Remembering Robert Stone: Kem Nunn
Humor as an act of courage
Dog Soldiers was one of those books that really made me want to write, a book of both intrigue and ideas, shot through with the brand of dark, unsparing humor Bob could deliver so well, that seemed absolutely right for that time and that place, and still does. (I remember him saying that humor is the act of courage available to every man.) A Flag for Sunrise came next, and I remember Time magazine naming Robert Stone as the most prestigious American writer of the post-Vietnam generation. I believe it was in that same article that Michael Herr was quoted as saying Bob was not only one of the smartest people on the planet, he was also great company. Amen to each of those sentiments. It was also around then that Bob and I got to know each other. I was a studio arts major at UC Irvine, when Bob showed up to teach for a semester in the MFA program. I had been sitting in on some of the MFA workshops, thanks to Oakley Hall, but was not yet enrolled in the program. Even so, and even after being told by one of the program directors that he need not read my manuscript (or perhaps because he had been told not to read it), Bob not only agreed to read but proved instrumental in helping to find a publisher for the book. We remained friends for the next thirty years. Though we spoke often in recent months by phone, the last I saw of Bob was maybe two years ago. I was in New York with another friend, a man known as Big Tom, a true product of life on the streets who now makes his living instructing Navy SEALS in the use of edged weapons. We spent an evening with Bob and Janice. Bob was using a cane by then but still had that light in the eye, still excited, still passionate, still full of fight. Later, having walked Bob and Janice to a bus, I remember Big Tom saying how much he liked Bob. “I liked that guy,” he said. “I could hang with that guy.” Such was the effect Bob had on so many people, of all types. He was a great writer and a great friend, a true soldier of the Light. He will be missed.
Bill Barich · Tom Grimes · Phyllis Rose · Joy Williams · Ken Babbs ·