Thomas McGuane & James Merrill, ca. 1987Key West Characters 362
These studio portraits of novelist Thomas McGuane (left) and poet James Merrill (right) by an unidentified photographer were likely taken in January of 1987. According to Merrill’s wristwatch, his session took place at a quarter past one in the afternoon.
The trouble with Robert Frost & Wallace StevensKey West Characters 362
“Robert Frost was on the beach this morning and is coming to dinner this evening.” So did Wallace Stevens write to his wife Elsie in February of 1935 from the Casa Marina, a hotel on the Atlantic Ocean where he spent part of each winter in Key West for nearly 20 years. Frost and Stevens today are broadly acknowledged as literary peers, but in 1935 the two poets’ reputations were leagues apart. Frost had won the Pulitzer Prize twice, while Stevens had published only a single volume, Harmonium, more than a decade earlier. While Stevens had earned the approval of influential readers including Poetry editor Harriet Monroe, Frost was not among them, once complaining that he didn’t like Stevens’s work "because it purports to make me think.”
Thomas Sanchez on Mile Zero: 1989
Key West Characters 362
the George Murphy interview
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Sanchez’s Mile Zero. The epic novel unfolds in a Key West both richly imagined and uncannily accurate, where St. Cloud, Justo Tamarindo, Zobop, and El Finito are players in a late-twentieth century clash of generations, cultures, and beliefs. Hailed by The New York Times as "a comic masterpiece," it is, together with Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and Thomas McGuane’s Panama, a landmark in the literature of our island city.
In 1989, as Knopf was preparing the book for press, Sanchez agreed to an interview with George Murphy, a former local mayoral candidate and editor of the excellent anthology, The Key West Reader: The Best of Key West’s Writers, 1830-1990. Over the course of several late nights at the now-legendary Full Moon Saloon, the following conversation took shape. In the interview, originally published in Island Life, Sanchez discusses the origins and development of Mile Zero, the parallels between Key West and Cannery Row, and the concept of contrabandista.
Remembering Rust HillsKey West Characters 362
Rust Hills in the lobby of the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, 1988. Photo by Doyle Bush. We note with sadness the death, earlier this summer, of Rust Hills, our friend and collaborator for more than 20 years. He was 83. The importance of Rust Hills to the world of …Read More
Photography by Phyllis RoseKey West Characters 362
Phyllis Rose is a member of our honorary board of directors and, with her husband, Laurent de Brunhoff, a longtime resident of Key West. She is the author of several books, and her work as an essayist and literary critic has been published by numerous prominent publications. Rose, also, is a photographer whose work captures several of Key West’s literati, as well as the private island known as Ballast Key, where writers from Tennessee Williams to Robert Stone have found respite from the relative clamor of Key West.
Nilo Lopez’s Key West NicknamesKey West Characters 362
I first heard of Nilo C. Lopez when the Key West Citizen ran his obituary a few years back. As I recall, it painted an alluring picture of a simple life in Key West, where Lopez was born and raised, and wherein his family raised dairy cows in a small field along Staples Avenue. The obituary also spoke of him as a well-loved story-teller and published author. Intrigued, I rode my bicycle past the site of what I guessed to be the Staples dairy farm on my way to Key West Island Books. Once I arrived at the Fleming Street bookstore, Marshall, its proprietor, uncovered the sole remaining copy of the book whose cover you see here, Nilo Remembers Key West Nicknames