John Gardner was a prolific author, who up until his passing in 1982, had written and published over 30 books. His works ranged from fiction to non-fiction, with his stories often delving into complex themes such as morality and religion, and character studies of flawed protagonists. Despite his success as a writer, Gardner remained deeply committed to teaching, serving as a professor at various universities throughout his career. In this blog post, we will explore the life and literary legacy of this incredible author, uncovering the impact he had on the literary world.
John Gardner was born in 1933 in Batavia, New York, the son of dairy farmers. He attended Batavia High School and went on to study at Washington University in St. Louis. His love for literature was evident from an early age and he became a prolific reader, devouring works by the likes of William Faulkner and James Joyce among others. After finishing college, Gardner began teaching at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he discovered his passion for mentoring young writers.
Gardner published his first novel, The Resurrection, in 1966. It was a critical success and was followed by others such as Grendel, a retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s perspective, and October Light, which was nominated for a National Book Award. However, it was with the publication of On Moral Fiction that Gardner became a controversial figure in the literary world. In the book, Gardner called for a return to moral and ethical considerations in literature, arguing that too much modernist writing was nihilistic and amoral. The book sparked heated debates about the role of the writer in society and whether or not literature should serve a moral purpose.
Despite the controversy caused by On Moral Fiction, it remains an important work in the study of literature and has continued to be reprinted and debated to this day. Gardner’s other non-fiction works, such as The Art of Fiction, have also been praised for their insights into the craft of writing. In addition to writing, Gardner continued to teach, becoming a professor at several prestigious universities such as Bennington College and the University of Rochester.
Unfortunately, Gardner’s life was cut short when he died in a motorcycle accident in 1982 at the age of 49. His legacy, however, has endured. His works continue to be read and studied, and his influence on both the literary world and the writing community at large is still felt. Many writers today credit Gardner for helping them hone their craft and explore complex themes in their own work.
In conclusion, John Gardner was a writer who was deeply committed to helping others flourish in their creative endeavors, whether through teaching or writing. His legacy lives on in the books he wrote and the lives he touched through his work as an educator. While he may have been a controversial figure in his time, there is no denying the impact he had on the world of literature. John Gardner remains both an inspiration and a guiding light, reminding us that in writing, as in life, morality, and ethics are never far from the surface.