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William Melvin Kelley

William Melvin Kelley photo

William Melvin Kelley (November 1, 1937 – February 1, 2017) was a prominent novelist and short-story writer.

William Melvin Kelley attended Fieldston School and Harvard University. While a student at Harvard, he was awarded the Dana Reed Prize for creative writing.

He taught literature and writing at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and the University of Paris, Nanterre. He also taught at the New School for Social Research and at Sarah Lawrence College from 1989 until his death.

From the beginning of his career in 1962, William Melvin Kelley employed his distinctive form of African American comedy to examine the absurdities surrounding American racial attitudes.

His first novel, A Different Drummer, showed the influence of William Faulkner by creating a microcosm in a mythical southern state; his last, Dancers on the Shore, pays tribute to James Joyce's stylistic innovations. Like Faulkner's, his works are connected by a cast of common characters. —Robert E. Fleming, excerpted from The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997)

In 2008, Kelley received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Kelley died on February 1, 2017. He was 79.

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Printed: January 20, 2018, 8:49 am
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