The news of Philip Gerard’s death was the kind of shock that tempts you to think it can’t possibly be true. His vitality was of a kind that seemed irreducible and essential.
Philip was indeed essential to North Carolina’s literary community, playing so many fundamental roles for so long that it became hard to remember he hadn’t always been here. Born and educated in Delaware, he came to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and founded the MFA in Creative Writing program there. His novel Cape Fear Rising was one of the first attempts to reveal the truth of the 1898 Wilmington coup, for which he faced considerable backlash in his adopted state and city.
He kept on serving that city and state, though, and kept on writing. He became a regular contributor to Our State, published 14 books of fiction and nonfiction, wrote television documentaries and radio essays and dramas, and in 2019 received the North Carolina Award for Literature.
And yes, he was going to teach at the Network’s 2022 Fall Conference next week.
“Writing,” Philip once wrote, “uses all of you—everything you have learned, all your patience, your sense of humor, your beliefs, your imagination, your sense of composition, and ultimately your entire character. Thus it is deeply rewarding, and it never runs out.”
Very soon we will need to figure out how we’re going to deal with his absence—emotionally as well as practically.
For now, though, we are only going to mourn our friend and teacher, a writer and a human we have so long admired.