Robert Stone, Writer (1937-2015)

Rbt.StoneThe first novel by Stone that I read was Dog Soldiers, which some readers nominate as his most accomplished work. Over the next year I read Hall of Mirrors, Outerbridge Reach, A Flag for Sunrise, and Children of Light. I’ve never taught his fiction but I used Prime Green, a truly immersive memoir of the 60s, for HUM470: American Autobiography. Finding himself in a crowd with Jack Kerouac, he noted that Jack tended to respond to requests for cigarettes with the irritated rhetorical question, “Why don’t you buy your own smokes?”.  My perception of Stone was of someone who was haunted, fragile, and willful. He was remanded to an orphanage when his mother was institutionalized. He went to sea. He worked as a reporter. His writing focused almost completely on the US and US Americans– yet you couldn’t with any justice deem him a nationalist.

He wrote:

“I have come to believe that language, a line of print, say, is capable of inhabiting the imagination far more intensely than any picture, however doctored. The same principle applies to the novel, if it works. No Hollywood flick, no movie of any provenance, can ever provide an experience of the battle of Borodino as intense as that provided in Tolstoy’s pages. Descriptive language supplies deeper penetration, attaches itself to the rods and cones of interior perception, to a greater degree than a recovered or remembered image. Language is the process that lashes experience to the intellect” (Prime Green 133).

 

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