blockbusters. The dominant, dysfunctional business model for movies has been adapted for books. And this is why more authors like John Edgar Wideman have had enough; he’d rather self-publish and have a larger say than be hamstrung by a system favoring quantity over quality.

It’s the Ted Genowayses of the world, editors at literary magazines, university and independent presses, who still … (choose) those manuscripts which, to the best of their subjective judgment, are really the prettiest as they see them. And while we’re still in the recesses of the Great Recession, even as retirement funds and university endowments begin a gradual rebound, university-affiliated publishers are feeling particularly pinched. But the more limber, light-on-their-feet publishers—those not tied to state institutions funded by tax revenue—the indie publishers mission-driven to publish literature, they’re the ones surviving and even thriving, thanks to changing, cheapening technology and the preferred tax status that their missions afford them. This, the privileged position of the first degree, may be a main reason why the incoming editor of The Paris Review is leaving a storied commercial publishing house, and an imprint thought to be a last commercial bastion of the literary novel, for independent publishing.

… The best writers write because they have to, but the best editors edit because they want to. It’s the editors, not the writers, who need encouraging. Editors need to change what, and how, they acquire. And what better encouragement for change than a terrible economy? Or, in the words of Rahm Emanuel, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” If such a crisis brought about the restructuring of the Detroit auto industry, aided by the desperate implementation of available and developing technologies, it can usher in the restructuring of New York City publishing.

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