Andrew McKie’s obituary for Tom.
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I loved 334, The Businessman, On Wings of Song, and everything he wrote. Definitely, death is the real genocide.
You wrote yesterday:
For me, the puppeteer is always “visible in the backdrop”, because the puppeteer is always there.
I know I’ll be a bit redundant, but have you seen Jan Svankmajer’s “Faust”? This film, in which actors are combined with puppets, and actors and puppets interchange and mix their roles constantly, represents, in my opinion, an excellent unmasking of all the illusions of simulated reality: Any passer-by can become a Faust -serial Fausts!-, the Pact makes no sense, the strings are visible all the time, and the creakings of the machinery perfectly audible… and the lead actor died of cancer soon after the film was finished. I can’t think of any better example of the absurdity of this chimera called “Story”.
Here’s a good fragment, in case you’re interested:
Hi Josep. Yep, I’ve seen “Faust” & other stuff of his down the years. Can I take it you’re a Svankmajer enthusiast, then ? Maybe you should have a chat with Larry.
I’m like an open book, I know. I’m a Svankmajer and a Harrison enthusiast. I think you mix very well… A Viriconium collage by Svankmajer would be quite interesting, don’t you think so?
Terrible news. Aside from being sad that a voice of brilliant satire has gone silent, I’m also just really angry that such voices seem to always be ground down too soon and so unfairly. In a better world, society would not let someone like Disch slip through the cracks, much less be forced through them. Apparently, a farce of a health care system and a crook landlord played a large role in his suicide…I just don’t know what to think of that. So ridiculous.
This world isn’t kind to people who know the score, is it? First it was George Carlin, now Disch. For some reason I have similar feelings for both. I only knew them through their respective work, but I feel much lonlier knowing they’re not out there anymore, offering us their unique takes on the mess surrounding us all.
I seem to remember reading in one of your interviews that Thomas Disch tried to dissuade you from writing The Centauri Device. Have I misremembered that ? I always wondered why he might have done that. Did he think you should have waded out into the mainstream earlier than you did ?
He did indeed. Mostly on a five-hour train journey to the Lake District, but for a couple of years afterwards too.
Did he think you should have waded out into the mainstream earlier than you did ?
He thought I should be trying harder. Along with Jim Sallis and Chip Delaney, he saw some possibilities I didn’t have sufficient confidence to see at that time. But most of all, he didn’t think my motives for writing TCD were dependable, he didn’t think they’d support the effort needed to finish the book, or that they would make a book worth writing.
He was right on both counts. You don’t steal the bread van then complain it won’t corner like a Ducati; or if you do, you deserve all you get. I was ready to start writing something of my own, & instead I lost four years sniping at a kind of sf I didn’t need to be writing anyway. He tried to say to me, “You feel trapped, but the way out isn’t to try & engage with the trap. That will only get you in deeper.”
It worked out ok in the end, because I took to heart what he said, & did “Running Down” & “The Ice Monkey”, & ran away & found something which was, at that time, closer to my heart to write about. I owe a lot to Tom. He passed on the belief that what you do is important, you should give it credit & not think it’s clever to dissemble yourself as trash. That wasn’t advice I was getting anywhere else. I still have a passion for trash, but I don’t let it wrong-foot me any more–not emotionally, anyway.
I owe Tom for much of who I am now, & the weird thing is I didn’t even know him that well. All through the 70s I was in awe of his intellect, his humanity, his sheer ability to write. As I say, I always assumed we would meet again & maybe I wouldn’t be so shy. Bad plan.
I loved his work (as I hope, despite the Olympian pretence an obit has, was apparent in the piece). I only ever sent him an email or two. It’s gratifying that lots of people know how good he was. A shame we never got round to making it clearer earlier.
Clute has an obit in today’s Independent.
Hi Andrew. It was apparent. I quite like the Olympian pretence anyway.
A shame we never got round to making it clearer earlier.
Well, we tried quite hard back then.
At least, Harold Bloom includes “On Wings Of Song” in his “Western Cannon”. It’s a nice gesture.
& John Clute on Tom, here–
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