BOLDLY INSCRIBED BY JOHN GARDNER TO FELLOW AUTHOR EDWARD ABBEY
GARDNER, John. The Art of Living and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. Octavo, original gilt-stamped beige cloth, pictorial endpapers, original dust jacket. $4500.
First edition, presentation copy, of this important collection of stories, boldly inscribed by Gardner to his fellow author, Edward Abbey: "To Ed, Thank God we met. John Gardner."
"Gardner's first short-fiction collection since The King's Indian (1974) offers ten highly polished stories… [N]one of these tales is less than skillful: Gardner's prose is smooth, musical, elaborate" (Kirkus). "It is salutary to come across a writer who is genuinely ambitious for art" (New York Review of Books). Gardner died in a motorcycle accident one year after the publication of this volume—grimly ironic, as the dust jacket art features an image of a motorcycle. This copy is inscribed by John Gardner to environmentalist, anarchist, and author Edward Abbey, who Larry McMurtry once called "the Thoreau of the American West." Abbey began his career as an MP in Italy. He then used the G.I. Bill to complete his education (including a master's degree in philosophy) at the University of New Mexico. Abbey became a park ranger in Utah and found the inspiration to write several important works, including the classic nature narrative Desert Solitaire. Abbey maintained extensive literary correspondence, including with John Gardner. His letters were known for their thoughtfulness and forthrightness. For example, "in a letter to John Gardner, he praised [Gardner's] On Moral Fiction as a 'brilliant performance' before bemoaning Gardner's cast of moral novelists: 'Bellow, Cheever, Updike, Irving and Salinger (that juvenile neurotic!), are the dullest and blandest of contemporary American writers'" (New York Times). Their relationship was sufficiently close that Edward Abbey once gave an interview on Gardner for The Bloomsbury Review. This copy lacks the signature "ABBEY" on the bottom edge (often found in books from Abbey's personal library).
An about-fine copy, inscribed and with fascinating provenance.