Robert Stone Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111201279-Stone.jpgRobert Stone Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Robert Stone was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 21, 1937, the son of Gladys Catherine Grant, an elementary school teacher of Scotch-Irish origins whose schizophrenia profoundly affected her son’s vision of himself and his world (he often mentions the fear of chaos his life with her instilled in him), and C. Homer Stone, a former railway detective who fled domestic responsibilities shortly after Robert’s birth. Because of his mother’s illness, young Robert spent time in an orphanage and in a series of Catholic boarding schools (including St. Ann’s Marist Academy in Manhattan), where physical punishment was commonplace.

After his mother’s release from the hospital, Stone lived with her on Manhattan’s West Side; joined a street gang; read with puzzlement and then appreciation the works of Thomas Carlyle, Fyodor Dostoevski, Franz Kafka, John Dos Passos, Joseph Conrad, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and won a New York State Regents’ scholarship based on a story he wrote influenced by J. D. Salinger. However, he clashed with the Marist brothers over his drinking and his conversion of another student to atheism, and he left school before high school graduation.

In 1955, Stone joined the United States Navy and served with the amphibious force of the Atlantic Fleet. He passed his high-school equivalency test while in the military. The experiences of his childhood, captured in part in the opening to “Absence of Mercy,” one of the short stories in Bear and His Daughter (1997), clearly influenced his interest in the rootless, the psychotic, the irresponsible, and the hypocritical. His service as a radioman aboard an attack troop carrier in the Mediterranean during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and then as senior enlisted journalist on Operation Deep Freeze Three in Antarctica prepared him to write credibly of military life, language, and style and of ships and sailing (as he does in “Under the Pitons,” a story of drug smugglers who prove inept at sea, and in Outerbridge Reach (1992), with its transoceanic yachting competition). In the Triquarterly article “Me and the Universe” (1986), Stone reflected on the horrific spectacle of war that he experienced as a nineteen-year-old on Suez duty and his vision of everyday life as war.

While attending New York University from 1958 to 1960, he worked as a copy boy, caption writer, and then editorial assistant for the New York Daily News. On December 11, 1959, he married children’s protection service worker Janice G. Burr, whom he had met in a creative writing class. Early in 1960, the Stones dropped their conventional life and migrated to New Orleans, where Stone held menial jobs (in a coffee factory, on the docks, and as a radio actor, a merchant marine seaman, a door-to-door salesman, and a census taker) and where his daughter Deidre was born at Charity Hospital. Stone read his own poetry to jazz accompaniment in a French Quarter bar and moved with the beatnik crowd, including LeRoi Jones and Gregory Corso. His experiences in that city (including trumped-up arrests) and in the South during a time of sit-ins and struggles against segregation provided material for his first novel, A Hall of Mirrors (1967), a work begun after reading Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925).

After the birth of their son, Ian, the Stones returned to New York City, where they became friends with Jack Kerouac, Allen...

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Robert Stone Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Stone’s novels collectively have sustained a running commentary on modern American life and mores decade by decade. Stone believes that his culturally sophisticated but streetwise stories, with their literary and philosophical allusions, abet “the awareness of ironies and continuities” and show people that “being decent is really hard and that we carry within ourselves our own worst enemy.” His rootless characters, hooked on alcohol, drugs, greed, or egocentricity, become intertwined, usually in sets of three, and engage in various forms of sophistry, rationalization, equivocation, and indifference. Whether passionate or withdrawn, they are corrupt and vulnerable, their lives a juxtaposing of daily banality and exotic nightmare. His true villains are casual, feckless individuals who act without thinking or feeling, who use the loyalty and affection of others, and who survive at the cost of destruction and death. The cold and ruthless survive, and the sentimental perish; moral ambiguity prevails.

Robert Stone Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Robert Stone’s life has mirrored the colorful life so frequently portrayed in his stories and novels. After Catholic school and a stint in the U.S. Navy (1955 to 1958), Stone and his wife (they married in 1959) traveled and supported themselves through various odd jobs. (Their daughter Deirdre was born in a charity hospital in New Orleans.) In New York, Stone supported his growing family—a son Ian was born in 1964—as an advertising copywriter, worked on his first novel, and soon won a Wallace Stegner writing fellowship at Stanford. Since his first novel, he has been able to support himself with his writing, supplemented by fellowships and teaching positions. (He has taught at Princeton and Harvard Universities, among other schools.) For someone who is largely self-educated (he spent less than a year at New York University), Stone has commented extensively on a wide range of political topics and has engaged in a number of public literary controversies.

Robert Stone Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Robert Anthony Stone was born in south Brooklyn, New York, on August 21, 1937, the son of Gladys Catherine Grant, an elementary school teacher whose schizophrenia taught her son chaos and fear, and C. Homer Stone, a railway detective who abandoned his family during Stone’s infancy. A product of orphanages and Catholic schools, the young Stone, having offended the Marist Brothers by his drinking and his militant atheism, joined the U.S. Navy’s amphibious force before high school graduation and served as a senior enlisted journalist on Operation Deep Freeze Three in Antarctica. His childhood experiences taught him about the rootless, the psychotic, the irresponsible, and the hypocritical, while his military service prepared him to write credibly of military life, language, and style.

While attending New York University from 1958 to 1960, Stone worked as a copyboy, caption writer, and then editorial assistant for the New York Daily News, and on December 11, 1959, he married social worker Janice G. Burr. The Stones dropped their conventional life and ended up in New Orleans, where Stone worked at menial jobs for a while, read his own poetry to jazz accompaniment in a French Quarter bar, and moved with the beatnik crowd. His daughter was born at Charity Hospital (a son, Ian, was born later). His experiences in that city provided material for his first novel, A Hall of Mirrors.

The Stones became friends with Jack Kerouac and others of the emerging bohemian scene in New York City and with Ken Kesey and Neil Cassady while...

(The entire section is 638 words.)

Robert Stone Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Anthony Stone is one of the most important novelists of his generation. The son of C. Homer Stone and his wife, Gladys Catherine Grant, Stone was reared almost entirely by his mother in rather economically difficult circumstances. Because of his mother’s emotional problems, Stone spent a number of years in a Catholic orphanage and attended Catholic schools. He left high school before his graduation and joined the U.S. Navy, serving from 1955 to 1958. He attended New York University from 1958 to 1959 while also working as an editorial assistant for the New York Daily News. In 1959, he married Janice G. Burr, with whom he had two children. In 1962, he was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where he met Ken...

(The entire section is 1155 words.)