Obscure novelist subject of MSU Texas Faculty Forum

“John Williams: Wichita Falls’ Greatest Writer?”

Obscure novelist subject of MSU Texas Faculty Forum

While North Texas has produced several writers of note, Midwestern State University’s Associate Professor of English Greg Giddings says there is one more writer who may not be as familiar.

Giddings will tell the story of John Williams, who grew up in Wichita Falls and graduated from Wichita Falls High School in 1939, for the Faculty Forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, in Legacy Hall’s Multipurpose Room.

After graduating from WFHS, Williams enrolled at Hardin Junior College, now Midwestern State, which had recently relocated to the Taft and Hampstead location. “During his year at Hardin, Williams relished the extracurricular activities, but apparently did not exactly dazzle with his classwork, even in English,” Giddings said. After stints in local radio and serving in the Air Force in WWII, Williams eventually earned degrees at the University of Denver before completing a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

Williams returned to U.D., where he taught the rest of his professional life. While in Denver, Williams published three major novels: Butcher's Crossing (1954), Stoner (1965), and Augustus (1972). Williams won the National Book Award for this last novel but that’s not the book that contemporary readers know him for, Giddings says. Williams died in 1994, before Stoner, called by some a “perfect novel,” became an international sensation. It is the subject of a 2013 New Yorker article titled “The Greatest American Novel You’ve Never Heard Of.” Butcher’s Crossing was made into a recently released film starring Nicholas Cage.

Giddings is an MSU Texas alumnus who joined the faculty in 1996. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Dallas. He is an expert in American letters, particularly that of native North Texans, including John Williams, Sandra Scofield, Larry McMurtry, and Jan Reid. In addition to classes on American Literature, Giddings engages students at all levels in both literature and writing.

Faculty Forum is a monthly showcase for the research and creative endeavors of the Midwestern State University faculty. It is an opportunity for the campus and Wichita Falls communities to learn, engage, and sometimes discuss the novel ideas and explorations of the talented individuals who teach, discover, and create at MSU Texas. Admission is free and open to all.

Call Jonathan Price at 940-397-4288 for more information.