Ohio connection: Resident
Lee Kittredge Abbott, writer and educator, was a professor of English for more than three decades, teaching at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio for twelve years before transferring to Ohio State University (OSU) in 1989 where he taught until his retirement in 2012. Abbott was born in the Panama Canal Zone, on October 17, 1947, and reared in New Mexico, where most of his short stories are set. Abbott once described the American Southwest as “what I know…it’s a place where the firsts happened: first drunk, first sex, first death. It’s where I came to adulthood.” Abbott’s writing with its “invigorating prose,” “antic, smart-alecky style,” and “lush style of speech” earned much critical praise.
Abbott devoted himself almost exclusively to, and became a master at, the craft of short story writing. He was the author of seven highly praised and award-winning short story collections that include: The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting (1980), Love is a Crooked Thing (1986), Strangers in Paradise (1987), Dreams of Distant Lives (1989), Living After Midnight (1991), Wet Places at Noon (1997) and All Things, All at Once: New and Selected Stories (2006). He also collaborated with other writers, contributing to, along with other authors, published collections: The Company of Dogs (“Where is Garland Steeples Now?”) (1990); The Grateful Dead Reader (“Dead Reckoning and Hamburger Metaphysics”) (2000); The Putt at the End of the World (Chapter Four: “Never Up, Never In”) (2001); Letters to J. D. Salinger (2002) and Scoring from Second: Writers on Baseball (Foreword) (2007). Abbott’s short stories and essays appeared in The Best American Short Stories (1984 and 1987), The Atlantic, Georgia Review, Harper’s, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares and Story Quarterly.
Abbott was the recipient of the 2004 Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2007 OSU promoted him to Humanities Distinguished Professor. He also taught as a writer in residence or visiting faculty at Wichita State University, Southwest Texas State University, Yale University, Antioch College, Miami University, and the University of Michigan. Known as a dynamic and engaging teacher, students gave him good reviews consistently. After retiring to his native New Mexico, Abbott was named Distinguished Visiting Professor within the English Department of his alma mater, New Mexico University.
Lee K. Abbott died of Leukemia on April 29, 2019 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1979 and 1985; St. Lawrence Award for Fiction, Fiction International, 1981, for The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting; O. Henry Prize, Doubleday & Co., 1984, for “Living Alone in Iota,” and 1997; Prize for Fiction, Story Quarterly, 1985, for “Youth on Mars”; National Magazine Award from Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and Editors’ Choice Award from Wampeter-Doubleday, both 1986, both for “Time and Fear and Somehow Love”; Pushcart Prize, Pushcart Press, 1986, for “X,” 1987, and 1989, for “The Era of Great Numbers”; Major Artist Fellowship, Ohio Arts Council, 1991-92; Governor’s Award for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, 1993; Syndicated Fiction Award, 1995.
KR Podcast. From the Kenyon Review, in this 2016 episode novelist Nick White talks to Lee K. Abbott.
“Lee K. Abbott: Craft Talk.” Lecture given at Colgate University on June 18, 2003.