So Late the Day

Poetry, short story, novel, drama, screenplay, criticism, the teaching of writing: George Garrett has excelled across the entire spectrum of literary art. I can call to mind no other contemporary American writer who approaches this feat, though perhaps Garrett's friend Fred Chappell comes closest. But, what is even rarer for a first-rank artist, Garrett also excels in the essay, in the explicit and direct examination of the world.

As the American novel became more and more solipsist in style and trivial in subject matter, Garrett went in the opposite direction. If he had stopped writing at 40 (more than 20 years ago) he would already have had an enduring space in the poetry and fiction anthologies. But rather than coast along comfortably repeating himself, Garrett leapt new and higher barriers, producing the stunning and unexpected achievement of his Elizabethan novels: Death of the Fox (1971), The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James (1983), and Entered From the Sun (1990).

In so doing Garrett brought to life a critically formative period of the world we live in, and did so in a way that was audacious in technique, intensely modern in consciousness, and profoundly traditional in values. lie demonstrated also that it was still possible for an American writer (or at any rate an American Southern writer) to make creative contact with the pristine and vigorous English language, the authentic...

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