Putney Tyson Ridge, R.I.P.

The recent demise of renowned literary figure and leader in Popular Culture Studies, Putney Tyson Ridge, Ph. D., occasioned a chorus of grief from all who knew him, as well as the thousands of scholars and general readers who had been touched and influenced by his work.

Professor Ridge, long the Chairman and sole member of the Department of Popular Culture at Popham College, a small liberal arts institution located in Popham, Ohio, died of causes as yet undetermined on March 3, 2003, the day after the 60th birthday he shared with his lifelong, though frequently thoughtless and inattentive friend, author Peter Straub. Surrounded by hundreds of loose copies of the erotic journals that were the focus of his latest research project, his body was discovered at the foot of the basement stairs in his beautiful former residence on Traipse Lane in the Bluebell, or “faculty,” section of his college town. It was there he spent what he once described at “the most satisfying, yet oftimes the most humiliating, years of my life.”

That the much-honored and widely-respected Professor Ridge should have been moving out of his beloved residence of nearly thirty years on the day after his 60th birthday was the unhappy product of the humiliations the groundbreaking educator experienced at Popham. Those familiar with Dr. Ridge’s work, in particular his “Remarks” on the fiction of his oldest friend, Mr. Straub, will have noticed occasional allusions to the utterly unjustified accusations of sexual misconduct that bedeviled the last decade-and-a-half of his career. Out of the woodwork they swarmed, intervallically, these young women, driven by God knows what combination of envy, malice, soured flirtatiousness, bad faith, and bad politics to charge a none-too-robust elderly scholar of the highest professional standing with conduct entirely foreign to his nature. It was Dr. Ridge’s opinion, whispered but to the deepest of intimates, that most if not all of these young women were in the pay of Popham’s English Department, especially as chaired by the late Everard Glade Blessing, who from the first viewed his rival’s inspiration, the Popular Culture Department, as a threat to his own bailiwick. Even Professor Glade Blessing’s supporters cannot deny his increasingly obsessive desire to nullify Popular Culture as a separate disciple and reinstate it as a sub-specialty within his Department.

Putney Tyson Ridge