Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Remembering Robert Stone


I was saddened to read the other day of the death of novelist Robert Stone, one of my heroes. He was a writer I landed on early in my development as an aspiring novelist, so books like Dog Soldiers and A Flag For Sunrise loomed very large for me. Stone novels didn’t come out very often, lending his work a value that comes from rareness, unlike the books of those writers who put something out every year so their names are always in the air. It felt like a big deal when I’d hear of a new book by Robert Stone.

I’ve written here before about attending a reading by Stone at a bookstore in Menlo Park, back in ‘92 or so. He was reading from Outerbridge Reach, an existential sailing novel, and his style was low-key and without much enthusiasm that night, but as I sat there I kept saying, You’re watching one of the best there is — he can do it however he wants.

I haven’t read his last book yet, Death of the Black-Haired Girl, but if I recall from the reviews in 2013, it’s a departure for him, from the sprawling big-idea novels to a much tighter quasi-thriller. He might have been trying for a larger audience there near the end.

I like this quote of his. It hits home now and then: “I’m very perfectionistic and very lazy, which is a terrible combination.”

Maybe so, but it helped produce a remarkable body of work over fifty years.

9 comments on “Remembering Robert Stone

  1. Phillip McCollum
    January 13, 2015

    Always sad when we lose a “great one.” I’ll have to pick up one of his books. Great quote, by the way. Hits home indeed.

  2. 1WriteWay
    January 13, 2015

    Embarrassed to say that I didn’t know of Stone until I read a review of his latest novel, so thanks for sharing. I love that quote. I should print out several copies of it and affix them to every door and mirror in my house 😉 As far as him trying for a larger audience with his last novel, maybe he just wanted to try something different. Or maybe for him it wasn’t different. Just different for his readers.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 14, 2015

      That’s true… You never know what a writer’s motives might be. Maybe it was the book he could finish, at the time too. A lot of books that get started never get finished. 😳

      • 1WriteWay
        January 14, 2015

        Yeah, I guess he must have figured his days were numbered. Sounds like his COPD was pretty bad, and to think that he had quit smoking in the 80s 😦

  3. kingmidget
    January 13, 2015

    Never heard of him, but now I have an author to check out now that I’ve just about given up on the NY Times Notable Books of 2014.

  4. kingmidget
    January 13, 2015

    Which of his books would you recommend the most?

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 14, 2015

      I think my personal favorite is A Flag For Sunrise, because it hits all his best themes. If you want to try his later work, Outerbridge Reach or Damascus Gate. They’re all on the long side, though…

      • kingmidget
        January 14, 2015

        I’ll give A Flag for Sunrise a read.

  5. Pingback: A Book Re …. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! | KingMidget's Ramblings

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This entry was posted on January 13, 2015 by in Writing and tagged , , , , .
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