John Gardner On Life and Writing #1

Quote about John Gardner: “The late John Gardner once said that there are only two plots in all of literature. You go on a journey or a stranger comes to town. Since women, for many years, were denied the journey, they were left with only one plot in their lives — to await the stranger. Indeed, there is essentially no picaresque tradition among women novelists. While the latter part of the twentieth century has seen a change of tendency, women’s literature from Austen to Woolf is by and large a literature about waiting, usually for love.” ― Mary Morris, The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers

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“What art ought to do is tell stories which are moment-by-moment wonderful, which are true to human experience, and which in no way explain human experience. ”
John Gardner

“We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images. ”
John Gardner

“Talking, talking. Spinning a web of words, pale walls of dreams, between myself and all I see. ” John Gardner

“Nothing can be more limiting to the imagination than only writing about what you know?”
John Gardner

Quote about John Gardner: “It was [John Gardner’s] conviction that if the words in the story were blurred because of the author’s insensitivity, carelessness, or sentimentality, then the story suffered from a tremendous handicap. But there was something even worse and something that must be avoided at all costs: if the words and the sentiments were dishonest, the author was faking it, writing about things he didn’t care about or believe in, then nobody could ever care anything about it.” ― Raymond Carver, Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose

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John Gardner (1933–1982) was born in Batavia, New York. His critically acclaimed books include the novels Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues, and October Light, for which he received the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as several works of nonfiction and criticism such as On Becoming a Novelist. He was also a professor of medieval literature and a pioneering creative writing teacher whose students included Raymond Carver and Charles Johnson. When I worked at Bennington College in Southern VT I would often see him walking across the campus during the Summer Writing Workshops. Or when his white hair was flowing as he rode his beloved motorcycle on campus or away.  –  j.kiley

5 thoughts on “John Gardner On Life and Writing #1

    • I especially learned a great deal from reading John Gardner’s books mentioned above ‘On Writers Writing’ and ‘On Becoming a Novelist’ . These books awakened my confidence and belief in my writing and to continue learning how to tell the stories I want and need to write. Characters want their stories told. I hear them calling. Must listen. Feeling a surge coming on. The wave is high and closing in. I wish I had the experience of listening to him talk about what he loved. Hearing his voice in his book would have been great to hear while we were both in the same room with him and others with the same desires or close to.

      Liked by 1 person

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