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George (Palmer Garrett Jr.) Biography

George Garrett comments:

Nationality: American. Born: Orlando, Florida, 1929. Education: Sewanee Military Academy; The Hill School, graduated 1947; Princeton University, New Jersey, 1947-48, 1949-52, B.A. 1952, M.A. 1956, Ph.D. 1985; Columbia University, New York, 1948-49. Military Service: Served in the United States Army Field Artillery, 1952-55. Career: Assistant professor, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 1957-60; visiting lecturer, Rice University, Houston, 1961-62; associate professor, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1962-67; writer-in-residence, Princeton University, 1964-65; professor of English, Hollins College, Virginia, 1967-71; professor of English and writer-in-residence, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 1971-73; senior fellow, Council of the Humanities, Princeton University, 1974-77; adjunct professor, Columbia University, 1977-78; writer-in-residence, Bennington College, Vermont, 1979, and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1979-84. Since 1984 Hoyns Professor of English, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. President of Associated Writing Programs, 1971-73. United States poetry editor, Transatlantic Review, Rome (later London), 1958-71; Contemporary Poetry Series editor, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1962-68; co-editor, Hollins Critic, Virginia, 1965-71; Short Story Series editor, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1966-69. Since 1970 contributing editor, Contempora, Atlanta; since 1971 assistant editor, Film Journal, Hollins College, Virginia; since 1972 co-editor, Worksheet, Columbia, South Carolina; since 1981 editor, with Brendan Galvin, Poultry: A Magazine of Voice, Truro, Massachusetts; since 1988 fiction editor, The Texas Review; contributing editor, Chronicles, Rockford, Illinois. Vice-chancellor, 1987-93, chancellor, 1993-97, Fellowship of Southern Writers. Awards: Sewanee Review fellowship, 1958; American Academy in Rome fellowship, 1958; Ford grant, for drama, 1960; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1967; Contempora award, 1971; Guggenheim fellowship, 1974; American Academy award, 1985; New York Public Library Literary Lion award, 1988; T. S. Eliot award, 1989; PEN/Malamud award for short fiction, 1990; Aiken-Taylor award, 1999. Cultural Laureate of Virginia, 1986; Hollins College medal, 1992; University of Virginia President's Report Award, 1992. D. Litt.: University of the South (Sewanee), 1994. Agent: Jane Gelfman, John Farquharson Ltd., 250 West 57th Street, New York, New York 10107, U.S.A.



The Finished Man. New York, Scribner, 1959; London, Eyre andSpottiswoode, 1960.

Which Ones Are the Enemy? Boston, Little Brown, 1961; London, W. H. Allen, 1962.

Do, Lord, Remember Me. New York, Doubleday, and London, Chapman and Hall, 1965.

Death of the Fox. New York, Doubleday, 1971; London, Barrie andJenkins, 1972.

The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James. New York, Doubleday, 1983.

Poison Pen. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wright, 1986.

Entered from the Sun. New York, Doubleday, 1990.

The Old Army Game: A Novel and Stories. Dallas, Southern Methodist University Press, 1994.

The King of Babylon Shall Not Come Against You. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1996.

The Elizabethan Trilogy (includes Death of the Fox, Entered from the Sun, and Succession), edited by Brooke Horvath and Irving Malin. Huntsville, Texas, Texas Review Press, 1998.

Short Stories

King of the Mountain. New York, Scribner, 1958; London, Eyre andSpottiswoode, 1959.

In the Briar Patch. Austin, University of Texas Press, 1961.

Cold Ground Was My Bed Last Night. Columbia, University ofMissouri Press, 1964.

A Wreath for Garibaldi and Other Stories. London, Hart Davis, 1969.

The Magic Striptease. New York, Doubleday, 1973.

To Recollect a Cloud of Ghosts: Christmas in England. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Palaemon Press, 1979.

An Evening Performance: New and Selected Short Stories. NewYork, Doubleday, 1985.

Uncollected Short Stories

"The Other Side of the Coin," in Four Quarters (Philadelphia), (6), 1957.

"The Rare Unicorn," in Approach (Wallingford, Pennsylvania),(25), 1957.

