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.