"In late August, 1966, the city jail in Batavia, New York, held four regular prisoners, that is, four prisoners who were being kept on something more than an overnight basis." So begins The Sunlight Dialogues, by John Gardner, novelist, essayist, professor, Batavian.
Gardner appears at No. 6 in the Holland Land Office Museum's countdown of The Twenty-Five Things That Made Genesee County Famous. Not much of a surprise there.
Museum Director Pat Weissend:
As a young adult, John Gardner had many interests. He wrote plays, studied chemistry, played the French horn and was an Eagle Scout. While at Alexander High School, he drew a cartoon of an elephant in art class that was published in the July 1948 edition of Seventeen Magazine. For his senior year of high school, he transferred to the larger Batavia High School so he could take some more challenging classes. Every Saturday, he went to Rochester where he took French horn lessons at the Eastman School of Music’s Preparatory School.
Following his graduation from Batavia High School in 1951, Gardner had to decide where he was going to study. He was awarded a scholarship to the Eastman School, but he chose to go to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana and major in chemistry.
Of course, Gardner didn't last long as a chemist. He soon left Indiana for a university in St. Louis, Missouri, where he earned his bachelor's degree, then went to Iowa for his doctorate. Gardner was hailed throughout his teaching career as a popular professor, yet it was his books that made him famous. Among his most well-known—Gardner published no less than 27 books—are the novels: Grendel, The Resurrection and The Sunlight Dialogiues, and two of his books on the art of writing: On Becoming a Novelist and The Art of Fiction. Gardner died in 1982 in a motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania.
There's plenty of interesting info to be found on Gardner on the Web, including The Batavian's own video of Batavia Reads John Gardner at the Pok-A-Dot. You can check that out below. The video was filmed and produced by Darrick Coleman.
You can also view a documentary, entitled Sunlight Man, produced by Gardner's son, Joel, about his father's life and work. On a Web site called The Arch and the Abyss, you will find a bibliography of Gardner's works, a miscellany, an archive. You can even order a John Gardner limited edition t-shirt. As always, the Genesee Community College John C. Gardner Appreciation Page has a wealth of resources, including links to a dozen other sites.
Photo courtesy of Genesee Community College Web site.