Picture of author.

John Gardner (1) (1933–1982)

Author of Grendel

For other authors named John Gardner, see the disambiguation page.

John Gardner (1) has been aliased into John C. Gardner.

49+ Works 14,208 Members 219 Reviews 46 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: John Gardner publicity photo at New Directions

Works by John Gardner

Works have been aliased into John C. Gardner.

Grendel (1971) 5,924 copies
The Art of Fiction (1984) 2,014 copies
On Becoming a Novelist (1983) 983 copies
October Light (1976) 633 copies
The Sunlight Dialogues (1972) 584 copies
On Moral Fiction (1978) 481 copies
Nickel Mountain (1973) 447 copies
Freddy's Book (1981) 370 copies
Mickelsson's Ghosts (1982) 336 copies
The King's Indian (1976) 241 copies
On Writers and Writing (1994) 220 copies
In the Suicide Mountains (1977) 206 copies
The Wreckage of Agathon (1970) 194 copies
Jason and Medeia (1973) 159 copies
The Resurrection (1762) 95 copies
Stillness and Shadows (1986) 54 copies
The Poetry of Chaucer (1977) 36 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1982 (1982) — Editor — 27 copies
Vlemk the Box-Painter (1979) 21 copies
The Forms of Fiction (1962) 15 copies
Lies! Lies! Lies (1999) 9 copies
William Wilson (1979) 6 copies
Poems (1978) 5 copies
Frankenstein (1979) 4 copies
Rumpelstiltskin (1980) 3 copies
The Temptation Game (1980) 2 copies
On Books 1 copy

Associated Works

Works have been aliased into John C. Gardner.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (1700) — Translator, some editions — 9,660 copies
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1380) — Translator, some editions — 8,312 copies
Eric Carle's Animals Animals (1989) — Contributor — 2,137 copies
Eric Carle's Dragons, Dragons (1991) — Contributor — 694 copies
The Literary Ghost: Great Contemporary Ghost Stories (1991) — Contributor — 74 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1978 (1978) — Contributor — 24 copies
Masters of British Literature, Volume A (2007) — Contributor — 20 copies
Homer's Iliad: The Shield of Memory (1978) — Foreword, some editions — 5 copies


14th century (190) 20th century (169) American (137) American literature (184) ancient (149) ancient literature (190) animals (303) Arthurian (355) Beowulf (222) biography (142) classic (394) classics (610) English literature (178) epic (453) epic poetry (237) fantasy (593) fiction (2,516) folklore (155) Gilgamesh (179) history (351) King Arthur (156) literature (1,025) medieval (494) medieval literature (255) Mesopotamia (290) Middle Ages (138) Middle English (241) myth (152) mythology (1,075) non-fiction (413) novel (361) paperback (143) picture book (130) poetry (2,172) read (360) religion (135) to-read (932) translation (177) unread (212) writing (746)

Common Knowledge



1970’s American Literature in Name that Book (July 2016)


Tentative rating. Will give it another try.
A.Godhelm | 103 other reviews | Oct 20, 2023 |
At the outset of John Gardner’s Nickel Mountain, Henry Soames owns and runs a diner by the side of a Catskills highway. He does a better job of that than of controlling his own giving heart; because of his charitable nature, he ends up not only married to a young woman who is pregnant with someone else’s baby, but also opens his home to a Jehovah’s Witness no one likes or trusts, and who may be an arsonist. The novel’s events swirl around Henry, its enigmatically passive-active agent at the center, and through it all the locals for better or for ill, prove that in Gardner’s hands, human nature is endlessly fascinating.

Also as fascinating are the apparent machinations of the gods, or impersonal forces with which humans must contend. A young would-be car designer and racer throws his dreams away and attends Cornell Ag school, as coerced by his businessman father. Henry’s bride finds him impossible to live with part of the time, but also unalterably admires his good acts. Other regulars come to Henry’s roadside diner and complain or shake their heads about nature, or the follies of their fellow characters, and nothing apparently changes over time. The town’s doctor, who doubles as its justice of the peace, carries around and expresses the anger and confusion for everyone’s benefit.

The tides of fortune and folly pursue all; no one is immune. Some suffer more than others, as usual, but through all the health challenges and commercial difficulties Henry wrestles with, his surprising wife and child turn out t be improbable blessings, even to the point of a comprehensive upgrade of his business. Gardner prepares us for certain confrontations which end up occurring outside the narrative, and it’s hard to find the purpose in some of the conflict on offer.

But the direct, persuasive, effective passage is always within the author’s repertoire: early on (at p. 66 of 454), as Henry emphatically blubbers on on some subject or other:

“But was he saying anything at all? he wondered. All so hopelessly confused. And yet he knew. He couldn’t do it and maybe never could have, but he knew. He was a fat, blubbering Holy Jesus, or anyway one half of him was, loving hell out of truckers and drunks and Willards and Callies—ready to be nailed for them. Eager. More heart than he knew how to spend.”

A constitutional inarticulateness afflicts the hero Henry: his compelling ideas, in the midst of his trying to express them, become amorphous as he loses his way. In spite of the mental and emotional challenges, he blunders ahead anyway, and comes out somehow ahead of the game. This, and the plain, direct, and vivid descriptions the author gives the other characters and their misadventures, drive the narrative, and attract and reward the reader. It’s all a mystery, and the Henry Soameses of the world, for all their difficulty in expressing it, know it better than the rest of us.

… (more)
LukeS | 8 other reviews | Sep 15, 2023 |
on morality of art
SrMaryLea | 9 other reviews | Aug 22, 2023 |
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this. Turns out, it is very much a fairy-tale, though written for adults (heads getting chopped off, first three characters meet on their ways to commit suicide, etc.) I really liked the illustrations... and it was a good read (1 hour? 2 hours, max.)
dcunning11235 | 2 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |



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