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Meet...Tom LeClair

If you don’t know Tom LeClair, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of English, you’re missing an opportunity.

Date: 6/14/2004
By: Billie Dziech
Phone: 556-1707
If you don’t know Tom LeClair, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of English, you’re missing an opportunity. LeClair’s third novel. Passing On, has just been published by Greekworks Press, and it is as imaginative as Passing Off and Well-Founded Fear, the two works that preceded it.

Passing On is the story of an ex-basketball player who takes terminally ill people on trips they can’t manage by themselves. Eventually he is overwhelmed by the dying, but one of his clients becomes healthier the longer they travel, so he is confronted with the dilemma of deciding whether to keep going or return the woman to her family. Robin Sheets, a friend and former member of LeClair’s department, was “a great traveler,” and he says the novel was, in part, his “way of keeping her alive.”

For a person whose education began in a one-room school in Vermont, Le Clair has come a long way. His undergraduate degree was from Boston College and his MA from the University of Vermont. He earned his PhD at Duke and taught for two years at Norwich University before coming to UC in 1970.

He taught at the University of Athens in 1981-82 and has since spent his sabbaticals and summers in Athens. In fact, he attributes his shift to fiction from critical writing to “being tired of dragging books to Greece,” where he does most of his work.

He’s adamant about never having required students to buy his books but does recall asking a creative writing workshop to read one of his stories that was online “and therefore free.” “They hated it and told me so,” he admits. “Then I had to explain everything they missed, and they hated me more.”

If you ask LeClair about the future, he can be both philosophical and entrepreneurial: “Even the most complex and engaged fiction is marginalized by the media. As a slow learner, I’ve only recently realized that just about the only people who read fiction are academics. So I’ve started a novel about Queen City College (known as Quick Change College to Cincinnatians). I plan to make some money on this one. I’ll be charging colleagues who want to be in the book and collecting payments from those who don’t want to be included.”

Of course, if you ask again, you might get a different answer: “Having published Passing Off and Passing On, I have decided to make the rest of my life’s work exhausting all possibilities of Passing fiction.”

Information about Passing On is available on the following web site:

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