In Memory

Lee Sandlin

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12/18/14 08:21 AM #1    

Katharine Webster

I was so sorry to learn that Lee Sandlin died suddenly last Saturday night. He was a phenomenal writer and man of letters, writing book reviews for The Wall Street Journal, as well as his own books: "Wicked River: The Mississippi When it Last Ran Wild," "Storm Kings: America's First Tornado Chasers," and "The Distancers." I've read the first two and they are marvellous. 

He was a true iconoclast and had something insightful and funny to say about pretty much everything, from pop culture to classic literature. My favorite memory: Lee and his mom were convinced that "Perry Mason" was really a mental patient, and all Mason's courtroom cases actually dramas staged by his mental health team to help him get better.

A few years ago, I reconnected with him and had the privilege of attending his book launch party for "Wicked River." We exchanged lots of e-mails about writing and our lives. I'll miss him greatly.

Here's the best obituary, with links to more about his work. His website is also wonderful: Last night I listened to a podcast of a radio interview about "Storm Kings" and "Wicked River."


12/19/14 11:07 AM #2    

Elizabeth Addison

I am saddened to learn that Lee Sandlin died suddenly. Although I haven't reconnected with him since High School, he influenced my creative process. As a matter of fact, he came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago when I recalled the following story to my husband and a couple of colleagues.

Lee and I were in Mr. Metzger's English class together. We had an assignment that involved creative description. It was an important assignment that would influence our final grade. It also required reading our work aloud to the class. I stressed and struggled with it. Quite frankly, I can't recall the content of my piece or our other classmates' works. I only recall Lee's stunning example of an emerging iconoclast. He wrote about his writer's block, procrastination, the state of his bed, floor, dirty laundry, dust bunnies, desk... you could almost smell it. It was so completely out of the box and fearless.

I have often invoked his approach during my years in advertising, teaching, and now, finally, as a visual artist, curator, and educator. May he rest in peace. He will always live in my creative soul. Thank you, Lee. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, family, and close friends.

12/19/14 01:55 PM #3    

Chris Wall

I met Lee when I was a freshman at New Trier and for a time we became good friends.  He lived in a gate house on some estate in Winnetka (or was it Glencoe?).  He used to joke about the owner of the house who would come and harass his mother for parking her car and allowing it to touch his bushes.

I don't know why I remember that story but it was vividly Lee.  



He was a gifted writer even then.  He had an eye both for detail and for the absurd - I recall  vividly his writing about characters with names like Ezekiel Marshquardie and publications like Freen's Tool & Die Quarterly.  I was reading SJ Pearlman at the time and he seemed of that ilk:  literate, biting, witty but poking fun in a gentle sort of way.  

I also wound up in advertising and wonder if Lee's influence paved the way for me to make a living with words.  He was the first friend I ever had who could really write...or maybe the first who I noticed was capable of writing with a kind of effortless wit that qualified as "style."  I know it was the first time I ever thought "gee, I wish I could do that."  

We drifted our separate ways as we went through NTE but I've always had a very vivid picture of those days in my head - some of my favorite memories of that era.  I had no idea what became of him, but I just ordered his books.  


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