Author. He is best remembered for his fictional novel "Grendel" (1971), a retelling of the Beowulf myth from the monster's point of view with a philosophical underlying. Born John Champlin Gardner, Jr. in Batavia, New York, his father was a lay preacher and dairy farmer, and his mother taught English at a local school. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America and made Eagle Scout. He attended public school and worked on his father's farm, where, in April 1945, his younger brother was killed in an accident with a cultipacker. He was driving the tractor during the fatal accident and carried guilt for his brother's death throughout his life, occasionally suffering from nightmares and flashbacks. After graduating from high school, he attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, but received his Bachelor's Degree from Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1955 and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy Degrees in 1958 from the University of Iowa at Iowa City, Iowa. After "Grendel" he wrote "The Sunlight Dialogues" (1972), about a brooding, disenchanted policeman who is asked to engage a madman fluent in classical mythology, and "October Light" (1976), about an aging and embittered brother and sister living and feuding together in rural Vermont, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976. In 1978 he wrote literary criticism, "On Moral Fiction," a book on literary criticism, igniting a controversy that excited the mainstream media in which he was critical of other contemporary fiction authors of the time, like John Updike and John Barth. He was a lifelong teacher of fiction writing and his two books on the craft of writing fiction, "The Art of Fiction" and "On Becoming a Novelist" (both 1983), are considered classics. He also wrote children's stories with "Dragon, Dragon (and Other Tales)" (1975), "Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales)" (1976), "The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)" (1977), and "A Child's Bestiary" (1977). His last fictional work was "Mickelsson's Ghosts" (1982) prior to his death at the age of 49 as a result of a motorcycle accident which occurred about 2 miles from his home in Oakland Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Prior to his death, he served as a professor at Harpur College of Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York.
Bio by: William Bjornstad