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...
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