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Gardner, John Champlin

professor philosophy

(US, 1933–82)

Gardner was a distinguished scholar in Old and Middle English, a Professor at New York State University, Binghamton, before his death in a motorcycle accident. The cult novel Grendel (1971) is a witty re-imagining of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf from the monster's viewpoint; its reverse view of humankind invites readers to identify with the narrator, whose bloodthirsty visits to Hrothgar's mead hall are blackly humorous. Several of Gardner's other novels have a background of philosophy and academia, notably his last, Mickelsson's Ghosts (1982). It features a philosophy professor seeking to escape his students, the tax authorities, and a failed marriage by buying an old house in the country, only to encounter a series of paranormal events. October Light (1976) depicts an elderly brother and sister quarrelling over politics and ideas, while Freddy's Book (1980) is a fable about the Devil at large in sixteenth-century Scandinavia.

Thomas Pynchon, Gerald Locklin  JS

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