Sunday, January 7, 2007

Robert Stone Q&A

Originally appeared in The Boston Globe

Q&A with Robert Stone

By Harvey Blume

ROBERT STONE, THE novelist and short-story writer, was not with Ken Kesey and the other Merry Pranksters when their bus steamed out of California in 1964 on its psychedelic journey east. But as Stone explains in his taut new memoir, "Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties," the saying that you were "either on the bus or off the bus" was never meant literally. The real question was whether -- metaphorically and cosmically -- the bus was coming for you. In every sense the bus headed straight for Stone, making its first Manhattan stop outside his apartment, which shortly filled up, he recalls, with "people painted all colors."

More than four decades later, Stone, almost 70 now, resides on Manhattan's Upper East Side, which is where we sipped tea and discussed his work. Stone has revisited the '60s often in his fiction. "Dog Soldiers," for example, his bracing 1974 novel, focused on the mayhem caused by heroin smuggled from Vietnam. But "Prime Green" adds autobiographical detail -- about the sea, for example, which is often the setting for Stone's work. Born in Brooklyn, Stone, the grandson of a tugboat captain, joined the Navy in his teens. But he longed for New York City, and was pulled, when he returned in the late '50s, into the coffeehouse scene growing up around Allen Ginsberg and the other Beats.