I've never read anything by him. I'd never even heard of him until he blew his brains out. We could have hung out, sad to say: I go to Union Square damn near every day, twice a day. In fact, I was all alone on the 4th of July, wandering the streets below his apartment, passing back and forth between the train and the coffee shop where I was writing that night. I remember the 4th, because it was extra crowded and extra loud. On the train, a group of teenagers that were dressed up like prostitutes from the 1930's lit sparklers and flashed everyone. The sparklers were stomped out by an angry construction worker from Brooklyn who kept saying:
"I don't care WHAT you do with each other or to each other. You can't have no fireworks on the train."
The teenagers -- chastened, but too drunk to be demoralized -- all stood up together and said the Pledge of Allegiance with their hands over their hearts while the construction worker muttered and swore.
Everywhere was revelry and drinking. Of course there is nothing more depressing. I stayed out all night, and in the morning, I watched pigeons eating from a giant pile of vomit in front of the NYU dorms. Halfheartedly, I tried to shoo them away from the vomit as I shuffled by, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. There is a lifecycle here in the city, and you risk everything if you stand in its way.
Looking down over the festivities and fireworks that night -- all alone, but never the nicest man according to his eulogies -- Thomas Disch decided to check out.
The poet Charles Naylor, Disch's lover for three decades, died in 2005, which forced Disch to lose his house upstate -- the house of their joy and memories. He also had many health problems, which trapped him in his New York apartment. To cope, he wrote on Livejournal and wrote poetry. He probably felt like he had already died in ways, and that the most important parts of him were elsewhere.
You can read his last Livejournal entries here:
His last entries are about how food is so expensive that soon we are all going to starve to death, and about what kind of letters you would draft to dead writers. It's hard to tell if he knew he was leaving or not. People are writing final letters to Disch in the "Letters to Dead Writers" entry, and maybe you want to do this; maybe this should be a tradition or Reliquary.
Like I said, I haven't read anything by Disch, but I intend to pick his books up as soon as I can afford them. You should, too. Most of all, I want to read his short stories which all have great titles: "The Squirrel Cage," "Fun With Your New Head," "Getting Into Death." Here are the highlights from his career as novelist and enthusiastic hack. I love all these fucking ideas. Who cares what this guy was like in person? A good man died:
ECHO ROUND HIS BONES:
A matter transmitter makes ghostly copies of everything that goes through it, creating a second-order universe where the people are starving to death and resorting to cannibalism, because no one is sending food through the transmitter. Also, "the bombs are about to be launched." Can the ghosts save the world and themselves?
A conscientious objector gets sent to a prison camp where he is injected with a derivation of syphilis that turns people into geniuses. As he grows in intelligence, his body begins to decay, and the tale of Faust grows more clear and violent in his mind.
A novelization of an original story based on the television show "The Prisoner," which is the only television show I have ever enjoyed. Disch got paid to write "Prisoner" fan fiction in 1969, and he probably ate some good meals writing about Number 6, and what he is not (a number) and what he is instead (a free man).
A book about a New York housing project in the year 2025. The book is a discontinuous narrative which cobbles together five separate stories about people who live in this housing project, including a woman addicted to a hallucinogenic role-playing game, a boy trying to get extra-credit on his test to have children, and a group of children planning a pointless murder in Battery Park, for larks.
ON WINGS OF SONG:
His masterpiece, everyone says. It's about a boy who moves to New York to becomes a performance artist using electronically-assisted astral projection. That means he learns to fly. Supposedly, the book had a a famous 90% return rate from its science-fiction audience, who thought they were buying a book about robots and evil governments, but were instead buying a gay metaphor about art.
This is a famous text-adventure game that managed to replicate all of lower Manhattan in the 1980's. From Wikipedia: "The game begins as the player's character awakens in a midtown Manhattan hotel room with absolutely no memory. He has no clothes and no money, and doesn't even remember what he looks like. The player soon discovers he's engaged to a woman he can't remember, a strange man is trying to kill him, and the state of Texas wants him for murder. From here, the player must unravel the events in his life that led him to this point."
THE META-MINNEAPOLIS SERIES:
Eventually, Disch started writing horror novels, all of them set in a Minneapolis where the terrors of the spiritual world invade the complacency of the living edge. There's four books: "The Businessman," "The M.D.," "The Sub," and "The Priest." Perhaps these are like The Canterbury Tales, except with more demon babies, pedophilia, and sadism.
THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER:
Oh yeah -- Disch also wrote this; a 40 page ironic fable for "children" that focused on the efforts of a group of anthropomorphic household appliances to return to the boy who once loved them. You have heard of it because it became a movie by John Lasseter for Disney, complete with songs, small terrors, and Phil Hartman.
Later, the sentimental Lasseter would rip off the plot and theme for his movie "Toy Story," which would make him famous and beloved.
Never forget that all movies are born in the blood of storytellers and dreamers, who end up shocked, beaten, and then sacrificed forever to the cult of the image -- to the illuminated world which has no place or time for imagination, flight, or song.
Anyway, Thomas Disch is dead, but his work is not, and you should read all of his shit that you can, because his ghost is watching. And even if the ghosts of suicides don't walk the earth -- troubled, seeking revenge, and thirsty for rest -- you should act as if they do.
You might be next; depending upon what you see and when you see it.
Posted by miracle on Thu, 24 Jul 2008 20:18:19 -0400 -- permanent link