I first read Augustus, John Williams, in 1982. Since then, it has remained in the stack of books always at my bedside. As a historian, I learned long ago that much of history is the gathering and manifestation of individual power. Augustus is by far the best study of power I have ever read. Williams succeeded in not only capturing the nuances of power, but understood why individuals feel the need to achieve it, hold on to it, and conspire to keep it regardless of personal or national cost. Augustus itself to study as much today as it did when written a generation ago. My compliments to Alan Prendergast for his fine biographical piece, which helps to explain why Williams knew his subject material so well.
Mark Eastlake Stevens
Great article. My mom was a graduate student at the University of Denver in the '70s, and she introduced me to the books of John Williams. Augustus and Stoner are both great books, and they have stuck with me over the years. Some authors you read and forget. Not Williams. Why haven't any of his books been chosen for One Book, One Denver?
While reading Alan Prendergast's article on John Williams, I had a "recovered memory" about how Professor Williams's connections with real writers in the '60s and '70s encouraged many of them to give public readings for us students, and also the larger Denver community. I remember, as a junior or senior in high school, attending a lecture by Williams himself, in a public series DU used to sponsor for free, on the subject of "The Puritanism of Henry Miller." He opened my eyes to a way of seeing this "erotic" artist's vision that made sense, while pegging Miller squarely. There is a new puritanical way of belief about sexuality, full of crusading spirit, with an equal but opposite battle plan from the Puritans of old. Williams helped wise me up. He made DU look like a very exciting place to go to college.
This article reminds me how good the DU English department was in the late '60s and early '70s. Before reading it in Westword, I did not know that Williams, a very learned man, was a Fulke Greville scholar. I think he himself had much in common with this convoluted, disturbing and quasi-Puritan intellectual. Williams's novels, all three I've seen in print, are very unlike each other, both in subject and style. Williams wanted to be an original, and each work he wrote to be an original. This writing cannot have been easy. His paperback anthology of English Renaissance poetry was the best that was in print when I was in school, and it still may be. A paradoxical and seriously world-weary view of life colors his art. His character Stoner is an English professor we all have met and most probably ignored. Augustus we could never have met, but both portraits are extraordinary. Fulke Greville, almost 400 years later, has had a worthy heir in John Williams.
I have two words for the new Celebrity: slot cars! What memories that place brings back, from the nursery (I actually did time there while my mom bowled) to the Skee-Ball to the fancy restaurant where only grownups were allowed. If only America could be more like Celebrity!
I've been reading and enjoying Westword since its inception. Kenny Be is Denver's greatest genius. Thanks, and keep up the great work!
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Celebrity Sports Center was so much fun! They had a little bit of everything. I used to bring a couple of dollars for the game arcade, but there were always so many leftover games on the machines, I didn't have to spend very much. But the security guards and the mechanics could be very strict! If you tilted or bumped a machine more than once, they were on you like white on rice.