PAEAN TO AN UNKNOWN AUTHOR
I've known Barbara about eight years, known her acerbic wit, her offbeat humor, her lack of all pretension. I found her always fascinating and a pleasure to be with. She was full of opinions about everything ranging from the national scene to our local politics that always gave her plenty to have an opinion about. And before she took sick she expressed them publicly, often acting on them. She supported to the limit those she liked and woe to those she disapproved of. She made my wife Ann and me feel valued and welcome, as she did so many, as you too can testify. Such a friend, we can all say, is beyond any material measure.
But for all I thought I knew Barbara, I had much more to discover during the last months of her life. One day last summer she called asking to see me. "I have no children of my own", she said, "and I want to leave something behind. Would you show me how to publish my novel?" She was frustrated by years of rejections despite favorable reactions from agents and even publishers. Her novel was simply too offbeat, and too directed at an audience of women over fifty, a too limited market in the eyes of the publishing world to find acceptance. Yet it was these very characteristics of the novel that made it special and a joy to read. It is said that each character in a novel represents some facet of the writer's personality. I have no trouble finding Barbara's characters within her. Sally Stone is her sensible, sensitive side, June is her outrageous side, and Ingeborg is her creative, loving side. The three together are the whole of Barbara.
Her last months centered around the publication and promotion of her book. At one point, I heard her say that it was keeping her alive. Surely, it gave her purpose, something beyond herself. It was her legacy, her strike for immortality, the mark she would leave behind well into the future after her loved ones, all of us who would remember her, would be gone.
Let me clarify how her novel got published. She managed its progress almost singlehanded, not I, not Stones Point Press. Calling on her talented friends, she got them to help with cover and text design, do the editing and proofreading, then she brought it all together ready for the printer. She and her husband Harold financed the entire project. Stones Point Press merely lent its name, saw to the printing, and the administration of its sales. But it's Barbara's book from the first manuscript word to the last word of the published volume. It was a race against time, her uncertain future, and in less than two months the book was published, an unheard of swiftness in the business.
She went into the project fully aware that the biggest challenge lay ahead in the novel's promotion. Despite her waning energy and her constant need for rest, she managed to find a slot of time during the day to do book signings, radio interviews, and readings. The flood of unsolicited letters and phone calls she received from readers from all over praising the novel, telling her of the pleasure it gave them, was her reward. Sick as she was, she glowed. There was no holding her down, even in her last days in the hospital when she asked her husband to inform the local newspapers of her book's selection by a small book club in Connecticut. Imagine how much more she could have done, how much more word of her book would have spread had she been her former healthy self. And how much more was in her to write, had she not been sick. It is hard not to feel cheated by this life and talent, possessed of much yet to give, cut off too soon.
Back in September Barbara asked me to write a publisher's statement, which, although I was publisher in name only, I welcomed because it gave me the opportunity to place her and her work in a proper context. Here it is in part: "Beyond the novel itself, we are delighted in bringing this talented writer to the public's attention. While her non-fiction has always impressed us, this, her first fictional work, reveals an imaginative artist whose expression has for most of six decades lain dormant until now. But, to us, even more important, is to introduce the reader to a woman whose view of life is original, humorous and profound. She and her novel, which are one, enrich our lives for knowing her."
And knowing her during her last weeks was a revelation. She was so full of love and consideration for others, wanting to know about our lives, our plans, because she could have no plans, because she had no future. In a sense she seemed to be living in our futures, however temporarily. Her courage was truly incredible. To live without a future takes courage, to think of others under this circumstance, supreme generosity. She expressed her love time after time, expressed her gratitude for having known us. She wouldn't exit in silence. She wanted to say goodbye to each and every one of us first. And these few words are the least I can do to express my gratitude for having known her. Thanks for having lived, Barbara. Thanks for your friendship. And thanks for leaving us a portion of your art.
Comments from readers on
The Bud Wilson Dream
Sometimes when I read a novel, the characters never seem real, and I find it
hard to get past that. But Sally, Bud, Ingeborg, June, etc. are real and the
story is woven together so well. People will love this book.
Station Manager, WERU, Orland, ME
I loved this book.
The Bud Wilson Dream Book was
one of those novels you can't put down! The characters were lively and
all-too-human; their flaws were familiar as well as being engaging. I
particularly loved the way that each character grew and matured through the
story, coming to crises, revelations, changes, and then subsequent challenges in
a realistic way. I already bought all the copies at my local bookstore and I
hope this book stays in print for ages! It was the mainstay of my shopping list
A reader from Falmouth, Maine, April 29, 1999
A great read.
The Bud Wilson Dream Book is a
must read for anyone who has, and amost everyone has, watched the network night
time TV talk show host (whether Jack, Johnny, Dave or Jay) and wondered...
An engaging "could happen" tale compellingly woven from the
threads of the modern American "stay up late" television viewing experience.
I stayed up late 'cause I couldn't put it down. A great read. A must
A reader from Boston, MA, USA, July 26, 1998
A good and very insightful study with vivid, fun characters.
There have been additional reviews of this book in Maine, the Maine Times, etc.
There is praise from all the reviewers for the good prose style and the sheer
fun of the plot. Although the central figures are mature women, there is the
ever outrageous Bud Wilson, the host of the most popular nighttime television
show. An enjoyable encounter between the host and the central figure, a mature
woman recently widowed who becomes independent and spunky. There are many
surprises and personalities that will stay with the reader long after the book
A reader from Florida, July 26, 1998
An incredibly engaging, funny and poignant fable. I found
that I was unable to put this book down. The characters seemed real although the
situation is somewhat fantastic. I found the hypothesis that dreams are the
poetry of ordinary people fascinating. The prose was enjoyable. Give me more
books by this author.
A reader from Standish, Maine, USA, May 23,