UNCLE KEVIN V. THE WORLD

 

Ted Genoways, the alleged glory hound, bully

Danielle Steele, get out your typewriter.  This will be your best novel yet, and you won’t have to make anything up.

Setting:  The University of Virginia.  Thomas Jefferson, UVA founder, modeled UVA’s architecture on Rome.  Violence and chaos reigned on campus when the nation’s first nonsectarian university opened in 1824.

Edgar Poe, one of the first students due to the fact that he was the charge of wealthy guardian John Allan, experienced first-hand the madness, writing to Allan, “You have heard no doubt of the disturbances at the College. Soon after you left here the Grand Jury met and put the Students in a terrible fright—so much so that the lectures were unattended—and those whose names were on the Sheriff’s list traveled off into the woods & mountains, taking their beds and provisions along with them.  There were about 50 on the list, so you may suppose the College was very well thinn’d. [the college had 135 students].”

And, again from Poe in the same letter: “Dixon made a physical attack upon Arthur Smith…he struck him with with a large stone on one side of the head, whereupon Smith drew a pistol (which are all the fashion here) and had it not miss’d fire, would have put an end to the controversy.”

So much for Thomas Jefferson’s self-governing experiment. 

Poe quietly learned what he could at the UVA, leaving without a degree, and left rural and aristocratic VA for the metropolitan north, where he earned fame in Letters, rejecting greased palms and superficial prestige, earning his bread the old-fashioned way, with genius, honesty and hard work.  Poe had no degree, and is remembered for what he wrote, not for prizes or awards.  What an odd idea!

Thomas Jefferson, the gentleman farmer (and slave-owner) liked the fact that Virginia had no cities—he liked things aristocratic and rural, except when he was shopping in Paris; never one to visit the north, the soft-spoken Jefferson would no doubt have smiled knowingly to himself had he lived to see Virginia leave the Union in 1861.

But the UVA did eventually go on to glory, though one of its bumps in the road was hosting T.S Eliot’s infamous speech against the Jews in the 1930s.

Kevin Morrissey, who took his own life on July 30, was, by all accounts, an honest and hardworking managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Morrissey had a job which he could not give up; he had a mortgage to pay; UVA was his ticket in a Virginia landscape of UVA and little else.   Morrissey had expertise and experience, but he was a man without a degree in the very heart of the credentialing industrial complex, the University of Virginia, whose president, John Casteen III, brought in a salary close to a million, and where everyone in town, it must have seemed to Kevin, had a masters degree.  Kevin’s position was sort of like one of the servants who ran Monticello…you run Monticello, but you’re a…servant.   You are a servant because you don’t have an MFA.  These are strange times in which we live; the analogy is a strange one, but true.

Outgoing UVA President John Casteen III was an English major at UVA in the 1960s, earning a Ph.D., where he moved on to be an English professor at U Cal, Berkeley in the 1970s.  Casteen traded in that heady experience to be admissions dean back at UVA; in the 80s, Casteen worked as Education secretary under VA governor Chuck Robb during the Vietnam vet and future intelligence committee senator’s ‘cocaine and playboy bunny affair’ days.  In 1990 John Casteen became the president of UVA.  He and his staff raised a lot of money for the college.

In 2003 Ted Genoways was hired as editor of the VQR as president Casteen gushed that the 31 year old had “energetic intelligence and visionary thinking.”  Mr. Genoways has an MFA from UVA and the masthead cites his poetry prizes first and foremost.   Using half-a-million dollars of $800,000 that was sitting in a VQR fund when he arrived, Genoways added color photography and splashy graphics to the magazine.  He also tapped into international crisis journalism with the extra cash, to give his magazine a prize-winning look, as well.  I’m not just a poet, I also report on Afghanistan.  The “on-the-ground” reporting in the VQR is hardly blockbuster; the magazine reads like dull AP wire, with strategically placed photos of the posed natives in crisis, taken by young, attractive photographers for their CV’s, who then fly around as heroes to plush speaking engagements at universities sponsored by media corporation clubs, such as the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, for which Genoways spoke in 2007 at U Cal Berkeley.  The VQR’s readership is tiny, and trying to turn a school magazine into a National Geographic or a Washington Post with a temporary influx of cash, plus a big salary for Genoways playing ‘great poet plus ace reporter’ on the taxpayer’s dime, is quixotic at best, and corrupt, at worst.

John Casteen IV, the president’s son, is also a poet, and a friend of Genoways, and Ted Genoways published himself and his friend John in the VQR Poetry Series, formerly the University Georgia Press Series, the competition series which Foetry.com exposed as corrupt; Genoways taking over the disgraced press to disgrace it in his own way.

The bullying by editor Genoways no doubt stems from his missionary, megalomaniacal quest to manufacture credentials out of thin air and create importance out of nothing. 

Grab for the brass ring, if you must, but should you step on people while you do?

The president’s office failed to respond when Genoways treated Morrissey like a servant, ordering Kevin to stay home for a week and not speak to his fellow workers.  This is barbaric, and should have resulted in Genoways’ immediate dismissal.

After Morrissey’s death, Genoways hired a high-powered lawyer named Lloyd Snook, who has been debating former VQR employees on-line, charging there is a grand conspiracy to punish Genoways. 

In 2009 Genoways befriended a wealthy 24 year old UVA donor, Alana Levinson-Labrosse, who recently became VQR staff and Genoway’s office buddy.

Are you still with me, Ms. Steele?

Maria Morrissey, the late managing editor’s sister, is defending her brother’s memory and called Genoways to clarify whether he (Genoways) did indeed email Kevin right before he died to berate him (which seemed to be his usual practice) for endangering the life of a reporter in Mexico.  Genoways, too busy to answer his own emails, pawned that task off on Morrissey.

How is that reporter in Mexico doing, I wonder?

Has Genoways saved him yet?

This tale of woe, reported by Dave McNair in a well-researched article, began with foetry—and became something far worse.

Prediction: Ted Genoways will continue his career as a successful editor.  Because… he has the creds. And that’s just the way it works these days.

 

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