Died: February 22, 1995
Bob Trent, along with myself, Jim Cole, Barry Gradman, Jon Lovell and several others, slogged together through the English Major at Williams, which included the erratic teaching and grading of Logan, the nervous yet arrogant ineptitude of young professors whose names I don’t want to remember, the savage brilliance of Samuels and Hunt, the genteel guidance of Gifford and Stocking and the warm, humor-filled lectures of Larry Graver. We were all friends in the sense of teammates, or platoon buddies, suffering what we later learned was a department as chaotic and divided as we were in our own lives.
Like many college friends, Bob and I never saw each other after graduation. However, many years later I found myself sitting in my gallery’s office in New York with a new edition of the Alumni Directory. I looked in the location index and scanned the many names of alums in the city, stopping on Bob’s. That afternoon I wrote him a short note suggesting we get together for lunch sometime. In a few weeks, I received his reply, many pages in his characteristic scrawl, which, like his thinking process, rambled all over the place.
The letter was a condensed auto-biography, starting in the summer of ’67 and ending in the present. Funny, self-wounding, and frank, he shared with me the pain of his brief love affair with a star of the class of ’68, his infatuation with a young porn star in Hollywood, his struggle to write gay fiction, and he ended with the chilling warning that he was not ready to let me see him in his present condition. Always a little naive and behind the curve, I didn’t know exactly what he meant, but some months later I read his obituary, and finally figured it out. I regret that I didn’t dismiss his warning and persevere in seeing him. It would have done us both good to say goodbye. Now, when I learn of a colleague’s or friends illness, I don’t hesitate, and so was lucky enough to exchange some thoughts with Kirk Varnedoe before he too left us.