"The Only Dragon on the Road," in Approach (Wallingford, Pennsylvania), (31), 1959.

"3 Fabliaux," in Transatlantic Review (London), (1), 1959.

"The Snowman," in New Mexico Quarterly (Albuquerque), (29), 1959.

"Two Exemplary Letters," in Latitudes (Houston), (1), 1967.

"Jane Amor, Space Nurse," in Fly by Night, 1970.

"There Are Lions Everywhere," "How Can You Tell What Somebody's Thinking on the Telephone," and "Moon Girl," all in Mill Mountain Review (Roanoke, Virginia), Summer 1971.

"Here Comes the Bride," in Gone Soft (Salem, Massachusetts), (1), 1973.

"Live Now and Pay Later," in Nassau Literary Magazine (Princeton, New Jersey), 1974.

"Little Tune for a Steel String Guitar," in Sandlapper (Columbia, South Carolina), (9), 1976.

"Soldiers," in Texas Review (Huntsville), (3), 1982.

"Wine Talking," in Quarterly West (Salt Lake City), (20), 1985.

"Ruthe-Ann," in Texas Review (Huntsville), (6), 1985.

"Genius Baby," in Chattahoochie Review (Dunwoody, Georgia), 1986.

"Dixie Dreamland," in South Carolina Review (Clemson), (19), 1986.

"The Confidence Man," in Necessary Fictions, edited by Stanley W. Lindberg and Stephen Corey. Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1986.

"Captain Barefoot Tells His Tale," in Virginia Quarterly Review(Charlottesville), Spring 1990.

"Velleities and Vicissitudes," in Sewanee Review (Tennessee), Fall1990.


Sir Slob and the Princess: A Play for Children. New York, French, 1962.

Garden Spot, U.S.A. (produced Houston, 1962).

Enchanted Ground. York, Maine, Old Gaol Museum Press, 1981.


The Young Lovers, 1964; The Playground, 1965;

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, with R.H.W. Dillard and John Rodenbeck, 1966.

Television Plays:

Suspense series, 1958.


The Reverend Ghost. New York, Scribner, 1957.

The Sleeping Gypsy and Other Poems. Austin, University of TexasPress, 1958.

Abraham's Knife and Other Poems. Chapel Hill, University of NorthCarolina Press, 1961.

For a Bitter Season: New and Selected Poems. Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 1967.

Welcome to the Medicine Show: Postcards, Flashcards, Snapshots. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Palaemon Press, 1978.

Luck's Shining Child: A Miscellany of Poems and Verses. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Palaemon Press, 1981.

The Collected Poems of George Garrett. Fayetteville, University ofArkansas Press, 1984.

Days of Our Lives Lie in Fragments: New and Old Poems, 1957-1997. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1998.


James Jones (biography). New York, Harcourt Brace, 1984.

Understanding Mary Lee Settle. Columbia, University of SouthCarolina Press, 1988.

My Silk Purse and Yours: The Publishing Scene and American Literary Art. Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 1992.

The Sorrows of Fat City: A Selection of Literary Essays and Reviews. Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1992.

Whistling in the Dark: True Stories and Other Fables. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1992.

Bad Man Blues: A Portable George Garrett. Dallas, Southern Methodist University Press, 1998.

Editor, New Writing from Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia, NewWriting Associates, 1963.

Editor, The Girl in the Black Raincoat. New York, Duell, 1966.

Editor, with W.R. Robinson, Man and the Movies. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1967.

Editor, with R.H.W. Dillard and John Moore, The Sounder Few: Essays from "The Hollins Critic." Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1971.

Editor, with O.B. Hardison, Jr., and Jane Gelfman, Film Scripts 1-4. New York, Appleton Century Crofts, 4 vols., 1971-72.

Editor, with William Peden, New Writing in South Carolina. Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1971.

Editor, with John Graham, Craft So Hard to Learn. New York, Morrow, 1972.

Editor, with John Graham, The Writer's Voice. New York, Morrow, 1973.

Editor, with Walton Beacham, Intro 5. Charlottesville, UniversityPress of Virginia, 1974.

Editor, with Katherine Garrison Biddle, The Botteghe Oscure Reader. Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 1974.

