A Tribute to Ned Vizzini

December 20, 2013   •   By Cecil Castellucci

ONE OF THE LAST TIMES I SAW NED VIZZINI, he showed me a 3D model of his brain. We were at a party at his house. He was smiling and excitedly telling me about this study he’d participated in about creativity and the brain and they had scanned his brain and when they were done they offered him a 3D print out of it. He took it. Of course he did. Who wouldn’t? We stood there, drinking beer, talking about books, dishing literary dirt, waxing poetic about the writing life and all the while we were talking he was holding his brain. By the way, it was a beautiful looking brain. Obviously it would be, for he had a very elegant mind.

Being a writer is a bit like being in a war sometimes. Careers are strange, with unexpected gains and losses. People are on your side until they’re not. The blank page can feel like a battlefield. It’s good to have an ally to talk it through with, and Ned Vizzini was the best kind of ally to have in that particular war. You wanted him in your literary trench. He was a very talented writer, had a great sense of humor, was whip smart, an honest talker and had very generous heart. He was the real deal. The full package. And he shone.

I first met Ned at The Bounty, with Carolyn Kellogg. He was really young, probably just old enough to have a drink. With a decade on him, I thought he was a whippersnapper. We stayed in touch nonetheless, and by the time he moved to Los Angeles and became a part of the literary landscape here, he’d matured into a lovely man.

Ned could always be counted on to come out for the various YA events that I threw in Los Angeles. More than just supportive, Ned was a die-hard champion of our field, and also of the LA literary scene. If you ever saw him on a panel, or do a reading, you knew that he was hysterically funny and brutally honest. He put it out there and he got it back. He could wax poetic about anything. He was passionate about what he thought about things and if you were lucky enough to hear him speak or talk to him one-on-one, you know he wasn’t shy about saying exactly what was on his mind. I loved that about him. He was a real go-getter, too. He was ambitious and motivated. It was something to be admired. I have often given myself a pep talk by saying to myself that I needed to channel my inner Ned Vizzini.

We here at the LA Review of Books were lucky enough to have him write for us. He wrote brilliantly about YA going rock’n’roll. He did a spot-on comparison of The Hunger Games book and movie. And he contributed to our Hit List series with a compilation of books to accompany his last solo novel, The Other Normals.

It is very sad that someone with a smile and spirit that bright can be swallowed up by an unimaginable darkness. My heart goes out to his wife Sabra and his son Felix. Ned was a delight to hang out with. His absence will be a void in the YA and literary community here in Los Angeles and everywhere. 

I know I for one will miss him greatly.