Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Art of Living” uses two aspects of plot, foreshadowing and climax, to embody its meaning. The potential merging of perspectives in the story is foreshadowed by what some of the major characters are and how they behave. Arnold Deller is a cook, which means that his art is to do something for others; he also makes his appeal to those who are much younger than he—Angelina and Finnegan. Angelina is a social idealist, which means that she is open to Deller’s appeal. Though she belongs to a tightly knit Italian family, she acts on the basis of Deller’s values by putting in motion the theft of the dog for his recipe. Finnegan himself is half-Irish and half-Italian, a mixture to begin with, and because his mind and his attraction for Angelina enlarge his perspective beyond the confines of his gang he procures the dog for Angelina and Deller.

The climax of the story is the ultimate realization of all these tentative mergings, the moment in which the barriers between the characters (with the exception of Angelina’s father) break down. They all participate in the same difficult dinner: The young gang members cooperate with the older and more established Deller; Deller’s daughters come out of their seclusion to be with the others; Finnegan and Angelina cement a friendship; the shadows of the dead merge with the high spirits of the living at the ceremonial dinner.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Henderson, Jeff. John Gardner: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1990.

Henderson, Jeff, ed. Thor’s Hammer: Essays on John Gardner. Conway: University of Central Arkansas Press, 1985.

Howell, John M. John Gardner: A Bibliographical Profile. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980.

Howell, John M. Understanding John Gardner. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Morace, Robert A. John Gardner: An Annotated Secondary Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1984.

Morace, Robert A., and Kathryn Van Spanckeren, eds. John Gardner: Critical Perspectives. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.

Morris, Gregory L. A World of Order and Light: The Fiction of John Gardner. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984.

Silesky, Barry. John Gardner: Literary Outlaw. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.

Thornton, Susan. On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Winther, Per. The Art of John Gardner: Instruction and Exploration. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.