Joyce Carol Oates called him an American original. Based on Barry Silesky's biography, we have to agree.
The man in question is novelist and scholar John Gardner, author of The Sunlight Dialogues, Nickel Mountain and Grendel, an account of the Beowulf legend from the monster's point of view.
Gardner, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1982, was a force of nature, an extraordinarily energetic individual who turned out books of fiction, poetry, scholarship, and much more. Gardner's s huge personality and his massive talent attracted legions of loyal fans as well as passionate detractors.
Beyond novels and stories, Gardner was famously controversial for his critique of late 20th-century American writing, On Moral Fiction. But that book, as Silesky explains, raises a number of important questions about the value of writing and literary in American life, questions that are still worth pondering.
Silesky's biography, John Gardner: Literary Outlaw (2004), is also worth pondering.