Gardner’s October Light

Okay, so I’m trying to ease myself out of the doldrums I’ve been in all month and doing my usual reading about writing and my to-read list. If you’ve read John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction then you probably know that he was a famous writing teacher. Art was written for beginning writers but it has some great points or reminders for everyone, just skip over the parts about talent. Those passages always make me want to throw the book across the room and I have an old copy that must be coddled so I try not to look.

The book from my to-read list is one of Gardner’s, called October Light. I haven’t finished the book yet because like my writing, I stop and then I go and then I stop again. I’ll be glad when this phase passes. My little note to you today is about the fascinating introduction by Tom Bissell in the New Directions edition (2005) where he discusses how popular Gardner and others were during their peak and how Gardner’s books are mainly read by writers today.

Will we also conquer the mountain and later become passe? Some egos I’ve met would never be able to withstand the fall but I don’t think Gardner would have splattered on the pavement. His view of the world was very opinionated (like most writers) yet he had a certain contrariness that I think would have made his writing evolve whether he wanted it to or not. We’ll never know for sure since he died at age 49 in a motorcycle accident.

When someone stops writing (I guess we could say, he had the best reason), the remembrance of a person or an era, or maybe even that corner store where the author’s mother sent them to buy milk, is gone.  That’s a good enough reason to keep writing even if you never make it to the top of your own personal mountain. More later on October Light which is available at,, and many other places.


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
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