David St. John was born in Fresno, California, in 1949, into a family of accomplished individuals. His early years were strongly influenced by members of his family. His grandfather was an English professor and academic dean, and his father coached basketball and track and was a highly skilled tennis player. An uncle also played professional tennis. St. John was raised to be a tennis player, playing competitively from the age of seven until he was fifteen. He considers this training to have been excellent preparation for a career as a writer because it required him to be solitary and taught him tremendous self-discipline and psychological adroitness. At home, his father would read to St. John from the classics. The boy’s favorite text was the opening of Vergil’s Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.; English translation, 1553), but he also loved Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1881-1882) and other modern fiction.
Another important aspect of St. John’s early years was his interest in music. From the age of eight, he took piano lessons and began reading the jazz magazine Downbeat. In junior high and high school, his interest in folk music in the 1960’s led to his playing in rock bands. He later admitted that these bands were not very good, but the experience gave him excellent training in combining music with language and performing.
St. John began his higher education at California State University, Fresno, in 1967, earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1972. He enrolled at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and received a master of fine arts degree from that institution in 1974. A...
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