John Gardner (1933-1982) Short Fiction Analysis
Although he published only two short-fiction collections during his brief but nevertheless prolific career, John Gardner took a serious and historically informed interest in short fiction’s various forms. In addition to the nineteen stories, tales, and novellas collected in The King’s Indian and The Art of Living, and Other Stories, Gardner published five uncollected stories (the earliest in 1952 while still an undergraduate, the latest posthumously in 1984); a textbook, edited with Lennis Dunlap, significantly titled The Forms of Fiction (1962); three books of stories for children (1975-1977); a novella aimed at adolescent readers; one novel, Grendel, which initially appeared in abbreviated version (edited as a short story by Esquire’s Gordon Lish, not Gardner); and another novel, Nickel Mountain, originally conceived as a set of interrelated stories. The King’s Indian and The Art of Living, and Other Stories do not, therefore, adequately represent the extent of Gardner’s interest in the short story and its allied forms. They do, however, evidence the consistency of Gardner’s aesthetic vision and, more important, his remarkable technical virtuosity, ranging from the fantastic and parodic at one extreme to the realistic and didactic at the other. Neither The King’s Indian nor The Art of Living, and Other Stories merely collects previously published works; rather,...
(The entire section is 2857 words.)
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