Guest post by Deborah Jakubs, Ph.D., University Librarian Emerita
Michael Malone, former Duke professor of Theater Studies and English and Durham native who died on August 19, 2022, was truly many things to many people. Novelist, television writer, crafter of mysteries, gifted teacher, award winner—he was all that, as well as the producer of local plays and musicals, host of cabarets and soirees, a true community builder with a generous heart and a wicked wit. As his close friend writer Allan Gurganus noted, Michael “was so many people and… had so many gifts. You’re not sure which Michael to mourn. You feel like you’re losing more than one person.”
Malone was the author of fourteen works of fiction, including Handling Sin, Uncivil Seasons, and Dingley Falls, and wrote short stories and nonfiction as well as plays and musicals. He gained success and renown as the head writer for the daytime soap opera One Life to Live, winning an Emmy in 1994. He also won the Edgar Allen Poe Award and the O’Henry Award for his short fiction.
I was fortunate to know Michael and his wife Maureen Quilligan, the R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor Emerita, and count them as friends. We met not long after Maureen came to Duke from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000 to chair the Department of English, and Michael joined Theater Studies. We developed a fast friendship. It was impossible not to fall under Michael’s spell, to be won over by his irrepressible creativity and curiosity about people and their lives. Being in his company was always joyful.
From the moment of their arrival on campus, Michael and Maureen were enthusiastic fans of the Duke Libraries. They often expressed their gratitude for the extensive collections and the expertise of individual librarians and archivists. That appreciation led Michael to give his papers to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 2008. The Libraries celebrated the acquisition of his archive as well as the publication of his ninth novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, with a reading and book signing in April 2009.
Malone was an unabashed fan of Charles Dickens. He and Gurganus (whose papers are also in the Rubenstein) collaborated for over a decade on the annual two-man performance of A Christmas Carol at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough. In 2012, to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and in conjunction with the library exhibition, Charles Dickens: 200 Years of Commerce and Controversy, the Libraries hosted “consummate Dickensian” Malone impersonating characters from Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and Great Expectations. In a DukeToday story about the event, he said: “Keep a Dickens novel around you always. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry, you’ll be eager to know what happens next.” I’d say keep a Malone novel around, too, for the same reasons.
Michael will be missed by many, many people whose lives he touched. As photographer and Hillsborough resident Elizabeth Matheson noted, “He believed so thoroughly in community and that at its best, life should be a feast where everyone is invited.” Thank you, Michael, for hosting the feast.