“Fiction's essential activity is to imagine how others feel, what a Saturday afternoon in an Italian town in the 2nd Century looked like. My ambition is solely to get some effect, as of light on stone in a forest on a September day.” – Guy Davenport
Writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual, and teacher, Davenport was both a Rhodes Scholar and a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, one of the few people in the world to achieve both major honors. Born in the Appalachian region of South Carolina on this date in 1927, he was a self-taught reader and writer who graduated from high school by age 16, then went on to earn degrees at both Duke and Harvard.
Over his lifetime he had more than 400 nationally published essays and reviews, wrote 17 books of fiction and a dozen books of poetry, and contributed to several dozen other books or collections. And, he did all that while teaching full time at a number of prestigious colleges and universities and drawing or painting nearly every day of his life from age 11 on. A number of his art works are on display in galleries across the country.
Indefatigable was often a word used to describe him, but he said it was “just something I felt I had to do to keep my life in balance.” He wrote right up until his death in 2005. He said that of all his writings, he most enjoyed fictionalizing historical events and figures – a sort-of “What If?” scenario that make his works both fast-paced and intriguing.
“As long as you have ideas, you can keep going,” he said. “That's why writing fiction is so much fun: because you're moving people about, and making settings for them to move in, so there's always something there to keep working on.”
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