David Madden Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jerry David Madden is one of the most diverse and prolific of American writers. His many works range from literary criticism to the short story, drama, poetry, and, most important, the novel. In addition to his creative writing and scholarship, he has edited books and journals and taught both creative writing and literature at colleges and universities.

Madden, the son of James and Emily Madden, had a typical middle-class upbringing and attended public schools. His imagination was profoundly influenced by his grandmother’s storytelling, the many films he viewed while working as an usher at the local theater, and the great radio plays of the 1930’s and 1940’s. So fascinated was he with the dramatic power of the written and spoken word that he was telling stories by the age of three and writing them by the age of eleven. After graduating from Knoxville High School in 1951, Madden entered the University of Tennessee. His academic progress was slow, however, because of sporadic travels around the country that fed his yearning for a firsthand view of life. In 1953, these journeys culminated with his working in the merchant marine and finally joining the U.S. Army, where he remained until 1955.

Upon his release from service, Madden entered the Iowa State Teachers’ College, where he continued to work on both the novel and the play Cassandra Singing. He married Roberta Margaret Young in 1956 and returned to the University of Tennessee, where he completed his B.S. degree in education in 1957. From there, he moved to San Francisco State University, where he studied with novelist Walter Van Tilburg Clark, earning his M.A. in creative writing there in 1958.

In the 1960’s, Madden was on the faculties of a number of colleges and universities, including Center College in Danville, Kentucky (1960 to 1962); the University of Louisville (1962 to 1964); Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he was the assistant editor of The Kenyon Review (1964 to 1966); Ohio University in Athens (1966 and 1968); and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1967). In 1968, he became writer-in-residence at Louisiana State University, which became his academic home.

Madden’s master’s thesis became his first published novel, The Beautiful Greed. In a style that is simple, direct, and vivid, the book details a somewhat autobiographical story based upon his experiences in New York City and the merchant marine. The protagonist, Alvin Henderlight, following the example set by...

(The entire section is 1036 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jerry David Madden was born July 25, 1933, in Knoxville, Tennessee, to James Helvy and Emile Merrit, models for the parents of Lucius Hutchfield in Bijou and Pleasure-Dome. Madden’s two brothers both figure in his fiction. As a child, Madden worked as a newsboy and a theater usher, two jobs also held by the autobiographical Lucius. Madden also was an avid storyteller, a trait inherited from his grandmother. “Telling stories as a child,” he comments in The Poetic Image in Six Genres (1969), “acting out all the parts, doing all the voices, I was an actor on a stage, my spectators within reach. When I wasn’t telling stories, I was day-dreaming them.” Like the characters in his novels—Lucius, Hollis Weaver in Brothers in Confidence, Big Bob Travis in On the Big Wind—Madden “wanted to be able to affect people” with his stories: his “two brothers, curled under quiltsneighborhood kids, huddled on our high front steps, and laterclassmates during recess in grammar school.”

Inspired by the motion pictures he saw as an usher at the Bijou, Madden wrote his first story at age ten and thus discovered “the private, lonely thrill of affecting individual, absent readers—a relationship remote from the public, communal transaction of movies.” With writers Thomas Wolfe as his “romantic,” “nonliterary” model and Ernest Hemingway as the literary one, Madden launched himself in high school on a writing career that included sharing with Wolfe a nostalgic response to hometown and family and acquiring the same literary agent as detective novelist Raymond Chandler.

During high school, Madden worked as a radio announcer—an experience that figures in the Big Bob stories and On the Big Wind. He also wrote, acted in, and directed a...

(The entire section is 744 words.)