Passing the Three Gates

Interviews with Charles Johnson

Jim McWilliams

  • Published: 2004
  • Subject Listing: Literary Studies; African American Studies; Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
  • Bibliographic information: 336 pp., 5.5 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: V Ethel Willis White Books
  • Contents

Known for his blending of philosophy, spirituality, humor, and a rollicking good story, Charles Johnson is one of the most important novelists writing today. From his magical first novel, Faith and the Good Thing, to his decidedly philosophical Oxherding Tale; from his swashbuckling indictment of the slave trade in the National Book Award-winning Middle Passage, to his more recent imaginative treatment of Martin Luther King Jr. in Dreamer, Johnson has continually surprised, instructed, and entertained his many avid readers. As this collection of interviews suggests, the novelist is as multifaceted and complex as his novels. Trained in cartooning and philosophy, martial arts and meditation, and producing teleplays, photobiographies, and literary criticism in addition to fiction, Charles Johnson represents a model of what he calls "life as art."

Alluding to the "Three Gates" of Buddhist "Right Speech," the title of this volume aptly captures the generous spirit that characterizes Charles Johnson's work. An indispensable resource for all of Johnson's many readers, Passing the Three Gates represents both the transformation of the artist over time and the continuity and endurance of his aesthetic and spiritual vision.
Jim McWilliams is associate professor of English at Dickinson State University, North Dakota.
Foreword / Charles Johnson
Preface / Jim McWilliams
Chronology of Charles Johnson's Life

Reflections on Film, Philosophy, and Fiction: An Interview with Charles Johnson (1978) / Ken McCullough
Charles Johnson (1987) / Nicholas O'Connell
Being and Race: An Interview with Charles Johnson (1988) / George Myers, Jr.
Author Navigates Uncharted Waters: Middle Passage Takes Readers on a Spirited Journey (1990) / M. L. Lyke
Winner of National Book Award Won't Be a "Voice of Black America" (1991) / Peter Monaghan
The Philosopher and the American Novel (1991) / Q and A at the California State Library
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1991) / Cyra McFadden
An Interview with Charles Johnson (1992) / Phoebe Bosche
A Life in Balance Through Martial Arts (1992) / Tim Allen
An Interview with Charles Johnson (1993) / Jonathan Little
An Interview with Charles Johnson (1993) / Marian Blue
Charles Johnson: Interview (1993) / Linda Davies
Interviews with Northwest Writers: Charles Johnson (1993) / Irene Wanner
An Interview with Charles Johnson (1996) / Michael Boccia
A Man of His Word (1998) / Beth Grubb
A Conversation with Charles Johnson (1998) / William R. Nash
The Human Dimension: An Interview with Writer-Philosopher Charles Johnson (1999) / Charles Mudede
An Interview with Charles Johnson (2002) / Jennifer Levasseur and Kevin Rabalais
An Interview with Charles Johnson (2003) / Jim McWilliams
Shoulder to the Wheel: An Interview with Charles Johnson (2003) / John Whalen-Bridge

Works by Charles Johnson
Works about Charles Johnson's Fiction
Additional Interviews with Charles Johnson

"Essential material for the reader interested in Johnson's life and work, and also interested more broadly in contemporary American literature. Johnson's standing as public intellectual, and as a force to be reckoned with in all cultural debates in America, is well recognized; but this book expresses his thought with a coherence and complexity that heretofore has not been available."
-African American Review