Disch Appreciation by Moshe Feder

Moshe Feder wrote about Thomas Disch’s death in a post on his LiveJournal, “Grains” (and in a comment on Disch’s last post to his own LJ, “Endzone.”) I asked permission to quote him here in full, and Moshe not only said yes, he generously worked up a slightly revised and expanded version:

Moshe Feder: I was saddened on Monday night, July 7th, to learn that Tom Disch had left us, dying by his own hand the previous Friday. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time and had no idea what a difficult time he’d been having. Here’s a link to the New York Times obituary:


Tom was, in my estimation, a genius. There were few writers I was more in awe of, and more nervous about meeting. Could I say anything that would possibly be of interest to him? But Tom was as gracious and sweet to me as he was brilliant and acerbic to the world, and always treated me like an equal, which I definitely am not.

Talking to him anywhere was a delight, as was sharing a lively convention panel, and I’ll always treasure the memory of the time he invited me up to his hotel room for drinks and a couple of hours of serious literary conversation. I’m not much of a drinker, so I sipped as slowly as I could, and tried to get him to do as much of the talking as possible.

It was particularly a privilege to review his books, and thereby be among the first to read them. In my opinion, his masterpiece was On Wings Of Song, a great novel of the 20th century — period, full stop. It was also, incidentally, one of the greatest SF novels ever written; and surely one of the most affecting. It should have won all our awards. With all due respect to Arthur, it’s a travesty that it lost the both the Nebula and the Hugo to Clarke’s The Fountains Of Paradise.

It’s ironic that Tom’s only Hugo win was for a work of nonfiction, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a typically brilliant book that I couldn’t quite agree with. His was the tragedy of many of our field’s best writers. Only the literary crowd was capable of appreciating what they are achieving, only the sf/fantasy audience would want to.

Nevertheless, it’s the novels and the stories he’ll be remembered for. I’m confident they’ll stand the test of time.

I’ve been wondering if he chose Independence Day deliberately. It would be well within the compass of his oh-so-sardonic wit to have a final joke by choosing that day to ‘go off with a bang.’ In any case, from now on, the Fourth of July will always have a Tom-shaped shadow lurking in it.

His friends and his readers will miss him, and the work he might yet have done.

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