John Gardner On Life and Writing #6

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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john-gardner-on-becoming-a-novelist-cover“As a rule of thumb I say, if Socrates, Jesus and Tolstoy wouldn’t do it, don’t. ” – John Gardner

“To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write […] so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write […] so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on. If there is good to be said, the writer should say it. If there is bad to be said, he should say it in a way that reflects the truth that, though we see the evil, we choose to continue among the living. The true artist […] gets his sense of worth and honor from his conviction that art is powerful .” – 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
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

One thought on “John Gardner On Life and Writing #6

  1. THE CUCKOO

    Alarm bell rings out
    Cuckoo in the nest!
    Cuckoo in the nest!
    Cuckoo in the nest!

    Knowing onlookers
    (Programmed so to do)
    Pity these deaf parents
    Puzzled yet obeisant

    Watching their progeny
    Thrown overboard
    By this guzzling
    Immigrant

    No one though pities
    The cuckoo’s offspring
    Motherless, abandoned
    Left to fend for itself

    Still there’s always poetry
    As there’re always poets
    Who never quite fitted in
    Left casting their pallid light

    And treating Spell Check
    As a servant rather than a god

    Like

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