Sunday, September 19, 2004

John Gardner on Mickelsson's Ghosts

John Gardner describes his novel, Mickelsson's Ghosts:

The novel is about a famous philosopher who, midway through his career, suddenly finds himself (as Dante did) lost. He feels he has failed his wife and family (the wife has left him), feels he has betrayed his earlier promise and the values of his Wisconsin Lutheran background, has lost interest in his students and has ceased to care about philosophical questions, has lost faith and hope in democracy (and owes a large sum of money to the IRS), scorns the university where he teaches and the unsophisticated town in which it is situated, and has good reason to believe he is losing his mind. He cuts himself off fom his university community by buying a huge rotting house in the country, which turns out to be haunted (if he can trust his wits), and he finds himself up to the neck in evils he never before dreamt of -- middle-of-the-night dumpings of poisonous wastes, witchcraft, backwoods prostitution, a mysterious string of murders, and more.

John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist, Harper and Row, 1983, p. 141.

This is an excellent book, just unbelievably good. And the above described novel ain't no slouch either. But Gardner, being a damned fool, got himself killed in a motorcycle accident at the tender age of 49. A serious loss to American letters.