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John Gardner: Literary Outlaw

John Gardner: Literary Outlaw

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3.75

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Published by Workman Publishing
For a decade--from 1973 to 1982--John Gardner was one of America's most famous writers and certainly its most flamboyantly opinionated. His 1973 novel, The Sunlight Dialogues, was on the New York Times bestseller list for fourteen weeks. Once in the limelight, he picked public fights with his peers, John Barth, Joseph Heller, and Norman Mailer among them, and wrote five more bestsellers.Gardner's personal life was as chaotic as his writing life was prolific. At twenty, he married his cousin Joan, and after a long marriage that was both passionate and violent, left her for Liz Rosenberg, a student. Only a few years later, he left Rosenberg for another student, Susan Thornton. Famous for disregarding his own safety, he rode his motorcycle at crazy speeds, incurred countless concussions, and once broke both of his arms. He survived what was diagnosed as terminal colon cancer only to resume his prodigious drinking and to die in a motorcycle accident at age forty-nine, a week before his third wedding.Biographer Barry Silesky captures John Gardner's fabulously contradictory genius and his capacity to both dazzle and infuriate. He portrays Gardner as a man of unrestrained energy and blatant contempt for convention and also as a man whose charisma drew students and devoted followers wherever he went. Amazingly, Gardner published twenty-nine books in all, including eleven fiction titles, a book-length epic poem, six books of medieval criticism, and a major biography. Twenty-one years after his death, his On Moral Fiction and The Art Of Fiction are still read and debated in MFA programs across the country.This is a full-scale biography of a writer who was, for ten years, almost bigger than life. It lives up to its subject magnificently.
For a decade--from 1973 to 1982--John Gardner was one of America's most famous writers and certainly its most flamboyantly opinionated. His 1973 novel, The Sunlight Dialogues, was on the New York Times bestseller list for fourteen weeks. Once in the limelight, he picked public fights with his peers, John Barth, Joseph Heller, and Norman Mailer among them, and wrote five more bestsellers.Gardner's personal life was as chaotic as his writing life was prolific. At twenty, he married his cousin Joan, and after a long marriage that was both passionate and violent, left her for Liz Rosenberg, a student. Only a few years later, he left Rosenberg for another student, Susan Thornton. Famous for disregarding his own safety, he rode his motorcycle at crazy speeds, incurred countless concussions, and once broke both of his arms. He survived what was diagnosed as terminal colon cancer only to resume his prodigious drinking and to die in a motorcycle accident at age forty-nine, a week before his third wedding.Biographer Barry Silesky captures John Gardner's fabulously contradictory genius and his capacity to both dazzle and infuriate. He portrays Gardner as a man of unrestrained energy and blatant contempt for convention and also as a man whose charisma drew students and devoted followers wherever he went. Amazingly, Gardner published twenty-nine books in all, including eleven fiction titles, a book-length epic poem, six books of medieval criticism, and a major biography. Twenty-one years after his death, his On Moral Fiction and The Art Of Fiction are still read and debated in MFA programs across the country.This is a full-scale biography of a writer who was, for ten years, almost bigger than life. It lives up to its subject magnificently.

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Publish date: Feb 5, 2004
Added to Scribd: Aug 02, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9781565122185
List Price: $24.95

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07/14/2014

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9781565122185

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Publishers Weekly reviewed this
In the 1960s and '70s, when literary authors had the widespread appeal of rock stars, John Gardner was the perfect icon of the era: a highly regarded novelist who partied hard and rode a motorcycle. Silesky's briskly paced biography follows the controversial author of The Sunlight Dialogues and other bestselling and critically acclaimed novels from his rural beginnings near Batavia, N.Y., to the motorcycle accident that killed him at the age of 49, days before his third wedding. In between, Gardner led an intense, active life, producing enormous amounts of fiction and medieval scholarship, writing librettos and children's books, and editing academic journals, all the while building a highly successful teaching career in which he mentored dozens of young writers. At the root of Gardner's frenetic race toward literary greatness was, according to Silesky (Ferlinghetti: The Artist in His Times), a tragic childhood accident-his younger brother was killed by a 1,500-pound farm machine that John was driving-that left him with a deep sense of guilt and of his own mortality. In Silesky's book, the alcoholic, emotionally and physically reckless Gardner plows into his success at full speed and then summarily self-destructs. Drawing from Gardner's interviews, lectures and autobiographical fiction, as well as the testimony of friends and relatives, Silesky's account is well researched, though his dull, expository writing never delves deep. But Gardner's combination of genius and excess makes him a powerfully compelling character, and this book will pique renewed interest in his vast body of work. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Jan. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2003-10-27, Publishers Weekly

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