Charles R. Johnson Tribute To Ricardo Quinones

When Charles Johnson, who will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, March 14 at the tribute to Dr. Ricardo Quinones, captured the National Book Award for his novel Middle Passage, he became the first African American male to receive such formal recognition since Ralph Ellison some 40 years earlier. Often described as literary and intellectual heir to Ellison, Richard Wright, and John Gardner (under whose tutelage he wrote his first novel, Faith and the Good Thing), Johnson has always brought to his fiction, essays, and criticism the kind of preparedness, expansiveness of view, and devotion to craft characteristic of, and essential to, an artist of the highest order. Soulcatcher and Other Stories, published in 2001, is the most recent Johnson’s many books, which include four novels, two collections of short stories, two collections of comic art, and two works of aesthetics and criticism (Being and Race: Black Writing Since 1970 and I Call Myself an Artist: Writing By and About Charles Johnson, edited by Rudolf Byrd).

In the nearly 40 years since Dr. Quinones first arrived at CMC, he has earned an international reputation in comparative literature-especially as a critic of Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and writers of the Italian Renaissance; and as a Dante scholar with few peers (“the premier Dantista in North America,” as the editor of Lectura Dantis described Dr. Quinones). His commanding classroom presence, humor, and accessibility made him an early winner of the Huntoon Award for Outstanding Teaching. As teacher, scholar, and founding director of the Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, Quinones’s influence on the cultural and intellectual life of the College and community has been profound and all-encompassing.

Johnson worked on Dreamer for more than seven years. Set in Chicago in the summer of 1966, this extraordinary historical novel focuses principally, of course, upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Quite early in the novel, however, Johnson introduces one Chaym Smith, a perfect body double and spiritual alter-ego of Dr. King. Johnson attests that what enabled him to flesh out the character of Chaym Smith-and thereby realize and render most forcefully and truthfully the Cain/Abel dichotomy-was Ricardo Quinones’s The Changes of Cain, which Johnson calls “scholarship at its finest.”

The event is free and open to the public on a first-come basis. For dinner reservations and additional information visit http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/mmca or call extension 18244 or 621-8244.