Glendon Swarthout Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226305-Swarthout.jpg Glendon Swarthout Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Glendon Swarthout was born in Pinckney, Michigan, on April 8, 1918, the son of Fred H. and Lila (Chubb) Swarthout. He was raised and educated in Michigan, taking his A.B. in 1939 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His studies and his marriage to Kathryn Vaughn in 1940 were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Swarthout served in the infantry from 1943 to 1945, earning the rank of sergeant and two battle stars. After the war, he returned to his wife and to university study, this time at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, completing his M.A. in 1946. Swarthout then accepted a teaching fellowship at Michigan State. Swarthout was at the University of Maryland between 1948 and 1951. In 1951, he returned to Michigan State to accept an associate professorship in English and pursue a course of study leading to the Ph.D., which he completed in 1955. From 1951 to 1959, he was an associate professor of English at Michigan State; in 1959, the Swarthouts moved to Tempe, Arizona, where Swarthout served as a lecturer in English at Arizona State University from 1959 to 1963.

Despite the demands of a successful academic career, Swarthout was a consistently prolific and acknowledged novelist, dramatist, and writer of short stories, with sixteen novels to his credit. Where the Boys Are (1960), They Came to Cordura (1958), Bless the Beasts and Children (1970), and The Shootist(1975) have been produced as motion pictures....

(The entire section is 608 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Robert Browning’s famous admonition that “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp” is applicable to Swarthout’s central thematic concerns and perhaps to his work as well. His most successful novels employ characters who find themselves facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Pitted against overwhelming circumstances, they come to discover their inner strengths and weaknesses. The outcome of their efforts to prevail over forces greater than themselves is less significant than how they meet the challenge. These are the ingredients of tragedy that fundamentally affirm the human condition. When Swarthout succeeds, he succeeds in an important way; when he fails, it is usually not because the task is too small.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Glendon Swarthout (SWORT-owt) was educated at the University of Michigan, where he received a baccalaureate in 1939. After his graduation he served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman from 1943 to 1945, rising to the rank of sergeant. He was twice decorated for his bravery in combat during World War II. In 1940 he married Kathryn Vaughan, who survived him after his death in 1992 following a long battle with emphysema. She would be not only his wife and the mother of their only child, Miles, but also his coauthor on a number of children’s books. Miles, in turn, would share screenwriting credit with Scott Hale for the film adaptation of Glendon Swarthout’s The Shootist, a story of the last days of a legendary gunfighter dying from cancer.

Following World War II, Swarthout returned to school on the G.I. Bill and pursued a literature curriculum. He earned a master’s degree from Michigan State University in 1946, after which he earned his living as a teaching fellow there. He received his Ph.D. in 1955 and by 1959 had risen to the position of associate professor. That year he moved his family to the Phoenix, Arizona, area. He taught intermittently afterward, primarily at nearby Arizona State University. For the remainder of his life, his first love and major endeavor would be fiction writing rather than academics.

Of all his books, Bless the Beasts and Children earned for him the greatest critical recognition, remaining in print continuously for more than a quarter of a century. Arguably his best work, it is the book in which central concerns of his writing career seem to cohere and flower: the nature of the heroic act in an unheroic age, the frail possibility of a meaningful community in an era of isolation, the longing for ordered principles with which to make sense of disordered lives, and the need for sacred experience in a secular age.

Set in and around...

(The entire section is 782 words.)