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Thomas M. Disch RIP
Bella
ellen_datlow
I've just found out that Tom Disch committed suicide in his apartment on July 4th. He was found by a friend who lives a few blocks away.

I'm shocked, saddened, but not very surprised. Tom had been depressed for several years and was especially hit by the death of his longtime partner Charles Naylor. He also was very worried about being evicted from the rent controlled apartment he lived in for decades.

I last visited with him about a month ago, when I ran into him shopping at the Greenmarket across the street from where he lived (he rarely went out because he had trouble walking). He invited me up for cheese and bread which we bought together at the market and I visited for an hour or two. He seemed more optimistic about his work than he'd been for at least a year as he had three books/novellas coming out over the next year.

Tom wrote wonderful stories (I only read one or two of his novels but kept meaning to read more) and if you haven't ever read the collections Getting into Death or Fundamental Disch you need to find and read them.

Tom, as much as you were a bitter, sometimes mean curmudgeon--I'll miss you.


John Clute on Tom Disch

And possibly the best obituary by Elizabeth Hand on
Salon

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I've been stunned ever since I found out. Tom has been a part of my life since at least 1967, which is as far back as my memories of him go. I'll be spending the day rereading him.
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It's hard to believe he's gone.
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*sadness* I only met him a time or three, but his writing was always a welcome visitor.
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Hopefully it will live on.
He was also a painter--I love some of the paintings in his apartment.
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Wow. Didn't he just release a new book?
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Yes, and more to come.
But his living situation was dire --fucking NYU has been trying to evict him for a couple of years. His second home in the country was destroyed by flooding then mold. His health declining. Things have not been good for him.
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It wasn't NYU (Anonymous) Expand
Not NYU, just fyi (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Not NYU, just fyi (Anonymous) Expand
Damn damn damn. He was so sweet to me the couple of times we met, telling me endless stories of The Good Old Days.

I'll have to call my father and tell him.

Shit, what a year it's been.
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Rose, he was also lovely to me when I saw him but I could see his other side clearly too. Please, yes. Do let your father know if he hasn't already heard.
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Sad news :( He will be missed.
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Wow. There's a small part in one of my recent F&SF stories that was there just as a gratuitous tribute to Disch and his influence. I'm sorry to hear this news.
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I guess I'm surprised but not shocked. I saw him about a month ago at the NYRSF reading at South Street. He read from his new book and was quite bubbly - told me I looked like Chris Walken. I'm surprised that his novels Camp Concentration and 334 and his short stories haven't gotten the same kind of mainstream attention and respect that P.K. Dick has received.
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Nobody ever made any big giant movies out of Disch's stories and books, or movies named after them, or...not even named after them or based on them, really, but still carrying a credit.

At any rate, it comes to mind that an attempt was made to reintroduce Disch with sexy trade paperbacks based on the Vintage resell of Dick, around the same time as Sturgeon, like ten years ago. It didn't seem to work, for Disch or Sturgeon.
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What very sad news...
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Disch was a part of my life before I knew who he was, due to placement of his story, "Casablanca," in Stories That Scared Even Me, one of the handful of Hitchcock anthologies I treasured as a kid.

And then somebody gave me 334 to read when I was a teen, and I was hooked.

Damn.
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Horrible news! I had been interacting with him a bit on his LiveJournal, and loving the poetry he was putting out there. Disch is one of my literary heroes and reading his work in high school was one of the ways I made it through that teenage hellyard.

I'm very sorry to hear that he took his own life. There were times when he was looking for more interaction with readers and I tried to respond as much as I could, and it's hard now to not feel bad for not giving someone who gave me so much art and wonder more time.
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I suspect many of us feel at least somewhat guilty at not paying enough attention to him (and to his work).
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Dreadful news. Not, as you say, very surprising, but dreadful none the less. I hope he finds some peace now, with the poets and playwrights.
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Yeah, he's up in heaven with Isaac Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut right now. I spent this holiday at the beach, and cooked ribs, while Tom sat alone, making up his mind. Nothing I could do anyway: I met him once, I'm hundreds of miles away, and his problems were complex; still I feel guilty somehow. Once again, a story by Disch has upset me, shocked me, and made me wonder.
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I just saw this at ML, and I, unlike the rest of you, am shocked.

With the books coming out and so on ... it reminds me somehow of Phillip K. Dick's demise.

Love, C.
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I'm deeply saddened by this news. I only met Disch a few times--once at ICFA, a couple of times at Readercon. He was always perfectly pleasant to me, but I do remember the last Readercon he attended he seemed more depressed than usual. His fiction at its best was superb and has been under-acknowledged in recent years. What a goddamn sorry shame.
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Oh, damn. Damn damn damn. Another man done gone, and we keep losing the good ones.
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Oh, damn.

My memory of Tom will always be colored by an afternoon that he and Stan Shaffer--a fellow Clarionite--spent at a junior college in New Jersey at a symposium on speculative literature. Stan had introduced me to to Tom, and he had a slight "don't embarrass me in front of my friend" air about him. So when the symposium was over and we were walking over the lawn--a series of immaculately groomed hills--and I put down my bag and books and lay down and rolled down the green, Stan was appalled. And then Tom, bless him forever, said "Oh, yes," handed his stuff to Stan, and rolled down the hill too. I think we went up and down that hill a few times, and Stan finally joined in.

I know Tom was depressed these last few years; I'm so happy to have this joyful recollection to pair with his extraordinary writing.
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This fits in so well with my own memories of Tom that it made me cry (again). He had a remarkable gift for joy, which was profoundly shaken and probably destroyed after Charlie's death. I'm so glad you got him to roll down that hill with you.
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Hi Boris--yes, it's awful.
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I am really sorry to hear that.
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Oh, damn. This saddens me so. My condolences to his friends and family.
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I came across his books via The Prisoner book he wrote. Camp Concentration will always haunt me.
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Thomas Disch

(Anonymous)

2008-07-06 10:29 pm (UTC)

I am so very sorry to hear this news. What a sad day....

Ann VanderMeer
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What terrible news for his friends and fans.
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I'm shocked and stunned. Not that I ever met him, but I was a fan of his novels... Very sad indeed :(
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Damn. What a loss. I loved his recent poetry.
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Thank you for posting this, Ellen, especially the part about having a friendly recent chat with him.

He was *such* a good writer. And, for all his unhappiness and curmudgeonlyness and even meanness, I've seen him go out of his way to do a good deed for someone he didn't even know.

Eileen
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You're welcome. I knew him to be a monster at times but he was always kind to me. In fact, I'll never forget when I visited once and had a horrible horrible cold and even though I had just eaten, he and Charlie (well, it was more Charlie) heated up a can of chicken soup and forced me to eat it!
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