In an alternate universe, there’s a man who is an inspiration to his students. He’s privately fretting about his second novel, and he’s openly terrible to the young college students looking up to him, but, despite his overt disdain for them, he privately cares deeply about them, and what they create. This man has written a brilliant first novel, and, while on track for a second, he’s concerned that this novel won’t match the first.
In this universe, that man worked in kitchens his whole life, and died, unceremoniously. He never guided young students. He often fucked over and robbed his friends. He was cantankerous, irritable, frustrating and infuriating. He was terrible to his long-suffering wife, who was and is a wonderful person through and through, even after she was his ex-wife. He was a snake, he was a thief, he was an addict. He was mostly irredeemable.
He was also my friend, and I mourn him dearly. In 1999, I was a 19-year old kid who had nothing but failure in my future. My goals included more patches for my pants, more alcohol for my mouth, and more drugs, and, ultimately, more of a black hole for a future. I didn’t believe in the future. I believed in what I saw in front of me. I saw the Beats, and figured that their only failure was that they didn’t go far enough with it. I mean, clearly, I was an idiot.
Guy challenged me, but not my convictions on the future - he challenged the idea that I couldn’t learn from people before me. He challenged me on the the idea that I couldn’t learn from the Beats, and he challenged me to think harder. He challenged me to write. He challenged me not to change the way of life I had embraced, but to think about it more critically before I embraced it further. He challenged me to question everything, and especially to question it when it sounded like what I wanted to hear.
Without his challenges, I'm not sure I would've survived.
Guy Forthome wasn’t a perfect man. Hell, I’m not sure he was even a good man. But he was an influential man, to me, and I am going to miss him.