On Writers and Writing

Overview

"All my life," John Gardner wrote, weeks before his death in a motorcycle accident, "I've lived flat-out. As a motorcycle racer, chemist, writer...I was never cautious." This goes for John Gardner the critic as well, and that is nowhere more evident than in the pieces collected in this book. On Writers and Writing brings together, for the first time, John Gardner's essays and reviews on his fellow writers and reaffirms his status as one of the most intelligent, generous, and insightful critics of his generation. In piece after piece we see
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On Writers and Writing

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Overview

"All my life," John Gardner wrote, weeks before his death in a motorcycle accident, "I've lived flat-out. As a motorcycle racer, chemist, writer...I was never cautious." This goes for John Gardner the critic as well, and that is nowhere more evident than in the pieces collected in this book. On Writers and Writing brings together, for the first time, John Gardner's essays and reviews on his fellow writers and reaffirms his status as one of the most intelligent, generous, and insightful critics of his generation. In piece after piece we see Gardner, the consummate teacher and critic, separating novelistic wheat from chaff, genuine fiction from fakery, examining the work of writers he admires - Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, John Cheever, Larry Woiwode, and Joyce Carol Oates - as he would an assignment by one of his students. "Often," Charles Johnson says in his introduction, "the effect is shocking - he said that about John Updike? - but it is a testament to Gardner's professionalism that publicity and public acclaim never blinded him to the basic question every reviewer and critic must ask: What exactly do we have here?" That deceptively simple question is asked insistently throughout many of the pieces collected here, so that the reader too sees the craft and skill of some of America's greatest writers at work. In other essays, Gardner turns his extraordinary intelligence to subjects ranging from fairy tales and religion to King Arthur and Walt Disney. Chock full of insights and opinions, making it essential reading for anyone interested in American literature, On Writers and Writing is also an invaluable contribution to our understanding of John Gardner.

When John Gardner died in 1982, he left a literary legacy of unusual breadth and extraordinary quality. On Writer's and Writing brings together, for the first time, Gardner's essays and reviews on his fellow writers and reaffirms his status as one of the most intelligent, generous, and insightful critics of his generation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201626728
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Pages: 297

Table of Contents

Introduction
"Bartleby": Art and Social Commitment 1
An Invective Against Mere Fiction 13
More Smog from the Dark Satanic Mills 35
Witchcraft in Bullet Park, by John Cheever 55
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll 60
The Breast, by Philip Roth 65
The Way We Write Now 70
Saint Walt 78
The Adventurer, by Paul Zweig 86
Beyond the Bedroom Wall, by Larry Woiwode 90
Amber (Get) Waves (Your) of (Plastic) Grain (Uncle Sam) 95
JR, by William Gaddis 101
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, by John Steinbeck 112
Lancelot, by Walker Percy 119
Falconer, by John Cheever 124
The Castle of Crossed Destinies, by Italo Calvino 130
Daniel Martin, by John Fowles 134
The Silmarillion, by J. R. R. Tolkien 140
The Stories of John Cheever 145
Dubin's Lives, by Bernard Malamud 149
Sophie's Choice, by William Styron 154
A Writer's View of Contemporary American Fiction 163
Bellefleur, by Joyce Carol Oates 199
Italian Folktales, edited by Italo Calvino 205
Fiction in MSS 212
What Writers Do 216
Cartoons 228
Julius Caesar and the Werewolf 237
General Plan for The Sunlight Dialogues 258
Index 289
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