Stay in the Loop
BSR publishes on a weekly schedule, with an email newsletter every Wednesday and Thursday morning. There’s no paywall, and subscribing is always free.
There was a period I read his novels as soon as they came out. A Hall of Mirrors. Dog Soldiers. A Flag for Sunrise. Children of Light. Outerbridge Reach. Damascus Gate.
Well, not exactly. I read the last four after Max Garden, who had bought them, finished.
“That is my subject,” Robert Stone told the Paris Review, “America and Americans.”
It was a particular American and particular Americans, as seen by someone who had been abandoned by his father and raised by a schizophrenic mother. Who had spent four years in a Marist orphanage and quit high school for the navy, which set him close enough to Port Said in ’56 to see the bodies fly. Who had been with Kesey when he got on and off the bus and dropped in on 'Nam in ’71. Whose life had “changed,” he said, while covering a wrestling match for the Daily News on peyote.
Max who had turned on, tuned in, and dropped out – to Jamaica. Who came home when his parents clamped a nuthouse around him. Who discharged into a Lower East Side flop too depressed, he said, to roll out of bed each morning to go downstairs for a bottle of gin. Who hitchhiked to my office with two conga drums and a rotting leather satchel.
We agreed Sunrise’s clashing psychotics made it the defining novel of the last quarter of its century.
Max liked Stone, I think, because the excesses of Stone’s characters, drawn forth and succored by darkness and nightmare, furbished his own. I liked them because, while seductive, they dwelt way outside of mine. The time came though when I found these excesses constricting rather than expansive. Max never found that, his or Stone’s, to be so.
Stone quit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, became a visiting professor. Max quit nothing, ended in an SRO, a broken mirror, a TV that got two channels.
Smoking’s COPD took Stone. At 77, he’d beat the white male average.
Infection secondary to intravenous drug use got Max earlier.
Sign up for our newsletter
All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.