The Columns

A New Yorker Shout-Out to Terry Brooks '69 Law

— by on June 14th, 2012

The New Yorker magazine devoted its June 4 and 11 double issue to science fiction and published several essays by well-known writers in the genre. One of the contributors chose as her subject a member of the Washington and Lee Law Class of 1969: novelist Terry Brooks.

The essayist is Karen Russell, author of the acclaimed recent novel “Swamplandia!” She writes in “Quests” about reading Brooks’ “The Sword of Shannara” in fifth grade during a reading contest that awarded gift certificates to the local Pizza Hut. “You’re only ten,” she writes, “but you’re still pretty sure you ought to feel embarrassed about the unnameable emotions stirred in you by imaginary beings, the elves especially.”

She devoured his books around the clock, especially after she learned that some adults —like her parents — didn’t exactly consider them literature. Her response? “In the dead of night, keep reading Terry Brooks until you’re out of books.”

The object of Russell’s affection, Terry Brooks, grew up in Illinois, earned his undergraduate degree in English literature, and then attended W&L. As he tells it on his website, he’d been writing all kinds of stories since high school. During college, he read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” and he knew he’d found his calling. For a while, he practiced law and wrote simultaneously. After he published the Shannara trilogy, though, he turned to writing full time. Today he has at least 30 books to his credit, with more to come.

The New Yorker essay online requires a subscription, but is well worth a read. If you don’t have the double issue on your bedside in that stack of New Yorkers you’re planning to read at your leisure, maybe you can borrow it from your neighbor or peruse it at the library.