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Homage to Lance Mannion

One day he saw a home made sign I’d made, calling for folks to read books aloud to a blind Ph.D. student. He turned up at my door.

Photo of the author, courtesy Stephen Kuusisto

I lost a good friend just over a year ago and I’ve been mourning him ever since. He was the author of a marvelous blog with the nom de plume “Lance Mannion” but in real life he was Edwin David Reilly. Like so many in these pandemic times he died too soon though it wasn’t COVID that got him but good old heart disease. This morning, walking my dog in the first heat of summer I thought of all the ways his friendship changed my life.

But first l want to say something about the name of his blog.

“Lance Mannion” comes from an episode of “Cheers” the iconic 80’s sitcom about a neighborhood bar in Boston. “Sam” the bartender (played brilliantly by Ted Danson) is a lothario who, in a comic moment, admits to using the name Lance Mannion while flirting with women.

Dave Reilly took the name for a blog which turned into a sensation in the early 2000’s in the first wave of literary blogs and you can still visit it. Of course the website had nothing to do with Danson’s Lance. Instead Reilly created “Mannionville” — a place of family joys, old style Kennedy liberalism, and bookish ideas. Lance Mannion the blogger was a descendent of Dickens, especially the Dickens of “Household Words.” Shortly after its launch the Lance Mannion site attracted literary attention and many many friends in the “blogosphere.” David turned “Lance” from Cheers into a public intellectual. It was elegant fun.

I met him thirty years ago while was working on a doctorate at the University of Iowa. You have to picture me, a blind graduate student trying to earn a literature degree before the Americans with Disabilities Act. There was no assistive technology. I had to rely on people to read to me. Dave was earning his MFA in fiction writing from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. One day he saw a home made sign I’d made, calling for folks to read books aloud to a blind Ph.D. student. He turned up at my door.

What to say? He was earnest, thoughtful, generous, and richly amusing. We hit it off “above and beyond” the business of reading aloud. We became…

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