Thomas M. Disch (February 2, 1940 - July 4, 2008)

Better known for sf novels like Camp Concentration, 334 and On Wings of Song Thomas M. Disch had considerable success with works as diverse as Clara Reeve (a period Gothic), Neighboring Lives (an historical novel of literary London in the 19th Century), and a series of supernatural novels situated in Minnesota that read like Frank O'Hara rewriting Stephen King; all the while maintaining a prolific career as a critic and book reviewer for periodicals such as The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times, Washington Post Book World, Playboy, The Atlantic, The Nation, Hudson Review, and Poetry; and still finding time to publish an incessant stream of short fiction in genre and literary magazines; and, as "Tom" Disch, composing over 500 poems that offer much in the way of wit and delightful formalism; not to mention the acclaim brought by his children's books like The Brave Little Toaster and A Child's Garden of Grammar.

Disch had a penchant for the elegant, the horrific and the surreal - all at the same time. His aesthetic encompassed the joy of individual moments enlivened by an operatic taste for the passionate dying fall and Cassandra-like imprecations. He entertained his ideas and himself with a rich irony. He employed erudition and virtuoso technique with a black humour that redoubled itself in baroque invention. His fiction, criticism and poetry had a lucid, almost luminous quality, belying a strength that pulls irresistibly at the reader's attention and emotions. His science fiction aimed at a stylish maturity, avoiding the stolid or gratuitous. His criticism and poetry demonstrated a playful spirit that saw a positive virtue in clowning with the mordant and sacrosanct. Like such other Minnesota boys as Terry Gilliam, Garrison Keillor and the Coen Brothers, he won acclaim with his observation of the most minute and telling detail coupled with a revelling in grotesque comic fantasy and exuberant genre controversions. But it is as America's premiere modern Gothicist that Disch stood out, a reinterpretation of Gothic style and modes underpinning much of his fiction and which found joyous outlet in a multiplicity of narrative formats. He lived in Mexico, Spain, England, and Rome, but for the last 30 years he lived in New York City and out of it, where he was a sometimes radio pundit and theatre critic. His last years were blighted by the death of his partner Charles Naylor, diminishing health, his failure to sustain a niche in the publishing world, and struggles to keep his apartment of 30 years. He committed suicide on 4 July, 2008

Site History

September 2009
Posted more interviews. Thanks to Scott Edelman, Paul Di Filipo, David Lehman and Greg for Feeley for their permission.

August 2009 An earlier version of this site ran from January 2000 to January 2002. For the last year Disch provided assistance and information. The website stopped because of technical incompetence on my part, and the website was finally deleted from its server in 2007. A much more detailed biography has been added. There's a small piece about Disch's uncompleted novel "The Pressure of Time". Bibliographies and checklists have been brought up to date. There are hundreds of new links to Disch's works on the internet and many essays, reviews and tributes to Disch.

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