With regret and considerable envy, we must report that senior writer Rod Usher has decided to seek a quieter existence. After 36 years as a journalist, a dozen of them with TIME, he intends to concentrate on his career as a novelist, his new house in Spain, his wife Angela and the good life of an Iberian squire. This is a fine thing for Rod, who has certainly earned a place in the sun. But it's bad news for journalism.
Born in the U.S. but raised in Australia, Rod joined the Melbourne Herald as a copyboy back when Robert Menzies was Prime Minister. He (Rod, not Robert) demonstrated a rare facility for both the mundane and the profound: he became sports editor of the Melbourne Age and later its literary editor undoubtedly the only person to have held both those jobs in the paper's history. Fleeing Australia's notorious weather, he spent the 1970s in balmy London, becoming chief subeditor of the Sunday Times.
By 1990 he found himself in Spain and realized he was home. Rod fixed up an old house in Catalunya, helping finance that project by contributing articles to TIME. Both were fateful career moves. His TIME connection led him back to Australia for a stint as deputy editor and eventually editor of our South Pacific edition. Returning to Spain in 1994 (Angela is Spanish), he became a senior writer for TIME Atlantic the first person hired for our newly decentralized European edition.
At TIME, Rod has written more than a dozen cover stories, a score of Essays and uncounted news stories and cultural reviews. He has also found time to write two novels, two volumes of poetry and three nonfiction books. One of his novels, Florid States, was shortlisted for last year's mind Book of the Year award in the U.K. He is ruminating on another novel and will continue contributing to TIME. (Don't miss his piece this week on an Islamic exhibition in Córdoba, and look for his work in our upcoming European Journey special issue.) He also plans another renovation project, a former convent school in the town of Barcarrota, not far from the Portuguese border. "I'm a masochist for doing up old houses," he says. If Rod is as successful in that enterprise as he was in helping build TIME into Europe's leading newsmagazine, it should be spectacular indeed: a house fit for Spain's leading American-Australian man of letters.