I met Dorr in 1998. It was the beginning of a good exchange about literary matters, and although we didn’t always agree, we enjoyed a special friendship. I read his works, and he read mine. We respected each other’s writing ability. We were on the same page when it came to politics, religion, an appreciation for family, the written word, and history.
I loved it when I met his beautiful family in his beautiful Sol Terra. By then, I no longer called him Lawrence Dorr, but Janos. With his wife, Clare, and their good friend, Eloise, he was involved in the founding of a church. I, having a minister father and several minister uncles, appreciated their mission and followed the progress of their efforts. I am happy to report All Saint’s Anglican Church is flourishing.
Janos’s first published work appeared in “The Virginia Quarterly Review,” in 1958, marking the beginning of over 50 years of writing short stories. He worked for 25 years as an editor at the U. of Florida, where “he joked that he was paid to 'correct the natives' English'.” For more than thirty years, he taught Creative Writing for Santa Fe College's Continuing Education Program.
Janos knew five languages. He learned his sixth, English, after leaving Hungary, and he often told me English was the best, and most evocative language in which to express and craft subtleties of meanings.
I thought his life story so compelling, it deserved to be told so I wrote a script about his quest. I submitted it to a number of places, but although it was enthusiastically received by readers, it was rejected. The studio people advised me to focus on just one element of Janos’ life. I could not do that because the complexities and tragedies of his post WWII years influenced his writings and his need to build a church. The subject was broad and intertwined. (I am happy to report that his life is now being made into a documentary. At any rate, in the process of writing my script, I met his family, each incredibly talented and successful. I loved it that he was so proud of them. When we chatted by phone—he spent much of his time telling me about their accomplishments.
I was aware that Janos wasn’t well during the last months of his life, nevertheless, when he died at age 93, a light went out in my world. When I got the word, my husband put his arms around me and grieved with me. My family sent me condolences. Janos also will be missed by hundreds of writers, readers, and friends. Somehow the phrase “Janos has left the building” keeps running through my mind. Although he has left us, his stories remain-- not to read and forget. They are compelling --what I call quality literature. As I wrote in 1999, “Dorr’s writing is spare, lean, and masculine. A gifted writer, his images, descriptions, and writing style attest to his extensive knowledge of and familiarity with the classics, music, and art. It is no wonder that he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction.” His writings and characters speak of anger, intrigue, passion, humor, love, redemption, and friendships.” I do believe Dorr stands as one of American’s finest twentieth century writers of fiction.
[Books by Lawrence Dorr: A SLOW, SOFT RIVER, A SLIGHT MOMENTARY AFFLICTION, A BEARER OF DIVINE REVELATION, & THE LONG JOURNEY HOME.]