I always thought I'd grow old with Paul Quarrington. For many years my wife and I have fantasized about buying a villa or a village in some southern clime where we'd gather all our friends in our dotage, and Paul Quarrington always figured as chief among our imagined fellow citizens. In my mind's eye, I would see him wandering our dream pueblo against palm trees and blue ocean and blue sky, liver-spotted and skinny-legged and a little crotchety, but still doing card tricks that took our breath away or bringing his guitar out for seaside singalongs.
I'm pretty sure I was not alone in thinking of Paul in this way, as the ur-citizen of one's ideal homeland. When I was a fledgling writer and I first met Paul, I felt as if he had adopted me, had appointed himself my guide through the inferno of the literary world.
Over the years, our lives became increasingly intertwined. It was through Paul that I met my wife, writer Erika de Vasconcelos; it was with Paul and his family that we spent holidays, celebrated birthdays, brought in the New Year. Yet it never ceased to surprise me how vast his own community was, and how much of a meeting point he was for so many disparate groups.
In an era of specialization and compartmentalization, Paul was someone who strove for inclusivity
In an era of specialization and compartmentalization, Paul was someone who strove for inclusivity. It would be hard to find another artist who garnered so many accolades across such a wide range of creative pursuits, or in whom the professional and the personal were so seamlessly merged. One of the paradoxes of his personality was that, as close as you felt to him, there always seemed doors in him you could never quite open, as if there was always someone else, some other friend, who was the truer confidant. That other confidant, I think, was his work, for which he saved the most crucial part of himself. The reason it was easy to forgive him the infidelity was because so much of what he stood for was tied up in that work, in sharing it and in using it to bring people together.
The list of Paul's protégés over the years, in fiction or music or film, would run to several pages, as would the list of those to whom, like me, he offered his friendship when it most counted. Apart from his books and his films and his band, he also always had on the go any number of grassroots projects that catered to younger artists or to experimentation between genres or to other sorts of boundary-pushing.
At the heart of these projects there was always the idea that artistic effort was not about ego or money - he never gave a damn about money, and whenever he had some, he usually poured it into a new project - but about bringing people together and enriching their lives.
In Paul's death, then, we have all lost an ideal citizen. But because he has left so much of himself, in his work and in his example, we still have the chance to grow old with him.
Nino Ricci's most recent novel is The Origin of Species.