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Thursday, November 12, 2009 10:51 am
Donald Harington, R.I.P.
Posted by: Keir Graff

haringtonDonald Harington has died. If you’re asking yourself “Who was Donald Harington?” you’re not alone–the man the New York Times calls the “Ozark Surrealist” never found a very wide readership during his long career (“Donald Harington, Ozark Surrealist, 73,” by William Grimes). But the readers he did have found him a wonderful writer.

“Don Harington is not an underappreciated novelist,” the poet Fred Chappell told The Democrat-Gazette. “He is an undiscovered continent.”

Booklist reviewers have more or less concurred with that assessment. In his review of Thirteen Albatrosses; (or, Falling off the Mountain), Thomas Gaughan wrote that “Harington’s delightful novels of life in Arkansas are far too little known.” And, in his starred review of With (2004), Frank Sennett wrote:

With his delightful twelfth novel, Harington might finally be destined to lose the ironic designation “America’s greatest unknown novelist.”

Alas, that was not to be. But it’s a remarkable for any writer to engage an audience so thoroughly, no matter what the audience’s size may be.

And it kind of makes you wonder what other authors you’ve missed, doesn’t it? I’d love to hear from any Harington fans out there.



2 Responses to “Donald Harington, R.I.P.”
  1. Deborah Says:

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever read any other author who filled his books with such a sense of joie de vivre, in the most genuine way. His characters stay with you, his world becomes your world. Despite the fact that almost all his books take place in or around his made-up village of Stay More, you never quite know what he’s going to do next. He was a true original. He deserved to be far, far better known and I grieve that it never happened during his life time. Anyone who is curious to read his books (and they should be!) would be advised to begin with ‘The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks’ or ‘The Choiring of the Trees’ which I think are two of his masterpieces (although ‘With’ is right up there with them). All his books are wonderful, truly, but those would be the ones I’d recommend to begin with.

  2. Keir Says:

    Thanks for the recommendations, Deborah! I’m sure that many readers will be taking a fresh interest in Harington’s works. But it’s unfortunate that so many artists are “discovered” after their deaths, isn’t it?

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