Douglas Day

Scanning through the New York Times Books section, I came across an article about the death of one of my grad school professors, Douglas Day:

Douglas Day, a biographer and critic who won a National Book Award in 1974 for his life of the English novelist Malcolm Lowry, died on Oct. 10 in his home in Charlottesville, Va. He was 72.

Dr. Day, who had a debilitating stroke in February, committed suicide, his daughter, Emily Day Whitworth, said….

He was a kind man and an enjoyable professor. Unlike many of my UVa professors, he patiently discussed my work with me and didn’t seem the least perturbed when I stopped by his office to ask him a question or two. How terribly sad that his life had to end in such an abrupt and violent way.

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6 Responses to Douglas Day

  1. Ben's Florida Grandma says:

    It IS sad to read that life had become unbearable for your former professor, Karl. He was a man of accomplishment, and some kindness, as you experienced.
    His life must have been threaded with sadness and turmoil, however; the obituary states that he was into his fifth marriage, and that the subject of his major work was an alcoholic who took his own life as well.
    Perhaps the earnest questions of an intelligent and stable young man gave him some peace, and encouragement about the next generation . . . .

  2. Alex Finlayson says:

    Researching Doug Day to write an entry for him in Wikipedia, I came across your tribute. He was one of the best teachers of my life, as much for how he lived as for what he taught in the classroom. He was a maverick in the UVa English department and never worried about his reputation. When I knew him in the early 70s he had just appeared as a model in a car ad– for the money! Later when we corresponded, I learned that a seminar I had asked him to teach in Latin American literature became his departmental responsibility from then on. He had been taught by William Faulkner, and he lived like Hemingway, even to the end. There are no more like him. Thank you for paying tribute.

  3. Tom Taylor says:

    I, too, have good memories of Doug Day — he was my advisor in the 1970’s and I house-sat for him and Elizabeth on several occasions. He wore leather pants and was an expert in Lorca as well. A stroke is a cruel fate for a man like him.

  4. Marjorie Macdonald says:

    Hi Karl.
    We live in Virginia about 45 minutes north of UVA Today I found your weblog as I researched Doug Day. Like you I thought he was wonderful and for me quite an inspiration. He was never too busy to see any of us and discuss our ideas at length. One of my fondest memories of him was his lecture to us on “the vacuousness of grad students”. To explain I have to sent the scene
    . In our Latin Amer Lit there were three foreign students, one girl from Japan, a guy from France and myself from Jamaica. It had become pretty obvious over the course of the semester that we were the only ones actively participating in class/lecture discussion, so we three decided that for the next lecture when Doug asked a question we would remain silent and see what the others would do. We were at the time discussing One Hundred Years of Solitude, with which I had no problem. It wasn’t as fantastic as my northern neighbours made it out to be. In Jamaica it rains butterflies all the time and we see ghosts, we just call them duppies. Anyway Doug asked a question & no one answered. There was this awful silence and a wait. He waited, we waited, then he gave the lecture on vacuousness of grad students, and I thought it was all funny until he said that if someone did not have something to say he would leave. I felt so embarrassed by the whole episode that I found something to say and the class continued with us three foreigners still the only students to participate.
    Doug would visit us at our place in the country, the last time probably in 2003 when he and Sheila and another mutual friend came to dinner. We lost touch as we got busy running our business and trying to make a living, but I always knew that another friend of mine was in constant communication with him. I hadn’t heard anything from or of him so I thought I would search him on the web, ask him to dinner etc. and was devastated to find that he had died. Although many of the remembrances mentioned Malcolm Lowery there is no mention of Hemmingway whom Doug admired very much.
    Like you we read the New Yorker every week and our favourite writer is Hertzberg

  5. Don Hannah says:

    I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1955. I was qualified to graduate in 1954, but I deferred my graduation and used the extra year at UVA to spend time making sure that the UVA Polo Club would be strong enough to survive. I had started the club in 1951 and I am pleased to say that it has survived and continues to thrive, thanks to the many students and local Charlottesville supporters that have contributed to its success.
    I just happened to come across the information about Doug Day’s life and death. Doug was an early member of our polo club and I remember his efforts and dedication toward making our polo club dream come true. I also remember awarding Doug “The Don Hannah Most Improved Player” trophy in June of 1955.
    I knew that Doug joined the Marines after collage, and until now, I had no idea of the remarkable life he led after graduation. I have returned to UVA often over the years, but for some reason never knew that Doug was there . . . what a shame! I would have loved to have seen Doug and shared fellow “maverick” stories.
    May his soul rest in peace.
    Don Hannah UVA 1955

  6. Ian Day says:


    I know that my father would have loved to have re-connected with you.

    It’s quite a reach for me to imagine my old man riding around on a pony, ever. I’m sure it happened as I’m sure I’d have met you at some time in my life had it not been for the accident in 56.

    I was only a few day’s old when I first met him. My father, D.T.D. the third was lying prone, in traction, with a cast from his toes to his chest but was still able to muster up enough energy to toss me around above him, smiling away,… until I promptly threw up on him.

    How do you do? Ian Christopher Day, Born: Tripler Army Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii, November,21, 1956

    I’ve played squash with him a few times, only because he was able to throw the racket from one hand to the other in the nick of time and was not afraid to fall, or hit me if I was fool enough to be in the line of fire.

    He’s been at the wheel of one or more of my airplanes although it was nothing like “boring holes through the sky” as he loved to do in fighter jets before I came along.

    I even piled him onto the back of a motorcycle of mine in the 70’s and took him for a ride which nearly wacked us both, but he never told me of having ridden polo pony’s.

    Towards the end, he told me that he regretted having lost touch with most of his pre accident buddies.

    If you’re ever in Charlottesville again, please come visit me and Lucinda at the “Southern Crescent Galley and Bar” 814 Hinton Ave.

    We’ll be open in the spring 2012.

    Our son Andrew has been instrumental in the whole project however has taken teaching positions at U. Chicago and DePaul. Creative writing no less. He got tired of waiting for us to get going.Ian Day

    His significant other, Hannah Pittard, also teaching in Chicago,{MFA, UVA} has just had her novel published. “The Fates Will Find Their Way”. Check it out!

    Ian Day

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