Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 276
Beowulf is the oldest epic narrative in any modern European language. As the major inspiration for Gardner's Grendel, it will be of great interest to any reader who enjoyed Gardner's version. One of several good translations is that by Charles W. Kennedy (Oxford University Press, 1940). It also contains a helpful introduction with sections on historical background, the history of the manuscript itself, and the influence of the classical epic and various folk sources.
Gardner's best-known nonfiction work, On Moral Fiction (1978), is concerned with the purpose and craft of fiction and is basically a statement of Gardner's philosophy. Passionate, blunt in tone, and sometimes contradictory, it found favor with those who agreed with the author about the essential humanity of great literature. Nevertheless, Gardner riled some critics who felt that his judgments on some of his fellow contemporary novelists were too harsh.
Gardner's The Sunlight Dialogues (1972) explores on a massive scale the theme of order versus chaos, with eighty characters and an intricate plot set in Gardner's hometown of Batavia, New York. In this novel, described by David Cowart in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as "possibly his finest," Gardner sets in opposition the Sunlight Man, a mercurial and mysterious criminal who represents absolute freedom, and Fred Clumly, a local police officer who espouses law and order.
The Legacy of Heorot (1987) is a science-fiction version of the first part of Beowulf that is set on Earth's first stellar colony. The spot seems like paradise, until dogs and cattle begin to disappear, devoured by a monster. Authors Larry Niven Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes have combined forces to create a frighteningly realistic horror story a la Stephen King.