I met Mike Meyer at a quiet little party he’d quickly arranged during a Steinbeck conference in the early 1990s. We spoke over several glasses of wine and though I remember very little about the conference, I have a vivid memory of meeting this wildly enthusiastic and passionate man who was all about John Steinbeck and the future of Steinbeck studies. Before I knew what hit me, I had agreed to write something for one of the many books he edited: Literature and the Grotesque (Rodopi 1994).
Our friendship grew when we discovered we were AP readers for ETS, so we roomed together a couple of summers at Trinity University in San Antonio. At any social occasion, hanging out with Mike was a great idea. He would throw a zillion ideas at you, joke, argue, get annoyed, and in general keep things alive and interesting. Also, he gathered people together no matter how disparate and formed a walking party all around him. If you were prone to wandering off on your own, as I am, Mike would pull you in. In this way, among others, he was very generous. Through Mike I became acquainted with a new generation of Steinbeck scholars—fine and dedicated people like Barbara A. Heavilin and Stephen K. George.
When I was in trouble with the Steinbeck Encyclopedia due to the demands of being a dean, I called to Mike for help. Sometimes we would disagree or he would go about working with people in a way that drove me crazy– such things are typical when a complicated book is under a terrible deadline strain (deadline trouble that was entirely my fault). But Mike was great at finding new people to finish out entries, great at following up, great at pushing me to stay on task. Above all, he demonstrated undying dedication to John Steinbeck. Without Mike, the Steinbeck Encyclopedia would never have been completed.
Like many others, I will miss Mike's emails about All Things Steinbeck. I will miss his passion, his ideas, his writing, his blunt honesty, and his infectious laugh. I will miss the way he would cock his head and say “Are you kidding, Brian?” (meaning: I totally disagree, here's why, and be ready to explain yourself). I will miss talking with that crazy guy, Michael Meyer.
We have lost a good man. John Steinbeck, wherever he is, must know he has lost an important friend.