This compilation of essays and reviews, gathered posthumously from the New York Times Book Review and other publications, solidifies John Gardner’s legacy as a consummate teacher and controversial critic with a provocative sense of humor. Writing about his fellow craftsmen, John Gardner offers piercing insights into those whose works he admired and those whose works he didn’t. In exacting unapologetic evaluations upon such writers as Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, John Cheever, Larry Woiwode, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Updike, Gardner separates genuine fiction from fakery, careful not to spare his own writings in the process, and in doing so, he displays his influences and wide-reaching observations of the literary life.
Refreshingly unpredictable and self-aware, this collection lays bare the core qualities of lasting fiction and is essential reading for anyone interested in American literature.
Most literary criticism sends me into a coma, but John Gardner talks about literature in a way that anyone who likes books can follow and appreciate. Until his death in a 1982 motorcycle crash at age 49, Gardner suffered from neither a lack of productivity--he wrote more than 20 books--nor for want of opinions about the literary productions of others. In this collection of his essays and lectures, Gardner provides several upper-level English lit seminars' worth of commentary on a number of books and authors--Melville, Roth, Oates, Styron, Calvino, Cheever, to name a few.