Authors: George Garrett

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist, short-story writer, and poet

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Finished Man, 1959

Which Ones Are the Enemy?, 1961

Do, Lord, Remember Me, 1965

Death of the Fox, 1971

The Magic Striptease, 1973

The Succession, 1983

Poison Pen, 1986

Entered from the Sun, 1990

The King of Babylon Shall Not Come Against You, 1996

Short Fiction:

King of the Mountain, 1958

In the Briar Patch, 1961

Cold Ground Was My Bed Last Night, 1964

A Wreath for Garibaldi, and Other Stories, 1969

An Evening Performance: New and Selected Stories, 1985

The Old Army Game: A Novel and Stories, 1994


Sir Slob and the Princess: A Play for Children, pb. 1962

Garden Spot, U.S.A., pr. 1962

Enchanted Ground, pb. 1981


The Young Lovers, 1964

The Playground, 1965

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, 1966 (with R. H. W. Dillard and John Rodenbeck)


The Reverend Ghost, 1957

The Sleeping Gypsy, and Other Poems, 1958

Abraham’s Knife, and Other Poems, 1961

For a Bitter Season: New and Selected Poems, 1967

Welcome to the Medicine Show: Postcards, Flashcards, Snapshots, 1978

Luck’s Shining Child, 1981

The Collected Poems of George Garrett, 1984

Days of Our Lives Lie in Fragments: New and Old Poems, 1957-1997, 1998


James Jones, 1984

Understanding Mary Lee Settle, 1988

My Silk Purse and Yours: The Publishing Scene and American Literary Art, 1992

The Sorrows of Fat City: A Selection of Literary Essays and Reviews, 1992

Going to See the Elephant: Pieces of a Writing Life, 2002 (Jeb Livingood, editor)

Southern Excursions: Views on Southern Letters in My Time, 2003 (James Conrad McKinley, editor)

Edited Texts:

New Writing from Virginia, 1963

The Girl in the Black Raincoat, 1966

Man and the Movies, 1967 (with W. R. Robinson)

New Writing in South Carolina, 1971 (with William Peden)

The Sounder Few: Essays from “The Hollins Critic,” 1971 (with R. H. W. Dillard and John Moore)

Film Scripts One, Two, Three, and Four, 1971-1972 (with O. B. Hardison, Jr., and Jane Gelfman)

Craft So Hard to Learn, 1972 (with John Graham)

The Writer’s Voice, 1973 (with Graham)

Intro 5, 1974 (with Walton Beacham)

The Botteghe Oscure Reader, 1974 (with Katherine Garrison Biddle)

Intro 6: Life As We Know It, 1974

Intro 7: All of Us and None of You, 1975

Intro 8: The Liar’s Craft, 1977

Intro 9: Close to Home, 1979 (with Michael Mewshaw)

Elvis in Oz: New Stories and Poems from the Hollins Creative Writing Program, 1992 (with Mary Flinn)

The Wedding Cake in the Middle of the Road: Twenty-three Variations on a Theme, 1992 (with Susan Stamberg)

That’s What I Like (About the South), and Other New Southern Stories for the Nineties, 1993 (with Paul Ruffin)

The Yellow Shoe Poets: Selected Poems, 1964-1999, 1999


Whistling in the Dark: True Stories and Other Fables, 1992

Bad Man Blues: A Portable George Garrett, 1998


George Palmer Garrett, Jr., is known principally as a novelist and poet, but he also achieved recognition as playwright, screenwriter, reviewer, and literary critic. He was educated at Sewanee Military Academy and the Hill School. He entered Princeton University in 1947, receiving B.A. and M.A. degrees, and in 1985 he received his Ph.D. degree from Princeton. Garrett has had a distinguished career as teacher and scholar at Wesleyan University, Hollins College, the University of South Carolina, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia.{$I[AN]9810001159}{$I[A]Garrett, George}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Garrett, George}{$I[tim]1929;Garrett, George}

Garrett is best known for the historical novels Death of the Fox, which tells of the last days of Sir Walter Raleigh; The Succession, which chronicles the lives and times of Elizabeth I and her successor, James I; and Entered from the Sun, in which two bit players on the political scene–one a soldier, the other an actor–attempt to unravel the complicated death of Christopher Marlowe. Garrett’s knowledge of the Elizabethan period is encyclopedic, and his special interest is in the psychology and politics of the Elizabethans. The trilogy delves into the complex machinations of political power and influence in Elizabethan England as these affect both the wealthy and powerful and the common people. The result is a political, social, and psychological profile of one of the most glorious and violent ages of Western civilization.

In his other novels and in his short stories Garrett uses contemporary American life as his subject. His early fiction is realistic and traditional, while his later fiction tends toward the experimental, often relying on surreal characters and episodes, as in his novel Poison Pen. At the center of all his fiction, both early and later, is a gentle war between Garrett’s implacable Episcopalianism and his puckish comic sense. Garrett has also compiled volumes of critical essays that reflect both wide reading and levelheaded judgment, edited collections of stories, and issued collections of his vintage fiction. (The Old Army Game collects his best writing about the military, including his novel Which Ones Are the Enemy?)

