You may have heard last month how Liam Rector, the director of the Bennington MFA program, where I got my degree, shot himself with his grandmother's shotgun while his wife slept in the next room. It was strange news, if not surprising, exactly, to those who knew him. Liam was the kind of man who would rather go out his own way than be sick and trudging, though it seemed particularly oddly timed as he'd just beaten a bout with cancer.
I remember the day he called me on the phone to let me know I'd been accepted to Bennington. He immediately began telling me to read up on the classics, and then went on to list a bunch of names I'd never heard, and certainly did not know were classics. He was an encyclopedia of language. It was kind of amazing, the way he could spout off quotes and ramble about them in front of the entire student body while perched in the loft of the room where we gathered. There was a running joke among the students about how you rarely got to talk to Liam except in weird circumstances: frequently, the men's room. He seemed to like to pop off and hit you with a weird question or comment when you weren't expecting it. He was a strange man.
Today, Newsweek ran a piece by the brilliant David Gates, who couldn't have written a better elegy.
At the beginning of each Bennington residency, Liam showed the students the Alec Baldwin 'Always Be Closing' speech from GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. It always seemed to befuddle people: why he was playing it, what it had to do with anything. I think I got it. Besides anything else, it's goddamn funny. Liam knew what he was doing.