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Inspirational Reads

Saying Good-Bye to a Couple of Friends

September 18, 2007

A couple of people I consider "friends" passed on recently, and I haven't been able to commit my thoughts about them to this vast, wonderful electronic media yet. I use the term friends loosely--too loose, perhaps--because I did not personally know either of them, but over the years I had gotten to know them through their written word. Their books and articles and general publications had been influential on me in a variety of ways, especially when it comes to my own writing. I am, of course, speaking of Michael Jackson and Robert Jordan.

Michael Jackson was an English writer and journalist. Above all, he was a lover of beer, and this brewaphilia is how I came to know him best. He wrote The World Guide to Beer in 1977 in which he developed several terms commonly used today, both for the brewing process as well as style types of beer itself. He went on to write several articles for papers and magazines, including having a recurring column in All About Beer magazine. In fact, his column (along with K. Florian Klemp's) was the only thing I truly enjoyed reading in AAB since they revamped their format, and with Mr. Jackson's passing, I cannot find any reason to renew my subscription. On top of beer reviews, he also wrote The Malt Whisky Companion and was a discerning critic of those select libations as well. He suffered from Parkinson's Disease, and on September 30th, at 9pm (EST, I believe), a toast will be held in Michael Jackson's honor at bars, pubs, and common houses around the world. Also that night will be a benefit to help raise awareness and funds for Parkinson's research.

Robert Jordan was the author of the insanely popular Wheel of Time series. This is a series I picked up as a junior in high school...and it was already three books old by then. I ravenously devoured the books, sometimes reading them more than once (I believe I read the first five books three times). In the waning days of the summer between my senior year and my freshman year in college, I read all the books that I had once more, as a kind of finale to my childhood and adolescent years. And because I (mistakenly) thought I wouldn't have enough time for pleasure reading in college. It was in college that I switched from buying the paperbacks and going all hard cover (which I now do for all my favorite authors), because I could not wait for the year it took for the hardcover to make it to paperback. Jordan suffered from primary amyloidosis with cardio amyloidosis. Unfortunately, the final book in The Wheel of Time is only half done. He apparently dictated how the story ends to several close confidants and an "army of authors" (missed that boat, I did) will work to finish the book. It's apparently a monster, and frankly needs to be in order to wrap up all of the story. His books, especially his earlier volumes, were tremendously influential on my own stylings (I did, for a while, have a character similar to Rand al'Thor before I decided to abandon the whole central Christ figure theme in my books), and I shall miss his works, though I have been harshly critical of the middle volumes for being hundreds of pages of fluff with no meat.

Rest in peace, gentlemen. May you both enjoy a hearty ale and a good tale at the Lord's Table.


Will Shannon said...

While I was not familiar with Robert Jordan, I was (as you most likely know) very familiar with the work of Michael Jackson.

I remember seeing his series "The Beer Hunter" on the Discovery Channel years ago and thinking "wow, now there is a guy who knows his shit and loves every minute of his job."

I think that, moreso than any single person, Jackson brought the world of traditional/craft brewing and the brewing traditions of the world to multitudes of people.

His entertaining style and unassuming manner made this wonderful universe not scary and accessable to many more people, and the world of beer (and whiskey) is a better place for it.

His output was impressive - he covered the whole world of brewing (hell, it would take most people their entire lives to cover the brewing styles and histories of Belgium, let alone the world).

I know I learned a lot from him and he will be sorely missed. Now that I know about the toast, I will certainly be a part of it, raising a glass of Wisconsin's finest.

Now he shall lift a tankard with King Gambrinus, Arthur Guinness and St. Augustine of Hippo.

WoT Fan said...

Is it sad that I think the WoT may end better with RJ's ideas written by other authors? I too loved the early books and was incredibly frustrated by the later ones (although I haven't read the latest).

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I actually feel the same, WoT fan. Sad, but true.

Also, deep down inside, I really would like for someone like Tad Williams or Robin Hobb to finish the book for him. Williams does a really good job of bringing several storylines together in order to wrap them up nicely. And Robin Hobb is usually pretty good and offering an ending with a twist involved that you didn't see coming.