Monday, January 17, 2022

My Encounter With Ron Goulart's Roommate



Ron Goulart has passed away, alas. I only met the man a few times, but I read about a bajillion of his books. (He was nothing if not prolific, and his works were inevitably entertaining and a fast read.) But I do have a story to share  with you that is almost about him--my encounter with Ron Goulart's college roommate.

Our meeting took place at a chemical and biological warfare conference in Maryland. Skipping over a great deal of interesting  material, at lunch I found myself sharing a table with a number of attendees who introduced themselves by name and affiliation. Dr. John Doe of Fort  Ditrick, Dr. Jane Roe of Johns Hopkins, and so on. They were baffled when I gave my affiliation as SFWA. As it turned out, there was one other freelance writer at the table, a journalist,so we of course began talking shop.

"Have you ever heard of a writer named Ron Goulart?" he asked.

"I love his stuff!" I replied.

"Well, we were roommates in college," the man said. "I don't know if you've read his Jose Silvera stories?" (Jose Silvera is a two-fisted freelance writer who can write 40,000 words on any topic overnight but has to rappel down skyscrapers and break into his editor's office with flash grenades to get what he's owed. The stories featuring him are among Goulart's funniest.) "After graduation, we both went to New York City and I'd tell him stories about how difficult it was to get paid for writing assignments. He found my stories greatly amusing and based Silvera on me."

Cool, I thought. 

Then, in the uncanny way these things happen, a couple of weeks later, I ran into Goulart. So I told him I'd met his old college roommate.

"I didn't have a roommate," he said. Then, when I told him about the conversation, "Those stories weren't based on somebody else. They were based on my experiences with editors." He was gently amused, but not at all surprised. These things happen to humorists.

So I'd had lunch with a fictitious character impersonator. Which is a strange experience indeed but one that prepared me, some years later, for the discovery that somebody was impersonating one my characters. But that's another story for another time.

Vaya con Dios, Ron. And if there are any of Jose Silvera's editors out there: Pay up, you cheap bastards!


Above: Has there ever been a more appropriate title for a Ron Goulart novel?



EricBourland said...

That is a lovely story.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

“ the discovery that somebody was impersonating one my characters”

I’d like to hear that, if it’s a story that can be told.

JohnnyMac said...

I always enjoyed Ron Goulart work. His Jose Silvera stories were favorites. I really wish someone would publish a good collection of them.

GordonVG said...

I was searching for a Goulart title this morning and chanced across this page:

Was Ron descended from an actual Jose Silveira?

Michael Swanwick said...

Gordon, wow!

To add weight to your theory, one of Goulart's pseudonyms was Joseph Silver.

It's not proved, but I'M convinced.