Editor, Intro 6: Life As We Know It. New York, Doubleday, 1974.

Editor, Intro 7: All of Us and None of You. New York, Doubleday, 1975.

Editor, Intro 8: The Liar's Craft. New York, Doubleday, 1977.

Editor, with Michael Mewshaw, Intro 9. Austin, Texas, Hendel andReinke, 1979.

Editor, with Sheila McMillen, Eric Clapton's Lovers and Other Stories from the Virginia Quarterly Review. Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, 1990.

Editor, with Mary Flinn, Elvis in Oz: New Stories and Poems from the Hollins Creative Writing Program. Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, n.d.

Editor, with Susan Stamberg, The Wedding Cake in the Middle of the Road. New York, Norton, 1992.

Editor, with Paul Ruffin, That's What I Like (About the South). Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1993.



In Seven Princeton Poets, Princeton University Library, 1963; "George Garrett: A Checklist of His Writings" by R.H.W. Dillard, in Mill Mountain Review (Roanoke, Virginia), Summer 1971; George Garrett: A Bibliography 1947-1988 by Stuart Wright, Huntsville, Texas Review Press, 1989.

Manuscript Collection:

Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Critical Studies:

By James B. Meriwether, in Princeton University Library Chronicle (New Jersey), vol. 25, no. 1, 1963; "George Garrett Issue" of Mill Mountain Review (Roanoke, Virginia), Summer 1971; "Imagining the Individual: George Garrett's Death of the Fox " by W. R. Robinson, in Hollins Critic (Hollins College, Virginia), August 1971; "The Reader Becomes Text: Methods of Experimentation in George Garrett's The Succession " by Tom Whalen, in Texas Review (Huntsville), Summer 1983; "George Garrett and the Historical Novel" by Monroe K. Spears, in Virginia Quarterly Review (Charlottesville), Spring 1985; To Come Up Grinning: A Tribute to George Garrett edited by Paul Ruffin and Stuart Wright, Huntsville, Texas Review Press, 1989; Understanding George Garrett by R.H.W. Dillard, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1989.

(1972) I feel I am only just beginning, still learning my craft, trying my hand at as many things, as many ways and means of telling as many stories as I'm able to. I hope that this will always be the case, that somehow I'll avoid the slow horror of repeating myself or the blind rigor of an obsession. I can't look back, I'm not ashamed of the work I've done, but it is done. And I am (I hope) moving ahead, growing and changing. Once I've seen something into print I do not re-read it. I have tried always to write out of experience, but that includes imaginative experience which is quite as "real" to me and for me as any other and, indeed, in no way divorces from the outward and visible which we often (and inaccurately) call reality. I only hope to continue to learn and to grow. And to share experience with my imaginary reader. I use the singular because a book is a direct encounter, a conversation between one writer and one reader. Though I couldn't care less how many, in raw numbers, read my work, I have the greatest respect for that one imaginary reader. I hope to manage to please that reader before I'm done, to give as much delight, or some sense of it, as I have received from reading good books by good writers.

(1986) Years and scars, and various and sundry books, later, I would not change much in my earlier statement, innocent as it was. Now that I am in my mid-fifties I would not use the word hope so much. Naturally I have less hope for myself; though I insist on maintaining high hopes for the best of the young writers I teach. And I have every intention, with and without hope, to continue working, trying to learn my craft always (never to master it), still seeking, sometimes finding my imaginary reader. I know more than a decade's worth of darker, sadder things than I did in 1972. So does the world. So goes the world. Well, I have learned a full deck of new jokes, also, and never ceased to taste good laughter. If some hopes have faded and been abandoned, faith, which is altogether something else, has replaced them. And the old dog learns new tricks. One: to turn to the light and live on it until it's gone. Another: to be as open as I can until my book is closed.

(1991) In 1989 I was suddenly 60 years old, older than I had planned to be or ever imagined. Not that a whole lot has changed (I was and am still a viable candidate for the American Tomb of the Unknown Writer); but I did finish my Elizabethan trilogy; and now I have a new publisher and have embarked on three related American novels, coming out of our recent history. I am not planning to live forever, but I would like to finish telling these stories and some others on my mind. Meantime I'm a grandfather and have the pleasure of seeing a generation and a half of former students writing and publishing books on their own. And I am sometimes surprised by the kindness of strangers. The world is not (all claims to the contrary) a kinder or gentler place; but, somewhat to my cynical chagrin, I keep discovering worthy and amazing creatures in it.

