An unpublished notebook from the college days of the late novelist and writing teacher John Gardner reveals a rigorous pursuit of experimentation with his own work, and presents a blueprint for beginning writers today.
The Gardner journal, written in 1952, will be published by the University of Rochester Libraries April 13. Because of its literary value and as an important student work, it will be cataloged as the 3 millionth volume in the collection of the University libraries, a major milestone for a research library system.
In the journal, titled Lies! Lies! Lies!, Gardner "teaches himself the craft of writing that will make him one of the great writer-teachers of his time," writes novelist Thomas Gavin in the book's introduction. Between tales of fraternity pranks and course lectures he considers worthless, Gardner suggests to himself, for example, how to tell a story from five different points of view and how to write a parody of a novel.
For Gardner, his early notions about the craft of writing would be transformed into exercises for future students and would feed his own development as a writer and critic. "I taught creative writing for 22 years and I and other writing teachers are constantly telling students: Keep a journal," says Gavin, professor emeritus of English at the University. Such an exercise in self-discovery is invaluable.
Born in Batavia, N.Y., Gardner wrote Lies! Lies! Lies! when he was a 19-year-old sophomore at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. The title refers to Gardner's feelings then that opinions are provisional, and lies are a part of life.
"In a style that is at once self-conscious and sophisticated, Gardner's journal talks about school life, his reading preferences, the options open to writers of fiction, and potential plots for future novels," says Peter Dzwonkoski, head of the libraries' Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, in describing the book.
Gardner (1933-1982) was a master of many literary forms, and was a prolific writer who taught at universities around the country. Best known as the author of such major novels as Grendel (1971), The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), and Mickelsson's Ghos (1982), Gardner also wrote poetry, biography, scholarship, short stories, librettos, and even a textbook, The Forms of Fiction (1962).
After his death in a motorcycle accident not far from Binghamton, N.Y., where he was teaching, Gardner's personal and professional papers were acquired by the University of Rochester. From the John Gardner Archive, the University's libraries selected this journal as its first commercial title ever published and as its 3 millionth acquisition.
The publication of Lies! Lies! Lies! represents a partnership between the libraries and BOA Editions Ltd., the nation's foremost not-for-profit publisher of poetry, which is based in Rochester. The original journal's legible script with drawings by the author are reproduced in the facsimile edition, followed by a typeset version of the text.
To mark the release of the journal, Ronald F. Dow, dean of River Campus Libraries, will host a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 13 in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Rush Rhees Library for the campus community and guests. An exhibit of books, selected manuscripts, and related materials from the John Gardner Archive will be on display in the department through the end of April. A special exhibit on the history of the University's libraries and collections will also be on display.
Two other books will follow Gardner's journal into the libraries' collection. The commemorative 3 millionth first volume will be the newly published book, Carl W. Peters: American Scene Painter from Rochester to Rockport, by University of Rochester Press. Written by Richard H. Love, the book chronicles the work and career of Peters (1897-1980), a native of Rochester known as a pioneer American regionalist. The 3 millionth second volume will be Interferogram Analysis for Optical Testing by Daniel Malacara, Manuel Servin, and Zacarias Malacara. The book is part of a series on optical engineering edited by Brian Thompson, the University's provost emeritus. Its selection recognizes the work of the Institute of Optics at Rochester, the nation's first educational program in optics. Daniel Malacara received his doctorate from the institute in 1965.
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Lies! Lies! Lies! A College Journal of John C. Gardner University of Rochester Libraries 1999 137 pages $35 limited edition; $22.95 hardcover; $12.50 paperback
To order copies, contact: Sarah Freligh, Marketing Director, BOA Editions Ltd., 260 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604; phone (585) 546-3410; fax (585) 546-3913; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.