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The Next Best Thing

For David 1: The Great Lie of Ideals

- By Brion Dulac

An introduction to David Lenson's lecture at the Commonwealth Honors College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, on February 13, 2013.



Here are only a very few representative samples of the many, many evaluations made by students with regard to David Lenson and his teaching:


One of the most incredible professors that I have ever had.
He will change your perspective on things and shake up your world.
Lenson is absolutely brilliant. His books are messed up, but so...

The Next Best Thing

For David 2: A Way of Living

- By Aaron Hellem

(Photo: David Lenson, from the 1963 Nutley High School yearbook)

When I remember David Lenson it is his kind eyes and his wicked grin, full of mischief, as though he had just eaten a bird and was waiting, even hoping, for someone to notice.

The first time I met him was in the classroom, during a graduate seminar he taught on the Double in literature. He was the first professor in my experience at UMass to open up possibilities rather than limit them, which in graduate school it seemed everyone was aspiring to do. He explored every tangent not as a tangent but as a tributary that eventually would lead everyone to the same ocean. The one big note. It feels fitting now in retrospect what I first learned...

The Next Best Thing

For David 3: This Is a Professor

- By Mark Edmundson

(Photo: David Lenson at three. Courtesy of Barry Lenson.)

David R. Lenson—comp lit professor at UMass Amherst and one of the best teachers I have had—has passed away. He had been sick a long time, victim of a serious stroke. I took a course called “The Double in Literature” with David in the fall of 1971, his first term teaching at UMass I think. He was astonishingly young—25 or so. He amazed me and all of us in that class with his learning, wit, powers of articulation, generosity, and kindness. He rendered the drama of ideas superbly: what they were and meant, where they came from, why they mattered. His office hours were a party—wine, beer, snacks, students flowing in and out. He was a...

The Next Best Thing

For David 4: Be That Teacher

- By Bunkong Tuon

(David Lenson at his sixtieth birthday party, with Bo Henderson. Tobey Photo.)

When I first heard of David, I was a graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature at UMass Amherst in 2000. Every graduate student spoke highly of him then, as they do now and, I am sure, will continue to do so, singing his praise. I was a shy awkward kid; as a former refugee, I didn’t know what I was doing in graduate school. So at department gatherings, I tended to mingle with a few students I was comfortable with and stay away from faculty.

In 2001, I was assigned to be one of David’s three TAs for his “Brave New Worlds” class. When all of us met to go over the class, David was...

The Next Best Thing

For David 5: Ride the Music

- By David's friends and family

(Photo: David Lenson, courtesy of Pamela Glaven)

A little over a week ago, David Lenson died at home, in his Mill Hollow apartment in Amherst. A poet, essayist, musician, and legendary professor, he was seventy-five years old.

Brother Barry remembers David as a Victory Baby, born in 1945; the boys grew up together in Nutley, New Jersey. Their mother June was an aspiring poet; their father Michael was director of the murals project for the Works Progress Administration in New Jersey and painted murals in Newark City Hall and Weequahic High School. The Jewish comedian Sam Levenson was their uncle. From his youngest days Dave wrote poems and played the saxophone in combos that practiced “Tequila...

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