‘[Most] kids in Chapel Hill are amazingly on the ball’

“As soon as I got back here [to Roxbury, Conn.] from Paris I had to go down south for that wretched lecture tour in Va. and N.C. The U of Va was a drag — I felt like a pariah in that smug place, almost no one showed up for my talk! — but this was cancelled out by my turn-out at the U of N.C. — nearly a thousand students, all rapt and worshipping except for the usual phalanx of a half a dozen or maybe a dozen black folk who did their usual childish gig of trying, unsuccessfully, to embarrass me by walking out.

“Anyway, I think I’m going to transfer my state allegiance from Va. to North Carolina. The kids in Chapel Hill are really amazingly on the ball.”

– William Styron, writing to his daughter Susanna, March 28, 1972

Although “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” Styron’s imagined memoir of the real-life leader of a Virginia slave revolt,  brought accusations of racial stereotyping, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1968.

The Wilmington native who envisioned VQR

Ben Steelman offers a footnote to the Virginia Quarterly Review drama-turned-melodrama:

“The VQR’s founding, in 1925, was in large part the work of a Wilmington native, UVa President Edwin A. Alderman. Ten years earlier, Alderman had called for ‘an organ of liberal opinion …’ (that’s as in liberal arts, not politics) ‘solidly based, thoughtfully and wisely managed and controlled, not seeking to give news, but to become a great serious publication wherein shall be reflected the calm thought of the best men.’

“Born in Wilmington on May 15, 1861 — Alderman Elementary School, off Independence Boulevard, is named for him — Alderman served as president of three major universities: Chapel Hill when it was THE University of North Carolina (1896-1900), Tulane, down in New Orleans (1900-1904) and Virginia (1904 until his death in 1931). He was actually the first president of UVa — Thomas Jefferson’s ‘academical village’ had always had a loose governance until he took over.”

“Not seeking to give news” seems an unlikely goal for a literary magazine, but maybe Alderman was prescient.