restricted access John Ditsky: A Gathering of Accolades
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John Ditsky:
A Gathering of Accolades
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Suzette and John Ditsky

I knew John Ditsky from participating with him on a dozen or more panels at conferences and academic meetings over many years. I was always impressed with his thoughtful and well-prepared contributions—he was a remarkable scholar and writer. But perhaps most of all, I was struck by his originality. He would take a frequently discussed work and approach it from a new angle and always with a penetrating depth of understanding. And he had a wonderful sense of humor that was sometimes surprising in such a serious and dedicated scholar. I can see him now, dressed in suit and tie (always), tall, slightly bent over the podium, looking out over his glasses. And every now and then an almost imperceptible smile would come to his lips as he would bring his humor to bear on the subject at hand. He wouldn't even recognize the audience's response, but go on in his serious, scholarly way, to inform and occasionally surprise us. He was certainly one of a kind, a star among us, and those of us in Steinbeck studies were very fortunate to have had his dedication for so many years.

—Jack Benson

Capturing the rare combination of qualities that could communicate an apt portrait of John Ditsky is a difficult task. At conferences he was a quiet, decorous, and dignified presence. His scholarship was exemplary. He was that rare combination [End Page 17] both critic and poet. In person I found him almost shy and a bit formal. My "Ditsky Correspondence" file, however, presents a quite different man. His sense of humor shines through. My customary sign off, "con cariño" (with affection), inspired his "con whatever," "con salsa," "cariño yourself" and "cariño right back." One letter contained a gift certificate good for one visit to the office of Jack Kevorkian, M.D. Occasionally there was a copy of a Guindon comic strip. Often, the letters are signed "John and Sue" as we had not only a professional, but also a couple's relationship. Expecting our usual conference meal together, Jay and I were surprised last March when we picked Sue up at the Sun Valley Lodge and John did not join us. It was an ominous sign. John dedicated his Third International Steinbeck Congress Keynote address to me; it will always be a personal and professional highlight of my life. We will all miss John Ditsky.

—Mimi Gladstein

I first met John Ditsky at the Nantucket Conference on "Steinbeck and The Environment" in 1992. I was in awe. Here was a man whose work I had read during my Ph.D. studies and whom I had often quoted in my dissertation. John greeted me warmly as a colleague rather than as an outsider or neophyte. He was affable and friendly. We met again over the years in San Jose, in Pittsburgh for a NEMLA session, and in New York City where we had drinks with Elaine Steinbeck. As time went by, he fostered my scholarship, contributing to my book, Cain Sign and offering assistance for the Steinbeck bibliography. Our last meeting was in Sun Valley where John graciously stopped to congratulate me after a performance of Sam Shepard's Buried Child. His approval and acceptance meant a lot. His sudden death two months later seemed implausible. But his prolific and insightful criticism lives on. Multi-talented, unassuming, humorous, and outgoing—these were John's attributes. In his work, he laid the groundwork for future studies, opening doors where others would follow and explore in even more depth. His legacy remains the challenge to [End Page 18] move beyond the obvious—to "break through" to new and more complex interpretations of an author whose work remains under-appreciated.

—Michael J. Meyer

John Ditsky was a contributor to the Steinbeck Newsletter in 1993-1994, when I did my first stint as acting Director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies. He wrote a lively review of Brian Moore's novel, No Other Life, just published by Doubleday. It was one of those topics that John was always engaging, mildly...