January 9, 2009 — Honoring the best writing to appear in its pages in the past year, the Virginia Quarterly Review recently announced the winners of its annual writing prizes for 2008.
Kanishk Tharoor won the Emily Clark Balch Prize for Short Story for "Tale of the Teahouse," which appeared in the summer 2008 issue.
Tharoor is an associate editor at openDemocracy.net. His writings on politics and culture have been published in the Guardian Unlimited and YaleGlobal Online and extensively in India — in the Hindu, Times of India, and Telegraph (Calcutta). He currently lives in London.
VQR editor Ted Genoways praised how Tharoor's story "explores the tragic parallels between our current moment and the 13th century. In 'Tale of the Teahouse,' the citizens of Baghdad prepare for the invasion of another foreign army, the Khan's, and its devastating effect. The prose soars, even as it resonates with historical weight."
Todd Boss won the Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry for four poems in the fall 2008 issue: "Ruin," "Advance," "In the Morning We Found" and "The Plat Book"[link to: ].
Boss is the director of external affairs at the Playwright's Center in Minneapolis and lives in St. Paul, Minn., with his wife and two children. The four poems published by VQR are from his first full-length collection, "Yellowrocket," just out from W. W. Norton.
Genoways praised Boss's "rapid-fire rhymes and hairpin turns of juxtaposition that propel us through this sequence of poems that maps the Wisconsin farm where he grew up to the storm that wiped it out."
Two writers shared the Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction.
Ashley Gilbertson was honored for "The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce", which appeared in the fall 2008 issue.
Gilbertson is an award-winning freelance photographer and author of "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War" (Chicago, 2007). His cover photo for VQR's fall 2007 issue was selected as one of the "Top 10 Magazine Covers of the Year" by Time magazine.
David J. Morris shared the prize for "Trophy Town", which appeared in the winter 2008 issue.
Morris is a former Marine and author of 2004's "Storm on the Horizon," an account of the Battle of Khafji in the Gulf War. His essay in VQR's winter 2007 issue, "The Big Suck," was chosen for "Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007." He lives in Portland, Ore.
"Morris reports from Ramadi about the remarkable — and largely unexpected — turnaround in what had once been the center of the insurgency. Yet his article concludes by wondering about the lingering effects on the troops when they return to the United States," Genoways said. "Gilbertson provides one heartbreaking example of just that — a Marine, Noah Pierce from the Iron Range of Minnesota, who served two tours in Iraq, only to commit suicide on return, because he couldn't cope with the memories of what he had seen and done.
"Together, they represent both the successes of our military and the toll those victories have exacted."
The Balch Prizes for short fiction and poetry were established in 1955 and the Blackford Prize for Nonfiction was established in 2003. The awards are chosen by the staff of VQR and each prize includes an award of $1,000.
Past recipients include Wendell Berry, John Berryman, Robert Olen Butler, Philip Caputo, Hayden Carruth, Carolyn Forché, Donald Hall, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Oliver and May Sarton.
The Virginia Quarterly Review, one of the nation's most venerable journals, was founded at the University of Virginia in 1925 as "a national journal of literature and discussion" and boasted D.H. Lawrence and André Gide among its first contributors. T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh and Thomas Wolfe soon wrote for it, as did Thomas Mann, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Robert Frost, Bertrand Russell, H.L. Mencken, George F. Kennan and Robert Graves.
Recent contributors have included Michael Chabon, Mahmoud Darwish, E.L. Doctorow, Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Salman Rushdie, Art Spiegelman and Natasha Trethewey.