Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A few words about Tom Disch

This is from Jacob about Tom. There are also links to other obituaries and eulogies here.

Word reached me yesterday of the death of my friend Thomas M. Disch. He committed suicide in his apartment on July 4th, and his body was found by a friend on the 5th. Tom had been depressed since the death of his partner, Charles Naylor several years ago. He was fighting chronic debilitating back pain and eviction from his rent controlled apartment. I’d hoped that the publication of his long awaited novel, The Word of God, would help ease his spirit and by all accounts it did, at least for a time. The book itself had been one of the causes of his depression. Tom lost his agent over the book, an incident he later incorporated into the text. Several major New York houses passed on The Word of God, and after Naylor died, Tom put the book away. I suspect that either the back pain had become too severe (our getting Tom out to lunch at a restaurant half a block from his apartment was a major accomplishment), or the struggle against his eviction had taken a turn for the worse, most likely the latter.

I’ll miss our time together. I stopped by his apartment each time I went to New York and we’d make a day of it. Tom was mostly housebound. He’d make me lunch, usually a Western Omelet, and I’d buy takeout Chinese for dinner, unless he was feeling up to going out. We’d sit and talk in Tom’s padded chairs, move to the dining room table for lunch, and then back to the chairs. He’d tell me about his travels around Europe with John Sladek, and about his encounters with Avram Davidson, Terry Carr, and Philip K. Dick. These reminiscences were usually at my request; Tom lived his life in the present. Just before his death he was writing poetry at a prodigious rate, somewhere around five hundred poems in a two year span, and posting them on his LiveJournal blog. He was also keeping up correspondence with a large number of people. And at last, he was writing fiction again, at least two novellas for Subterranean Press with the promise of more to come. I’d hoped that Tom would go back and finish a novel he’d started several years ago about an elephant that falls in love with a cat burglar, or perhaps it was a piano player, or both. Every time he told me about the book, how we all fall in love with people who can do well what we cannot, the way an elephant couldn’t help admiring somebody who could pick locks or play the piano, I couldn’t help laughing.

That his death comes now is doubly troubling. He was due to go over the edits today with Jill Roberts, Tachyon’s Managing Editor, for his forthcoming short story collection, The Wall of America. It is his first such collection in over 25 years. And The Word of God has been out for less than two weeks, with Tom scheduled to do a number of interviews in the next few weeks. The reviews so far have mostly been glowing. Tom’s contributor’s copies probably arrived at his apartment last week. I’d like to think that he saw them and approved, but, like so many other missing details, I may never know.

Jacob Weisman


Blogger Ralph said...

The Last Wave

I met Tom years ago at an sf convention. I had the impression then that there was a new generation of grandmasters ready to wrest the field away from the old guard represented by Heinlein, Bradbury, and Clarke. Regrettably Thomas Disch, J.G. Ballard, and Brian Aldiss all proved to be too fiercely literate to be firmly embraced by the gatekeepers of our field. Now Disch is gone, Ballard not far behind. Only Aldiss keeps on chugging. I'm not sure science fiction will ever be treated with the same degree of sophistication ever again.

7/09/2008 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Edward Renehan said...

RIP Tom Disch, a true genius.

8/15/2008 7:31 AM  

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