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Friday, April 18, 2014

Guest Opinion: In Praise of David Royce

By Linda Hall

A few days after I heard that David Royce had died, I opened a book and read, in the first sentence of an essay, “It’s almost always a mistake not to speak of the dead, especially when one has good things to say.”

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The cover of a program distributed at David Royce’s Town Hall memorial service on April 9. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

I do have good things to say; mainly I’d like to take exception to a breezy assessment Royce once offered of himself. “I have a personality problem,” he told Dan Woog in the 1980s. “When I get up to speak I sound like an insufferable, arrogant pain in the neck. Hell, I would never invite me over for dinner.”

Almost 20 years ago, when I was not long out of college and working for a magazine in New York, I invited myself over to David Royce’s backyard. I was doing a story on Westport and told Royce that I needed him in it. True enough, but I was also happy to have an excuse to talk to him. I had been aware of him practically my whole life. (We came to town the same year—he as a grown man, I as a newborn.) 

My mother always referred to him as just plain Royce, and I needed to hear that single syllable only a few times to understand that she thought him, in a worthwhile way, something else. Long before Google, she was like Google Alert. “Today’s Westport News,” she’d say. “Royce.” And I’d go and read something by him, or about him.

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