Roger Sale
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Roger Sale

Roger Sale, 84, passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 11, 2017 after a major stroke. Sale authored 13 books, including Seattle Past to Present, and Seeing Seattle, as well as scores of book reviews. He taught myriad subjects in the English Department at the University of Washington for almost 50 years. His expertise spanned many centuries and genres, from Chaucer and Spencer, to 18th-20th century novels, to children's literature.

Sale is perhaps best known for his charismatic and demanding teaching style, which inspired generations of devoted students at Amherst College and the University of Washington, in more informal book groups, and at University Beyond Bars at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Roger loved digging in his garden, the smell of rain, and watching sunlight as it moved across the trees. Raised in Ithaca, NY, he and his family moved west in 1962 to a warmer, almost snow-free climate. He enjoyed bringing people together to talk about literature, and particularly relished teaching groups to informally act out "The Importance of being Earnest".

Sale is survived by his loving wife of 62 years, Dorothy Young Sale, children Tim Sale and Maggie Sale (aka Maggie Ostara), and granddaughter, Emma Mauriva-Sale (aka Emma Ostara).

A Celebration of Life will be held

on Saturday, July 22 at the downtown Seattle YMCA, with a reception at Folio to immediately follow.

For more information go to

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Seattle Times on Jun. 4, 2017.
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6 entries
September 8, 2017
While pursuing the doctorate in Comparative Lit at the UW in the 80s, I needed grad-level courses in my other primary, required literature (after French)--English--and was relieved to find immediate refuge in Roger's 500-level seminar on Alexander Pope--as one of three participants! We became collaborators and thereafter I would take any course he offered because nary a moment was wasted: each meeting worth a can of orange-juice concentrate, compared to the thin, overly watered-down versions of Tang delivered in most other classes. Roger's "trick" was his strict demands made of each student, just as Krishna imposes highest Dharma standards on Arjuna in *The Bhagavad Gita.* One entered Roger's presence impeccably prepared, fully armed and wide-awake. Uncannily, I've thought of Roger often these past weeks of summer, wondering if I could see him once again, only to learn today (in the UW Alumni magazine) of his passing some three months ago. I send this expression of deep gratitude and affection to all places where Roger Sale's light has shone, has gone and still abides.
James Winchell
June 9, 2017
Like many others I suspect, I regret having missed the opportunity to tell Roger face to face how much he meant to me. I feel deeply in debt to him. Returning to school as an undergraduate in my mid-thirties, Roger appreciated my enthusiasm and led me beyond my initial academic goals to a deeper appreciation for literature, language, conversation, and the thing he referred to as "something like Love" that was never far from him.
In a memorable graduate seminar called "Johnson and his Children," he read aloud Austen's wonderful line from "Emma": "A mind lively and at ease can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that will not do." Some thirty years later I can still see his eyes flashing with the joy of sharing something he loved as he proclaimed "And THAT is the point of a liberal education."
Ben Bryant
June 6, 2017
Through a Glass Darkly
Of course there were those Socratic method classes (which actually prepared me for law school) where each and every student felt that they were the center of Dr. Sale's attention and that our not rising to each specify occasion would bring great disappointment to him.

But the only time I ever felt he was really disappointed in me was when I turned down the opportunity to work as a tutor on summer program for high school students that he co-directed. I had just inherited enough money ($300) to go on an American Grand Tour for that same summer and the Vietnam War was over the horizon for the next summer.. so I played true to type (young) and hitchhiked the circumference of the US and Mexico (and almost Nova Scotia) It was one of those turning points where life could have gone another direction and I still appreciate the opportunity I missed.

Finally, he and Elizabeth Dipple gave me the great gift of understanding how thrilling literature could be and how one might even make a living out of ideas. Love of books and sharing visions has served me well over the years, and my gratitude continues to this day.

Thanks Roger
Timothy Mack
June 5, 2017
News of Roger's death created a storm of wonderful memories of the times I enjoyed being his student in Freshman English at Amherst, and his friend. His influence on my teaching never left; though there could only be one Roger, there was enough of him to share with a new teacher such as I was. He was one of a kind. He taught me and befriended me at the same time, and I have never stopped loving him. Without his guidance and friendship, I doubt I would have survived Amherst, but Roger never gave up on me, and we shared some wonderful memories. Our contacts since he moved to Seattle were all too few, but my cousin Loryn Paxton , who was secretary of one of the departments at the University, kept me abreast of his comings and goings. Dorothy, you may remember me. I send you and your family love and my sincere good wishes. I send you sympathy and good memories.


Bob Rosengard
Robert Rosengard
June 4, 2017
Roger Sale's range and energies, teaching style and substance were incomparable. A genuine citizen, with literature but one of his powerful tools. Made me a better writer, made me want to read close and read everything.
Paul Hunter
June 4, 2017
I occasionally glance at the obituaries in the NY Times, and did so today, and was shocked to read of the passing of Roger Sale. I read him all the time in the 1970s especially. He was one of our best critics. I was sorry he stopped being quite so visible as a writer. My memory tells me that a friend at the time, James Rames I think, an editor at Oxford University Press, asked me for a professional opinion on a collection of Sale's essays. I urged Oxford to go ahead with it and suggested, perhaps playfully--I am not sure--to call the whole affair On Not Being Good Enough. It was exciting to find out that this title pleased, or was at least acceptable to, the author and the publishers. Probably, other people had suggested it as well. In those years I wrote a review of Fairy Tales and After for the Briefly Noted pages of The New Yorker. I just got it out. It ran Dec. 4, 1978 and was extremely positive. What a wonderful book.
Sanford Schwartz
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