Bad Georgie

The facts of George Garrett's literary career are laid out in the bibliography here: his 24 books include novels, plays, and collections of poems and short stories. In addition he has served as editor of 17 other books—interviews with contemporary writers, literary criticism, books on film scripts. He has also written a biography of the novelist James Jones; a book-length critical study of the novelist Mary Lee Settle; screenplays; essays on William Faulkner, James Gould Cozzens, John Cheever, daily life in Elizabethan England, WASP humor, writers as teachers, and on and on. The amount and the range are breathtaking, and so is the quality. One is tempted to imagine Garrett—on his way to deliver one of his controversial lectures or an inspired reading from his work—seated in an airplane with a pen in each hand, writing on the two nearest folding trays.

Now comes R.H.W. Dillard, himself a novelist, poet, screenwriter, and critic of considerable accomplishment, to assess Garrett's oeuvre in Understanding George Garrett. This is the first of what will doubtless be many booklength studies of Garrett. That many lesser contemporaries have so far received far more attention than the author of Death of the Fox and The Succession is not surprising, given that Garrett has consistently ignored literary fashion and written what he wanted rather than what the pop audience craved. He...

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