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Another Look: Walter Tevis’s The Queen’s Gambit

EVT 580
Feb 4
7:30 pm
Bechtel Conference Center, Encina Hall
Status: No Registration Required

The Another Look book club focuses on short classics that have been forgotten, neglected, or overlooked—or may simply not have received the attention they merit. The selected works are short, in order to encourage the involvement of Bay Area readers whose time may be limited. Subscription at anotherlook.stanford.edu is encouraged for regular updates and details on the selected books and events.

Walter Tevis’s The Queen’s Gambit

Walter Tevis is best known for his three novels that were turned into major films: The Hustler, The Color of Money, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Born in San Francisco and raised in the Sunset District, his parents later relocated to Kentucky after receiving a grant of land in Madison County. Before reuniting with his family, Tevis spent a year in the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children, which later became the Stanford Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. To celebrate the author’s "homecoming," Another Look will discuss his less-known masterpiece, The Queen's Gambit.

The Queen's Gambit is a novel about the contradictory human compulsions toward selftranscendence and self-destruction experienced by Beth Harmon, a sullen and unremarkable orphan—until she plays her first game of chess. By age sixteen, she is playing chess at the U.S. Open Championship and competing as the underdog in a game dominated by boys and men. The Queen's Gambit follows the intense mental and existential pressures that a chess champion must endure in order to remain at the top of the game. New York Times critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called it the best novel on chess since Nabokov’s Defense, encouraging readers to “[c]onsider it as a psychological thriller a contest, pitting human rationality against the self's unconscious urge to wipe out thought.… given Mr. Tevis's skills as a writer and dramatist, one quickly catches the drift of each game without having to understand the technicalities.”

Following the discussion will be a question-and-answer session with the panelists.

Robert Pogue Harrison
Rosina Pierotti Professor of Italian Literature, Stanford; Host of “Entitled Opinions” (KZSU Radio); Director, Another Look

Tobias Wolff
Ward W. and Priscilla B Woods Professor of English, Emeritus, Stanford; Author; Founding Director, Another Look

Inga Pierson
English Teacher, Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton; Former Lecturer in French & Italian, Stanford
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