Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Goodbye to Neal Barrett, Jr.

I've just heard that my friend Neal Barrett, Jr. has passed away. Neal was a fabulous writer (Rick Klaw has a nice list of the variety of work that Neal accomplished in his long career over at The Geek Curmudgeon). He had a skewed view of the world (one of his collections was called Slightly Off Center) that I adored and a fine recognition of the absurdities of everyday life. How can you not love a writer who came up with the idea of Liver-Eatin' Johnson: mountain man, cannibal, and poet("Winter on the Bell Fourche")? Or Mama Lucy's Vishnu and Jesus Barbecue, a sadly non-existent barbecue joint in the East Austin of Interstate Dreams? Or the little old lady in the pink pillbox hat who carries an uzi in Pink Vodka Blues (the hilarious story of a blackout drunk trying to remember why a bunch of people want to kill him)? Or that bus tour of Hell or the inimitable Ginny Sweethips or a tennis-playing Jesus in a Heaven located in Oklahoma? Yeah, I think it's fair to say that I'll miss Neal the writer.

But I'll really miss Neal my friend. I met Neal back when I worked in a bookstore and we hit it off right away. Even when I no longer worked on the sales floor I'd get a call that Neal and Ruth were in the store and I'd head on down. We talked about books and authors we loved and hated and we recommended stuff to each other (if you've ever known a bookish person, you know that every conversation, no matter what, will always include that). I got to see Neal and Ruth at conventions and we occasionally got to have lunch together and it was always a fine time. This is the Neal--telling wild stories (that all happened to be true), playing Grumpy Old Man, laughing and talking books--that I'm really going to miss.

You're on to your next adventure, Neal, and I surely hope it's a fine one. I bet the stories will be awesome.