blackbirdonline journalSpring 2011  Vol. 10  No. 1
Peter Taylor, Eleanor Ross Taylor, and George Garrett

Reading Loop Introduction

spacer Peter Taylor
   His Other Life

Ben Cleary
   Peter Taylor: The Basement Tapes

Eleanor Ross Taylor
   A First Reader

Remembering Eleanor Ross Taylor
    A Poetic Principles Reading 

Casey Clabough
    Room for Only One Cowboy Hat:
       George Garrett, Ramblin’ Man

In Previous Issues
   George Garrett
   Eleanor Ross Taylor
   Peter Taylor

spacer A link to Blackbird’s “Wayside Writers Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every Wayside Writers-related page. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features. 

George Garrett, in his novel Double Vision (2004), sifts his narrative through the consciousness of one Frank Toomer, who bears a strong resemblance to Garrett and who, like Garrett, lived next door to the novelist Peter Taylor and his wife, the poet Eleanor Ross Taylor.

Garrett/Toomer parses that neighborly and writerly connection as the shape of the narrative takes form around Toomer’s assignment to write a review of a biography about a writer, who is Peter Taylor.

“That other writer, the subject of the biography, was, for a good number of years, his next-door neighbor,” Garrett writes in Double Vision. “Their backyards, separated by a tall toothpick fence, shade each other with old trees. The houses face the same quiet street, side by side.”

Garrett/Toomer’s need and purpose is to examine the boundaries of a life, a need arising from the onset of a debilitating illness, a need that will possibly be satisfied by attending to the Peter Taylor biography in hand.

Thus the two houses standing next to one another and the neighborly relationship between the Taylors and the Garretts provide not only the shape for the novel but also the vehicle through which to exercise the double vision of the title—the side-by-side images of writer and character, the Janus-faced nature of fiction and memory, the looking in and the looking out. Garrett ends his second chapter and sets off again, remembering his neighbor:

My next-door neighbor, for the final decade of his life, was Peter Taylor. A matter of happy circumstance and not design. . . . When we moved in here Peter welcomed us with a bottle of champagne. We popped the cork and raised our glasses in a toast.

“It will be nice to have someone living in the little house again,” he said.

The large shadow of his handsome house loomed over ours. . . . I knew Peter for many years before we happened to move into “the little house.” We were friendly, but never close friends. Our paths sometimes crossed. Our lives sometimes overlapped.

The Garretts and Taylors lived respectively at 1841 and 1845 Wayside Place in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Garretts moved into their house when George Garrett arrived to become the Henry Hoynes Professor of English at the University of Virginia, a position from which Peter Taylor had recently retired. Peter Taylor had actually originally moved to Charlottesville to take the position formerly held by George Garrett, who left in 1967 to teach at Hollins University (then Hollins College).

Thus, one could say that neighborly coincidence marked the lives and careers of Peter Taylor and George Garrett, and, by necessary association, also that of Eleanor Ross Taylor. This same coincidence has presented Blackbird with work, all at one time, by or connected to these three writers, and we publish it here, linked in a reading loop named for Wayside Place. Eleanor Ross Taylor, Peter Taylor, and George Garrett were particularly supportive of and generous to the efforts of Blackbird and/or to New Virginia Review, Inc. We admire these writers tremendously and feel privileged to remember and present their work.

Yet another coincidence is that this issue of Blackbird also publishes work by Lawrence Judson Reynolds, who studied with Peter Taylor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and David Huddle, who was Taylor’s student at Virginia and subsequently Garrett’s student at Hollins.

Comprising the reading loop are an excerpt from Casey Clabough’s forthcoming biography of George Garrett; an interview with Peter Taylor by Ben Cleary, as well as Taylor’s story, “His Other Life;” and a short essay on “A First Reader” by Eleanor Ross Taylor, as well as a reading of her work by poets Claudia Emerson, Debra Nystrom, Ross Taylor, Susan Settlemyre Williams, and David Wojahn.  end

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