(1995) Is there anything to add? Years-now I'm 65 and counting. And still working as hard as I can, hoping to get the work done, hoping, from here on, the work will simply speak for itself.

* * *

Directness, seriousness, a Chaucerian comic sense which in no way conflicts with that seriousness, imaginative vigor, sheer intelligence, and a rich variety of matter and manner—these qualities mark the fiction of George Garrett. An American, a southerner, Garrett has published seven novels, a collection of short novels, five collections of stories (including the major collection of new and selected stories, An Evening Performance), seven books of poems (including The Collected Poems), plays and screenplays, and a respectable body of critical work (including a biography of James Jones and a monograph on the fiction of Mary Lee Settle). This output reveals his energy and the scope of his interests, and they offer some indication of the seriousness with which he pursues his vocation as writer. Garrett approaches his world and his work with an Elizabethan forcefulness and range, directly and with all his strength.

Garrett is a Christian artist—not a pietist, but a writer whose very sense of the living world is infused with an Augustinian Christian understanding. He is a realist and not a fabulist, but, because of his Christian belief, his work is never far from parable, his direct reality always shaped by the enigmas of the spirit. His seven novels are very different each from each in subject and texture, but together they form a quest for a narrative structure sufficient to the expression of his increasingly more complex view of the ways of the world. The Finished Man is a novel of modern Florida politics; Which Ones Are the Enemy? takes place in Trieste during the American occupation following World War II; Do, Lord, Remember Me concerns the shattering visit of an evangelist to a small Southern town; Death of the Fox is an account of the events, exterior and interior, of the last two days of Sir Walter Raleigh's life; The Succession is a synoptic recreation of the events surrounding the succession of James I to the throne of Queen Elizabeth; Poison Pen (a new novel built upon the ruins of a larger, unfinished novel to have been called Life with Kim Novak Is Hell) is an acidly satirical examination of American public lives, illusion and reality, and the real and illusory nature of fiction itself; Entered from the Sun is an Elizabethan mystery novel which explores the illusion and impenetrable reality surrounding Christopher Marlowe's death. But they are all products of the same central concerns—a blessing of the dark and fallen world, a knowledge of the power of the imagination to enter that dark world and create and sustain values in it, a faith in the possibility of redemption and salvation even in the very process of the fall into sin and death, and a commitment to the individual moment as the sole window on eternity.

Garrett's major works thus far are the novels in his Elizabethan historical trilogy. In Death of the Fox all of his major thematic concerns come together in the person of Ralegh, the soldier, the politician, the sailor, the poet, and the morally creative man. In his imaginative union with Ralegh, Garrett fuses present and past into an artistic whole which is both truth and lie—the disappointing truth which nevertheless burns ideally in the imagination and dreams of the beholder (as in Garrett's earlier short story, "An Evening Performance") and the saving lie of love (as in his poem "Fig Leaves") which enables us "to live together." The Succession both extends and fulfills the stylistic and formal advances of Death of the Fox by presenting a thoroughly researched and vividly written account of English and Scottish life in the years succeeding, following, and pivoting upon the succession in 1603, and at the same time developing an aesthetic meditation on the creation and revelation of meaning in the succession of moments that makes up the nexus of time. Set in 1597, Entered from the Sun brings the trilogy round full circle, allowing Ralegh to be viewed this time from the outside rather than from within, and commenting both upon the way time conceals truth and the way the fictive imagination attempts to penetrate those concealing veils—commenting, therefore, upon itself and upon the trilogy as a whole.

How he will develop as he moves beyond these major milestones of his career (the Elizabethan trilogy, the collected stories, and the collected poems) is fascinating to contemplate. Garrett has always continued to grow and change in his work while so many of his contemporaries have faltered or simply repeated themselves book after book. His importance becomes clearer year by year as the magnitude of his exploration of reality (outward and inward) reveals itself with each new and startlingly original book.

—R.H.W. Dillard

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