Robert Stone (novelist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Robert Stone
Robert stone 2010.jpg
Robert Stone at the 2010 Texas Book Festival.
Born(1937-08-21) August 21, 1937 (age 76)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
OccupationAuthor, journalist
Literary movementNaturalism, Stream of consciousness
Notable work(s)Dog Soldiers
Notable award(s)National Book Award 1975
Jump to: navigation, search
Robert Stone
Robert stone 2010.jpg
Robert Stone at the 2010 Texas Book Festival.
Born(1937-08-21) August 21, 1937 (age 76)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
OccupationAuthor, journalist
Literary movementNaturalism, Stream of consciousness
Notable work(s)Dog Soldiers
Notable award(s)National Book Award 1975

Robert Stone (born August 21, 1937) is an American novelist.

He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1975 for his novel Dog Soldiers[1] and was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and once for the PEN/Faulkner Awards.[2][3][4][5] Dog Soldiers was adapted as a film, Who'll Stop the Rain in 1978 starring Nick Nolte, and Time magazine included it in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[6]

He has also received Guggenheim[7] and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, the five-year Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award.

His best known work is characterized by action-tinged adventures, political concerns and dark humor. Many of his novels are set in unusual, exotic landscapes of raging social turbulence, such as the Vietnam War; a post-coup violent banana republic in Central America; Jim Crow-era New Orleans, and late 1990's Jerusalem.


Robert Stone was born in Brooklyn, New York. Until the age of six he was raised by his mother, who suffered from schizophrenia; after she was institutionalized, he spent several years in a Catholic orphanage. In his short story "Absence of Mercy", which he has called autobiographical,[8] the protagonist Mackay is placed at age five in an orphanage described as having had "the social dynamic of a coral reef".

The battered protagonists and "harrowing creations" in Stone's fiction often transmit a "mix of gloom and bleak irony" that would seem to come from Stone's personal experience: he had a difficult upbringing (besides his mother's schizophrenia, his father abandoned Stone's mother soon after his birth)[9] and Stone has had his share of struggles with alcohol and drugs.[10] Stone dropped out of high school in 1954 and joined the Navy for four years. At sea, he went to many remote places, including Antarctica and Egypt. These nautical experiences were at times violent; he witnessed the French Army bombing Port Said.

In the early 1960s, he briefly attended New York University; worked as a copyboy at the New York Daily News; married and moved to New Orleans; and attended the Wallace Stegner workshop at Stanford University, where he began writing a novel. Although he met the influential Beat Generation writer Ken Kesey and other Merry Pranksters, he was not a passenger on the famous 1964 bus trip to New York, contrary to some media reports.[11] Living in New York at the time, he met the bus on its arrival and accompanied Kesey to an "after-bus party" whose attendees included a dyspeptic Jack Kerouac.[12]

Stone taught writing at Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars from 1993-1994 and subsequently at Yale. At age 72, just after the publication of his second short-story collection Fun With Problems, Stone admitted (during a newspaper interview) that he suffered from severe emphysema: "It's my punishment for chain-smoking," he says. But with a wry laugh, he recalls his reaction to being told of the harm smoking could cause him in old age: "I'm not going to know I'm alive!".[10]

Stone has taught in the creative writing program at Yale University. For the 2010–2011 school year, he has been the Endowed Chair in the English Department at Texas State University-San Marcos.


In 1967, Stone published his first novel, A Hall of Mirrors, which won both a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, and a William Faulkner Foundation Award for best first novel. Set in New Orleans in 1962 and based partly on actual events, the novel depicted a political scene dominated by right-wing racism, but its style was more reminiscent of Beat writers than of earlier social realists: alternating between naturalism and stream of consciousness. It was adapted as a film, WUSA (1970). The novel's success led to a Guggenheim Fellowship and began Stone's career as a professional writer.

In 1971 he traveled to Vietnam as a correspondent for an obscure British journal called "Ink".[13] His time there served as the inspiration for his second novel, Dog Soldiers (1974), which features a journalist smuggling heroin from Vietnam. It shared the 1975 U.S. National Book Award with The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams.[1][14]

Stone's third book, A Flag for Sunrise (1981), was published to unanimous critical praise and moderate commercial success. The story follows a wide cast of characters as their paths intersect in a fictionalized banana republic based on Nicaragua. The novel was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize.[4][2]

In contrast to the grand, somewhat satirical adventure epics Stone is commonly associated with, his next two novels were smaller-scale character studies: the misfortunate tale of a Hollywood movie actress in Children of Light, and an eccentric at the midst of a circumnavigation race in Outerbridge Reach (based loosely on the story of Donald Crowhurst), published in 1986 and 1992 respectively. The latter was a finalist for the National Book Award for 1992.[15]

Bear and His Daughter, published in 1997, is a short story collection that lost the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction to American Pastoral by Philip Roth.[3] He returned to describing social turbulence with Damascus Gate (1998), about a man with messianic delusions caught up in a terrorist plot in Jerusalem. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award for 1998.[16]


Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties (2007) is Stone's memoir discussing his experiences in the 1960s "counterculture". The autobiographical work begins with his days in the Navy and ends with his days as a correspondent in Vietnam. Besides Ken Kesey, this work features Stone's insights on Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac from his time spent traveling with them.[17]



  1. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
    (With essays by Jessica Hagedorn and others (five) from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  2. ^ a b "1982 Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  3. ^ a b "1998 Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  4. ^ a b "Past Award Winners & Finalists". PEN/Faulkner: Award for Fiction. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  5. ^ William James (May 30, 2010). "Robert Stone | Author". Big Think. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  6. ^ "All Time 100 Novels". Time. October 16, 2005. 
  7. ^ "Robert A. Stone – John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  8. ^ Salon | The Salon Interview: Robert Stone, page 2
  9. ^ "Robert Stone". Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  10. ^ a b John McMurtrie, Chronicle Book Editor (2010-02-21). "Interview with Robert Stone". SFGate. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  11. ^ Counterculture Lion, Back in His Tidy Jungle, New York Times, January 5, 2007
  12. ^ Stone, Robert: "Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties", pages 121–22. HarperCollins, 2007
  13. ^ The New York Public Library (August 21, 1937). "NYPL, Robert Stone Papers, c.1950–1992". Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  14. ^ Sam Allard. "Thomas Williams' 'The Hair of Harold Roux' deserves a rousing readership". Retrieved 2011-07-30. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Salikof, Ken (2013-09-06). "The Contemplating Stone: Robert Stone". Retrieved 2013-10-04. 

External links[edit]