Vernon, John (Edward) 1943-
VERNON, John (Edward) 1943-
PERSONAL: Born June 3, 1943, in Cambridge, MA; son of Elijah James (a printer) and Ruth Doris (Martin) Vernon; married Ann Nancy Frick (a painter), June 29, 1968; children: Charles, Patrick. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Boston College, B.A., 1965; University of California—Davis, M.A., 1967, Ph.D., 1969. Hobbies and other interests: Mountain climbing.
ADDRESSES: Home—P. O. Box 20620, Estes Park, CO 80511. Office—Department of English, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY 13901. Agent—Fred Morris, Jed Mattes Agency, 2095 Broadway, #302, New York, NY 10023-2895. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Utah, Salt Lake City, assistant professor of English, 1969-71; State University of New York at Binghamton, assistant professor, 1971-75, associate professor, 1975-85, professor, 1985-2002, distinguished professor of English, 2002—; writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowship, National Defense Education Act, 1965-68; faculty research fellowship, State University of New York, 1973; public service fellowship, New York State Council on the Arts, 1973; faculty research fellowship, State University of New York, 1977 and 1980; fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1990-91; New York Times notable book listing for Peter Doyle, 1991; University Award for Excellence in Research, State University of New York, 1994; fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1996-97; New York Times, notable book listing for A Book of Reasons.
The Garden and the Map: Schizophrenia in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1973.
Ann (poems), Iris Press (Binghamton, NY), 1976.
Poetry and the Body, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1979.
Money and Fiction: Literary Realism in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1984.
La Salle: A Novel, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.
Lindbergh's Son, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.
Peter Doyle, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.
All for Love: Baby Doe and Silver Dollar (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
A Book of Reasons (memoir), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
The Last Canyon, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.
Work represented in anthologies, including Poetry: Points of Departure, edited by Henry Taylor, Winthrop Publishers (Cambridge, MA), 1974; Men of Our Time: An Anthology of Poetry by and about Men, edited by Fred Moramarco and Al Zolynas, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1992; What Have You Lost?, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1999; and The Book of Love, edited by Diane Ackerman and Jeanne Mackin, Norton (New York, NY), 1998.
Contributor to periodicals, including Harper's, Nation, New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry, Ohio Review, Carolina Review, Epoch, Chicago Review, Western Humanities Review, New American Review, and Poetry Northwest.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A Ghost for Kit Carson; More Than This.
SIDELIGHTS: John Vernon is an English professor and writer who has won particular acclaim for his novels of actual figures from the American West. Among these tales is All for Love: Baby Doe and Silver Dollar, which concerns a conniving opportunist who marries an elderly mine owner and becomes a prominent figure in Colorado society, then squanders her fortune, following her husband's death, and falls into poverty before perishing during the Depression. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described All for Love as "literate and raunchy" and summarized it as "a classically American, true-grit saga of greed, dreams and delusions."
Vernon's next novel, The Last Canyon, relates the exploits of a one-armed veteran determined to chart the various canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers after the Civil War. Robert Conroy, writing in Library Journal, deemed the novel "well written," and Mary Ellen, in her Booklist assessment, noted that "a parallel story of . . . Paiute Indians" provided "extra poignancy." Another reviewer, writing in Publishers Weekly, proclaimed The Last Canyon "outstanding," and Jonathan Kirsch, in his Los Angeles Times Book Review appraisal found the novel "richly imagined." Further praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic, who described the novel as "richly detailed." Less impressed, Dolores Derrickson contended in the Rocky Mountain News that The Last Canyon "lags." Michael Upchurch, however, lauded the novel, in the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, as "a riveting adventure tale," and Verlyn Klinkenborg, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted The Last Canyon as "a novel that borrows the exactitude of history."
Vernon's other writings include A Book of Reasons, a memoir of his late brother's life of seclusion in an unheated home littered with trash. Library Journal reviewer Ronald Ray Ratliff praised A Book of Reasons as "extraordinary," and a Publishers Weekly critic acknowledged it as "beautiful." Another critic, Bonnie Johnston, wrote in Booklist that A Book of Reasons serves as "a heartfelt exploration of grieving," and Lisa Jennifer Selzman added in the Houston Chronicle that Vernon's memoir is "a powerful story aching to be told." Stanley Trachtenberg, meanwhile, wrote in the Dallas Morning News that A Book of Reasons is "sometimes anguished, more often anxious."
Vernon once told CA: "I began by thinking of myself as a poet but discovered novel writing twenty years ago and do not intend to get sidetracked again. Most of my work is historical in theme or setting, but I don't want to limit myself to that, and I consider myself a literary novelist first. My aspiration is to create works of art that will entertain and instruct a literate audience. I research my books extensively, stitch together fiction and research, crank it up into the imagination, and zap it with a thousand volts. The result is the Frankenstein monster called a novel.
"Two years ago I reduced my teaching commitments and moved to the mountains of Colorado. . . . In Colorado I'm a presence inside a much larger presence—the mountains and gorges of Rocky Mountain National Park—and I find this a conducive spur to the loss of personality necessary for writing fiction."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1999, Bonnie Johnston, review of A Book of Reasons, p. 58; September 15, 2001, Mary Ellen, review of The Last Canyon, p. 197.
Dallas Morning News, October 3, 1999, Stanley Trachtenberg, "Death Spurs Intellectual Odyssey," p. J9.
Houston Chronicle, October 17, 1999, Lisa Jennifer Selzman, review of A Book of Reasons, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2001, review of The Last Canyon, p. 1321.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 7, 2001, Michael Upchurch, review of The Last Canyon.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Ronald Ray Ratliff, review of A Book of Reasons, p. 108; October 1, 2001, Robert Conroy, review of The Last Canyon, p. 144.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 17, 2002, Jonathan Kirsch, "West Words," p. 2.
New York Observer, September 27, 1999, Robert Gottleib, "A Cabinet of Curiosities, Balm for a Mourner's Grief," p. 20.
New York Times Book Review, November 11, 2001, Verlyn Klinkenborg, "A Paradise of Loss," p. 7.
Publishers Weekly, July 24, 1995, review of All for Love: Baby Doe and Silver Dollar, p. 46; June 21, 1999, review of A Book of Reasons, p. 43; November 1, 1999, review of A Book of Reasons, p. 51; August 27, 2001, review of The Last Canyon, p. 47.
Rocky Mountain News, October 26, 2001, Dolores Derrickson, "Flat Characters Sink Canyon," p. D29.