Drive-In Saturday:
John Berryman
Drive-In Saturday:
"Drive-In Saturday"

Thomas M. Disch (1940-2008)

On Saturday, in my John Berryman post, I mentioned Thomas M. Disch's use of the suicidal Berryman's ghost as a character in one of his novels.  I had no idea at the time I posted it that Disch himself, sadly, had taken his own life the previous day.

I came by the news first through John Crowley's LiveJournal, where the commenters now include Disch's surviving family members and Philip K. Dick's third wife Anne.  Appreciations, and links to appreciations, can also be found at Crooked Timber, Hit & Run, and 2blowhards.

While he will deservedly be remembered as a very fine writer of science fiction and similarly fantastic fiction, he was also a (to my mind underrated) poet.  I purchased a copy of his first collection, The Right Way to Figure Plumbing, at Cody's bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley in the late 70s; it ranks high on my list of books that have somehow got away from me and that I now miss having.  He continued to post his recent poetry among the entries on his own LiveJournal, Endzone.  Simply because it is an interesting poem, and not for the sake of trying to read any doomy foreshadowing into it, here is his entry from June 17:

Tears the Bullet Wept

We know that bullets sing.
Bret Harte transcribed their song.
But give them this: they weep as well,
And theirs are the most precious souvenirs
That venders hawk on the streets of hell.

What is so tragic as the lethal blast
Of thunderbolt or .38
That turns what had been present
Into past?  There he stood
And here he lies at last.
Will you not shed a single tear
For any such?  Is that too much to ask?

Here is a tear. Weigh it,
Please, Sir, on your scale--
And I will tell you the whole tale.
But only when your job is done.
Kill all the rest first.  I will wait.

I had also been trying to think of an excuse to link his "Write about Flowers" from February, just because I smiled over this passage:

Just before bed I'd been reading
Portrait of a Lady
with special reference
to Pansy, James's nightmare of a rich, dumb
American girl. Flowers are about sex, about how
to get bees to rub up against your anthers.
Teenage girls are much the same.

Born on Groundhog Day, died on the Fourth of July.  He would have been able to make something of that.  Ave atque vale.


Some previous Disch references (there are others for those who would hunt them up) on a fool in the forest:


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