"Your long letter about your relationship to my book, Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections has finally caught up with me, and it has touched me deeply. I have received in these later years some dozen letters each year in which someone of apparent good sense and writing skill - - and, in your case, long experience in Spain - - qualified them to make value judgements.
A person like me who writes in solitude, rarely sees his readers and profits from specific contact with them. I had been waiting for a letter like yours to come in so that I could respond to it in some detail, and I found in your account of your travel adventures in Spain over a span of nearly thirty years to be what I wanted. I could have used the story of a Canadian who read my book on Japanese prints and decided to go to Japan and become a woodblock artist. He did, and with outstanding success. Or the people who went into archaeology because I made it so attractive, or the lovable ones of the lot, those who simply caught the travel lust from reading my books and went off hightailing it through the world. I hear from them all and from a very wide spread of countries.
But, your letter was of a different quality in that you specified how Iberia affected you and what specifically you did about it. You were fresh off a four-year hitch in the Navy during the Vietnam period, standing at the farewell gate at U.S. Naval Headquarters in Rota, Spain, with $500 bucks in your pocket and a determination to see Spain as intimately as this writer guy Michener had done in his youth. Your adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth. Truly you had a basketful of experiences that made me envious: art gallery manager, college stints at the University of Seville in the old tobacco factory of Carmen, marriage to lovely backpacker from Michigan whom you met in Andalucia, tour guide to back country Andalucian villages, Spanish wine and food expert, and a plunge into the world of adventure, art, history, and bullfighting that I’d described in Iberia.
I was impressed by your story about how you and your new friend John Fulton were stuck in Sevilla without a dime between you as the Fiestas de San Fermín at Pamplona approached on the 7 of July for eight wild days, and how you met a large group of affluent-looking American college students in Sevilla’s labyrinthine streets and arranged an impromptu tapas and sangría party at your house in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish Quarter, so they could meet Fulton and buy copies of his artwork. You earned enough money that night to permit you both to scurry off to Pamplona, where you met many of the characters in Iberia, joined in their wonderful tertulias, and had your hair-raising adventure in the encierro, the running of the bulls. That story and the way you told it made me think that you would be a pretty fair writer. In your thirty years of "wandering the back roads of Spain," you have built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia.
It was good to hear of your intellectual adventures as well and I am honored that Iberia had such a profound effect on your life and writings. Do you realize that because of the time you spent in Spain, both in the Navy and in those early years after your discharge, that you knew those characters of Pamplona and Sevilla and the bullfight aficionados better than I ever did? And what a scintillating group they were, and how privileged we both were to have know them. I am flattered that I have inspired you to pick up where I left off and write Homage to Iberia. The continuing saga of Spain, its people, and the wonderful characters who love this vibrant country deserves to be told.
James A. Michener
About Gerry Dawes
Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television
Gerry Dawes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): email@example.com