Remembering Alan Cheuse, Our Longtime Literary Guide

Alan Cheuse was our guide to the best and worst of the written word for more than 30 years. (Josh Cheuse)
Alan Cheuse was our guide to the best and worst of the written word for more than 30 years. (Josh Cheuse)

A member of the All Things Considered family has died. Alan Cheuse, who reviewed books on our air nearly every week since the early 1980s, passed away today after a car accident in California two weeks ago. He was 75 years old.

In two minutes every week, Alan paid his respects to good writing in his soft, intense, passionate voice.

Who ever read as much as Alan did? When he wasn't reading, he was teaching — over the years at Bennington, the University of Virginia, University of Michigan, and for the last two-plus decades, at George Mason University. And when he wasn't reading and teaching, he was writing. Five novels, novellas, short stories, textbooks.

It's a miracle that he found time for the solitude and concentration that writing demands: He was at the center of literary life in Washington, D.C., and a truly loving husband, father, and grandfather. But Alan did manage to do it all. Summers in Santa Cruz gave him solitary writing time, and time to teach at the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. It was driving back from Northern California that he had the car accident.

Alan Cheuse was such a generous man. He always made time for his students. He always had suggestions to us, about writers to keep track of, as well as ones to avoid. He was a wonderful, caring, funny friend, full of stories and totally apt literary quotations. Good gossip too.

Those who knew him will remember him for all of that. Listeners will remember, and thank him, for all the reading in our behalf.

We welcome your memories of Alan in the comments section.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Alan Cheuse reviewed books for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED nearly every week since 1981. NPR's Susan Stamberg helped bring him to this program, and it's with a heavy heart for all of us here that today she brings us a remembrance. Alan was in a car accident in California earlier this month. He died today at age 75.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: That soft, intense, passionate voice - in just two minutes, Alan paid his respects to good writing from one of his last reviews in early June of Karim Dimechkie's novel "Lifted by the Great Nothing."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: There's just so much of everything going on in these pages. It captured my attention completely in this charming novel about function and dysfunction, giving and loving, so much that made me wonder, made me laugh.

STAMBERG: Whoever read as much as Alan Cheuse did? When he wasn't reading, he was teaching over the years at Bennington, the University of Virginia, University of Michigan and, for the last two-plus decades, at George Mason University. And when he wasn't reading and teaching, he was writing - five novels, novellas, short stories, textbooks. How he found time for the solitude and concentration that writing demands is a miracle.

Plus, he was at the center of literary life in Washington, D.C., and was a truly loving husband, father, grandfather. But Alan did manage to do it all. Summers in Santa Cruz gave him solitary writing time. But out West, he also taught at the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. It was driving back from Northern California that he had the car accident.

Alan Cheuse was such a generous man. He always made time for his students. He always had suggestions to us about writers to keep track of as well as ones to avoid. He was a wonderful, caring, funny friend full of stories and totally apt literary quotations, good gossip too. Those who knew him will remember him for all of that. Listeners will remember and thank him for all that reading in our behalf. I'm Susan Stamberg.

BLOCK: And we offer these words from the family of Alan Cheuse. In his honor tonight, please raise a glass of wine or whatever you may be drinking, tell a joke, hug someone you love, be kind and read a great story. This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.