William S. Wilson on the Internet

William S. Wilson

The below were mostly rescued from Google, 19 August 2005; somebody needed to do this. Needs more organization & updating. Compiled by Dan Visel, email dbvisel AT gmail.com. I am not, of course, William S. Wilson, just a friend.

4 February 2016: Bill Wilson passed away on Monday 1 February 2016. Like many others, I will miss him tremendously. I’ll gather notes and post them here as I find them or as people send them. His family’s announcement:

Dear Friends,

We are writing with the sad news that our father, Bill Wilson, died on Monday February 1st, 2016. He suffered a swift heart attack following cancer surgery. We were relieved that his daughter-in-law Mary was by his side at the time.

He is of course deeply missed by his family, including our spouses and partners—Mary, Stephanie Grant, and Aseel Sawalha—and Bill’s four grandchildren—Jackson, Alex, Augusta, and Josephine.

There will be a small, private memorial gathering for his family and friends, and we warmly invite you to join us there: Sunday, February 7th, 2016, from 4–6 pm in Reddens Funeral Home (325 West 14th Street, New York, 10014). Neither RSVP nor flowers are necessary.

Please know that other well-wishers will be invited to join us in a larger birthday celebration memorial in early April this year.

The first formal obituary is copied below and will be published in the New York Times this Friday and Sunday.

With warm regards,
Kate Wilson, Ara Wilson, Andrew Wilson

William S. Wilson III (1932–2016)

William S. Wilson, 83, beloved brother, father and grandfather, died in Manhattan on Monday, February 1, 2016 from cardiac arrest. Born in Baltimore, April 7, 1932, he was raised in Maryland, attended the University of Virginia for his B.A., and Yale University for his Ph.D. He taught college as a professor of English in Queens College, City University of New York from 1962 until his retirement in the early 1990s. While raising three children in Chelsea, he published a collection of short stories, Why I Don’t Write Like Franz Kafka (1975), and the novel Birthplace (1982). The son of assemblage artist May Wilson, he was deeply involved in the post-war New York art world, the subject of his numerous published essays. Survivors include his sister, Betty Jane Butler, children Katherine, Ara and Andrew and grandchildren Jack, Alex, Augusta and Josephine. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be offered in his honor to PBS public television or the High Line or the Baltimore Museum. A celebratory birthday memorial is planned for early April, 2016, in Manhattan.


(See this LibraryThing page.)


  • Paris Review 70 (summer 1977), includes “Conveyance: ‘The story I would never want Bill Wilson to read'”. On Amazon, Bookfinder, LibraryThing.
  • Antaeus 19 (autumn 1975); includes Joseph McElroy’s “Wilson’s Métier,” on Wilson’s fiction. On Amazon, Bookfinder, LibraryThing.
  • Antaeus 20 (winter 1976). On Amazon, Bookfinder, LibraryThing.
  • Antaeus 21/22 (spring/summer 1976). On Amazon, Bookfinder.
  • TriQuarterly 34 (fall 1975), includes “Desire,” pp. 58–61. On Amazon, Bookfinder.
  • Ray Johnson: Correspondences, ed. Donna De Salvo, Flammarion, 1999. Includes “Ray Johnson: the one and the other.” On Amazon, LibraryThing.
  • William S. Wilson, “Exegetical Grammar in the House of Fame,” English Language Notes 1 (1964), 244–288.
  • William S. Wilson, “Scholastic Logic in Chaucer’s House of Fame,” Chaucer Review, i, 3 (Winter 1967), 181–184.
  • William S. Wilson, “Picasso,” Art Journal, 56, 1 (Spring 1997), pp.88–93.

Online documents

  • The Big Book. Review of The Big Book by Alison Knowles from Art in America, referenced here.
  • The Big Book. Another review of The Big Book by Alison Knowles, this one from the Journal of Typographical Research.


A compilation of postings rescued from the Web, vaguely sorted.

Ray Johnson

May Wilson

Marcel Duchamp

Andy Warhol

Christo & Jeanne-Claude

Pablo Picasso

Art & artists (more generally)

Joseph McElroy

Hardt & Negri



11 thoughts on “William S. Wilson on the Internet

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  2. Hi, I wrote my Master’s thesis on Ray Johnson and met with William S. Wilson several times to discuss his friendship with Ray. He was extremely helpful and wonderful. I have my thesis up on a blog if you want to post the link -http://ditollalove.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-graduate-thesis-just-wanted-it-to-at.html

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  8. I took two courses from William S. Wilson III at Queens College back in the early 1960s; an introductory English course and a course on medieval English literature. I still remember his dry sense of humor. I wound up spending my career as a college professor (something that would probably have astounded him and some of my other professors) writing about jokes and humor, and only found my way to this website while in the midst of writing yet another essay on the subject. I was remembering a question he asked one of the students in the introductory class. He asked the student–seemingly out of nowhere–“Mr. Weiss (I still remember the student’s name for some reason), what do you call two men who love each other?” Remember this was back in the 60s, and while Mr. Weiss was hemming and hawing and struggling to come up with an appropriate answer, Professor Wilson said in his very calm voice, “Christians, Mr. Weiss, Christians.” I still remember him as a young man and was thinking about him as I was penning yet another essay on the analysis and interpretation of jokes. Teaching is a difficult profession. You often do not get to see the impact you have on your students, and often the students are unaware of the impact you have had on them.

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