Day 84: Roy Blount Jr. for Profilia

Photo originally published by  The Berkshire Eagle

Photo originally published by The Berkshire Eagle

Another profile under consideration for Profilia, the work-in-progress anthology of profiles coming later this year. I spent time some years ago with the writer Roy Blount Jr., including on tour with the writers' rock band Rock Bottom Remainders. I'm all but certain to include this one in the anthology. Here's how it opens:

Roy Blount Jr. looks none the worse for events of the last few minutes. A woman done up in this season’s finest dominatrix leatherwear just stubbed out a cigarette on his forehead, sending him to the floor where he rolled on his back and kicked his legs in the air. Friends helped him to his feet and he staggered about comically, grey hair mussed, skinny necktie askew. A few hundred people have witnessed this spectacle and now they hoot and cheer as the tough chick wielding the coffin nail, who happens to be the writer Amy Tan, finishes singing “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”

Is this any way for one of America’s foremost writers of humorous prose to behave?

Well, yeah, sure it is. What the hell, all this had taken place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and Blount is onstage as a backup vocalist, sort of, for the Rock Bottom Remainders, and the Rock Bottom Remainders is the band that features a bunch of Blount’s writer friends, including Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, Ridley Pearson, and Greg Iles, authors who collectively have sold a gazillion books and now and then like to stash their laptops and pick up guitars and drive around in a bus like real rock stars and play a few gigs. Besides, the cigarette was not real and one thing you should know about Roy Blount Junior is that not only is he a seriously literary fella, he is a clown. He likes to make people laugh, always has, and the fact that he cannot sing, cannot dance, and cannot play an instrument does not prevent him from being part of an antic rock ’n’ roll show.

Which recalls something a long-time friend, poet James Seay, says about him. Seay, who teaches writing at the University of North Carolina, the big one in Chapel Hill, has known Blount more than 30 years, and annually they and four other guys go to Florida to fish for speckled trout and cobia and various trash fish. They used to go offshore for grouper and snapper, but they are getting a little old for that. Anyway, of these fishing trips, Seay observes, “In general, whether we’re fishing or whatever, we act like 12-year-olds. Actually, over the years most of us have advanced and worked on up to 13-year-old behavior, but Roy’s stuck in that juvenile, almost puerile kind of 12-year-old thing. I don’t know how we’re going to bring him along. He may just be stuck.”

This one even includes a doodle that Roy drew on my notepad. For a look at that, you'll just have to wait for the book.