Saturday, August 29, 2009


Despite Steve Brown of Science Fiction Eye wanting to make it seem like I was mad at Tom Disch (I shamelessly exploited the situation in my essay, “Greasy Kid Stuff From Outer Space”) Disch has always been one of my favorite writers. But I’m not really fond of his commercially successful children’s books and horror novels, or On the Wings of a Song. I liked him best when he breaking all the rules. His straight-up short stories are also excellent, but nobody rushed off into unexplored literary territory New Wave style like Thomas M. Disch.

Go ahead, track down The Genocides, Fun with Your New Head, Camp Concentration, 334, and Getting into Death. Have a ball, you’ll see what I mean. It does make me mad that all of Disch’s book aren’t readily available.

I’m delighted to report that in The Word of God: Or, Holy Writ Rewritten, he’s back to smashing the hell out of rules and regulations, and it is wonderful.

But then, how could the author of High Aztech not like a book that joyously deconstructs religion? Never has it all seemed so absurd! But it’s not just a book-length rant, it breaks down literary barriers in the best New Wave tradition: Non-fiction blends into fiction. Poetry intrudes on prose. An entire previously published short story appears. There’s even a hilarious fictional storyline featuring Philip K. Dick, Hell, time travel. It also contradicts itself, but then the premise is that Disch is God.

It should be no surprise that in these dark times for writers and writing, this book was published by a small press, and no one will bribe bookstores to put in on display. Oprah will not recommend it. Guess it’s up to me.

The thing is, for a book that came out close to the time of the death of the author, it does not read like final statement of a mind that's sputtering out and getting ready to call it quits. The Word of God is Disch as witty, creative, and skillful as ever. This book is alive, as any good book should be.

I finished it with a smile on my face, then I frowned. Society doesn’t treat writers well. Anyone considering writing as a career should grab a stack of the biographies of dead writers they admire and read the closing chapters. Its rare that writers are happy or prosperous in their old age. And their deaths . . .

Which is why we need to celebrate the works of the writers we admire. Read them. Recommend them. Life is short. Paper and ink crumble and fade. Words get forgotten. Memory fails.

But, in that moment when you read something wonderful, like The Word of God, something happens. Like a magic spark, something invisible and intangible comes to life. It’s like talking to someone who has died, or talking to a god.

Hmm, I wonder how long it be before someone is writting this kind of stuff about me?

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