Earlier this year, I wrote to my friend and hero Norman Spinrad to ask if we could get together for some Chinese food while I was visiting New York. We’d sat around a table a few years back with our ladies and talked of living abroad, his and Dona’s globe-trotting experiences in the past, ours still in the future, me licking Norman and Dona’s wealth of experiences off my fingers along with the oyster sauce. Norman was frustrated by American publishers at the time, getting more love from houses in France; his recent book He Walked Among Us finally saw print in English (the language it was written in) a few months ago, several years after its French translation published. They talked of giving up their West Village apt and relocating permanently to Paris.
So, from my new home in São Paulo, I wrote to Norman once our tickets were booked to make sure we’d be in the city at the same time to noodle together. I wasn’t even sure if he and Dona were still technically New Yorkers. Norman said he had a book tour in Europe but would be in the city during our stay and we promised to firm up plans once I landed in New York.
My seven days in New York came and went in a flash, and in the shuffle, I didn’t call him. He was on my mind but I never stopped running… and when I checked in online while waiting at JFK, I found that he likely wouldn’t have been able to meet at all: he’d begun posting updates from his hospital bed at the Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
I’ve been following Norman’s updates since I landed in Miami, and his condition seems to be worsening; he is set to undergo serious procedures Thursday to remove a tumor blocking his intestine and keeping him from being able to ingest food. As of his update yesterday morning, his surgeon tells him the proposed procedure has a 60/40 rate of success.
There’s so much still want to say, like telling him how much his work and imagination have meant to me and to my own… but even more to just sit and listen to him tell stories of a life well-lived. Norman’s craft is taut and true; he’s traveled around the world, connected to people by things he made up. It’s not often you run into a person who closely mirrors a Future-You you hope to grow into if you play your cards right: worldly and humble, eccentric and uncompromising, sensitive and funny.
I’m writing this in the hopes that others who’ve been touched by his work will send him some love and appreciation now when it matters most. You can reach Norman via normanspinrad [at] hotmail [dot] com.