Garrett’s poetry falls into two broad categories: personal lyric poems and topical, playful, satiric poems. Many of Garrett’s lyric poems deal with the themes of childhood, growing up, and aging. These poems are invariably terse and insightful, frequently using stories from the Bible as sources. They tell of the pains and joys of the human cycles of birth, growth, and death. Garrett’s satiric poems gain inspiration from the satires and conceits of the Elizabethans and Jacobeans. As these poets saw in their ages, Garrett sees in postwar America a way of life in need of exploration and definition. His satiric poetry often has a sharp edge, but it is neither bitter nor pessimistic.

Although the major concerns of Garrett’s poetry were constant, he experimented with poetic forms and themes. The language of his poetry was increasingly colloquial, and his subject matter ranged from the classical to the topical. The first thing that many readers notice about his poetry is its clever and incisive treatment of contemporary events and people. His poems about actors Ann-Margret and Jack Nicholson and Cosmopolitan magazine are attractive because of their subjects and their playful insights, but balanced against these transitory treatments is a deep and complicated understanding of the human condition.

BibliographyBetts, Richard. “‘To Dream of Kings’: George Garrett’s The Succession.” The Mississippi Quarterly 45 (Winter, 1991): 53. Argues that Garrett’s Elizabethan fiction has been unjustly overlooked by critics.Dillard, R. H. W. Understanding George Garrett. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988. The first major critical work on Garrett. Contains individual chapters on The Finished Man, Which Ones Are the Enemy?, Do, Lord, Remember Me, the two historical novels, Poison Pen, as well as a chapter on the poems and short stories. Supplemented by a helpful bibliography.Garrett, George. “Going to See the Elephant: Why We Write Stories.” In Bad Man Blues: A Portable George Garrett. Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1998. Talks about growing up in a large family of storytellers; discusses the deeper motivation of storytelling; suggests the duty of storytelling is like that of Pygmies hunting an elephant and then telling the story of the hunt.George Palmer Garrett: A Bibliography and Index of His Published Works and Criticism of Them. Potsdam, N.Y.: Frederick W. Crumb Memorial Library, 1968. An annotated bibliography of works by and about George Garrett.Horvath, Brooke, and Irving Malin, eds. George Garrett: The Elizabethan Trilogy. Huntsville, Tex.: Texas Review Press, 1998. A critical study of a number of historical figures as they relate to Garrett’s work, including Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe. Includes a bibliography and index.Meriwether, James B. “George Palmer Garrett, Jr.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 25, no. 1 (1963): 26-39. An introductory article on Garrett’s work, acknowledging his excellence in poetry at the time when he was turning his attention more to fiction. Southern and family themes are noted. Complemented by a checklist of Garrett’s writings.Mewshaw, Michael. “George Garrett and the Sweet Science of Fiction.” Sewanee Review 110 (Summer, 2002): 267-273. A writer’s recollections of Garrett as a teacher and mentor.Mill Mountain Review 1, no. 4 (Summer, 1971). This special issue on Garrett includes critical essays and personal comments by Fred Chappell, Gordon Lish, and others.Robinson, W. R. “Imagining the Individual: George Garrett’s Death of the Fox.” Hollins Critic 8 (1971): 1-12. An exploration of the mixture of fact and creation that is inherent in fiction and the historical novel in particular, with extensive quotations from Garrett on the subject. Robinson argues that Garrett’s work is a serious creation and surpasses conventional historical fiction.Rozett, Martha Tuck. “Constructing a World: How Postmodern Historical Fiction Reimagines the Past.” Clio 25 (Winter, 1996): 145. Discusses Garrett’s Elizabethan novels.Sheets, Anna J., ed. Short Story Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction Writers. Vol. 30. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1999. Includes excerpts from Garrett, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Gina Berriault, Theodore Dreiser, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Emilia Pardo Bazán, and Leo Tolstoy.Slavitt, David R. “History–Fate and Freedom: A Look at George Garrett’s New Novel.” The Southern Review 7 (1971): 276-294. In this lengthy first review of Death of the Fox, Slavitt examines the novel in relation to Garrett’s earlier works and considers the creative process.Spears, Monroe K. “George Garrett and the Historical Novel.” The Virginia Quarterly Review 61, no. 2 (Spring, 1985): 262-276. Spears considers how closely The Succession and Death of the Fox correspond to the traditional definition of the historical novel.Wier, Allen. “Skin and Bones: George Garrett’s Living Spirits.” In Bad Man Blues: A Portable George Garrett. Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1998. Discusses Garrett’s interest in the relationship between fact and fiction and the relationship between the present and the past. Comments on Garrett’s experimentation with ways of telling stories.
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