Reviving the Lit Fest Where Ray Met Tess

L to R: Melissa Kirsch, Michael Narducci, April Wilder, student moderator Josh Duke

"It's what occupies the space of a literary life outside of New York," wrote a wistful Richard Ford in the New Yorker in 1998, remembering neither Yaddo nor Shakespeare & Co., but the 1977 Southern Methodist University Literary Festival in Dallas. This was the glittering annual colloquium where Ford first met Raymond Carver—and where Carver first met his second wife, Tess Gallagher—where Cheever, Styron and Bellow headlined readings and their liquor-soaked afterparties. Alas, due to lack of funds and other bureaucratic hurdles, the Fest has lain dormant for over a decade.

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