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Awesome Men Throughout History: Goodloe Byron

It’s always a pleasure to write up people I know, so this week’s edition of Awesome Men Throughout History is a special one. Goodloe Byron is someone I’ve known for a couple of years now, and he’s as much of a Maryland original as you’ll ever meet. They just don’t make dudes like him anywhere else.

For one thing, Goodloe Byron is his real name. He was named after his grandfather, a US Congressman representing northeastern Maryland and a habitual marathon runner.

For another thing, Goodloe is a writer, and a really good one. His biggest influence is Jose Saramago, who wrote Baltasar and Blimunda and was known for his experimental style of really long sentences and sparing punctuation. Goodloe writes like this too, but his work has a dry sense of humor and an offbeat take on magical realism that keeps it accessible.

I have three of Goodloe’s books: The Abstract, Revisions Of, and The Wraith, which is his best in my opinion. Goodloe excels at writing wastrels; the narrator of The Abstract is a drunken expatriate who pretends to be a journalist covering the local art scene, and the main characters of The Wraith are white trash proto-hipsters with no real sense of purpose. While his pacing can be slower than what most readers are used to, Goodloe’s prose has so much natural charm that I think most people would be willing to stick with him and see where the characters end up.

What’s truly special about Goodloe’s books is that they’re free. None of them cost anything. When Goodloe finishes a novel, he saves up enough cash to print 10,000 copies, and then travels all over the place handing them out for free at bars, coffee shops, and book festivals.

It always blows my mind to see people refuse free books because they’re free, but sometimes Goodloe’s philanthropy, which he calls the Zero Dollar Book Tour, can’t win out against consumer paranoia. He once HYPERLINK “http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/8197/a-novel-idea”remarked to DC’s Citypaper that some people assume he’s “either a cultist or a pornographer” when he offers them a free book.

Goodloe’s other artistic pursuits are music (his CD Monstrous Blues can be downloaded here) and visual arts; he’s a freelance graphic designer who does book covers for Soft Skull, among others, and seems to roll out a new painting every week. The guy is insanely prolific once he gets going. He also drew a caricature of me for my 29th birthday.

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So yeah, that’s Goodloe Byron. He’s the literary version of Johnny Appleseed, and guys like him make up for all the whiners, rich hobbyists, and charlatans in the American arts community. Buy him a beer if he’s ever in your neck of the woods, and get one of his books, too. As far as I know, he isn’t a cultist.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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