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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
THE BEST ALSO SOMETIMES HAVE PASSIONATE INTENSITY, and this is what intense depression can do.
SF author, critic, and poet Thomas M. Disch, born 1940, died July 4, 2008, of suicide in his New York City apartment. Ellen Datlow reports that Disch had been depressed for several years, especially by the death of long-time partner Charles Naylor, and worries of eviction from his rent-controlled apartment.
A notorious tease, he may pretend not to be aware of you. Just wait. He must speak first. Then you may begin to praise him.
Remember: sincerity and naturalness count for more than wit. His jokes may strike you as abstruse. Only laugh if he does.
Gifts? They say he's mad for art, but whether in the melting elegiac mode of, say, this Vase of Poppies or, turning the mirror to his own face, a bronze skull gorging on a snake -- that is a matter of taste. In any case, the expense is what he notices.
What to wear. Some authorities still insist on black. But really, in this modern age, your best is all that is required.
-- Tom Disch
Disch was one of the great writers of the field, and of any field. Read the full obit at Locus.
Camp Concentration, and later, 334, blew me away as an adolescent. Tom Disch was one of several writers who left me with no possibility of doubting that science fiction could be an utterly adult medium. He was brilliant.
Mallarmé drowning Chatterton coughing up his lungs Auden frozen in a cottage Byron expiring at Missolonghi and Hart Crane visiting Missolonghi and dying there too
The little boot of Sylvia Plath wedged in its fatal stirrup Tasso poisoned Crabbe poisoned T.S. Eliot raving for months in a Genoa hospital before he died Pope disappearing like a barge in a twilight of drugs
The execution of Marianne Moore Pablo Neruda spattered against the Mississippi Hofmannsthal's electrocution The quiet painless death of Robert Lowell Alvarez bashing his bicycle into an oak
The Brownings lost at sea The premature burial of Thomas Gray The baffling murder of Stephen Vincent Benét Stevenson dying of dysentery and Catullus of a broken heart
I often disagreed with the specifics of Tom Disch's sf criticism, but never without regarding him as one of the most important critics the field has ever had. A review of The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of.
I "met" Tom Disch several times in the sense of being in the same room party, or convention function room, with him several times, but I never had the guts to walk up to him to start a conversation -- I couldn't imagine what I'd say, and was too intimidated, and he was one of the few of whom I'd say that of, and unless I'd ever found myself in the same conversational circle, and somehow had something that seemed worth contributing, I doubt I'd ever have spoken to him if similar circumstances had arisen again. Nor did we ever have occasion to do business together.
He wasn't the most pleasant man in the world, but he made more of a mark than five hundred thousand more pleasant people. Rest, Thomas Disch, and find peace.
And damnit, he'll find more commercial success now, in death, than he knew in the latter days of his life.
ADDENDUM, 10:45 p.m.: Belatedly, I recall that White Fang Goes Dingo was, for years, one of my very favorite short story titles. (The novel version's title, The Puppies of Terra, also wasn't bad.) Disch's computer game/story Amnesia was one of the earlier experiments in literary computer fiction/gaming; he always had surprises up his sleeve. And the themes were entirely Disch.
And it's said that he wrote, on work for hire, for only $5000 and nothing more, on the basis of his success for Disney with The Brave Little Toaster a little treatment that met with some small success. It was called The Lion King.
ADDENDUM, July 8th, 11:55 a.m.: As Moshe Feder wrote in an email: "His was the tragedy of many of our best writers. Only the literary crowd was capable of appreciating what they are achieving, only the sf/fantasy audience would want to."
ADDENDUM, July 10th, 9:55 a.m.: One of sfdom's top critics, if not the top critic, John Clute, does Disch's obit in The Independent.
[...] From the publication of his first poems and stories in 1962, the central theme that could be discerned throughout this work was a passionate conviction that the desolateness of the human condition could only be "figured" through art, it did not much matter what (although Disch was a seriously bad painter). What was important was to make sense of the bad deal we had been handed as a species – one of his many volumes of poetry is entitled The Right Way to Figure Plumbing (1972). To figure things right, for Disch, was to treat death as a game, deadly of course, but beauteous. For Disch, in the end, death was only sensible if you did it yourself. These intuitions, certainly bleak enough, were articulated in a tone of almost unearthly high spirits: wry, mellifluous, formally exact, wickedly intimate, camp, deadly serious, surreal, unrelenting.
A science-fiction novel like Camp Concentration (1968), or one of the hundreds of stories like "The Asian Shore" (1970), or a children's fable like The Brave Little Toaster (1986), which became a Disney animated feature, or any of the thousands of poems (published under the name Tom Disch), or the critical essays in The Nation and elsewhere, or the opera librettos: anything he wrote was instantly identifiable. Perhaps one of the reasons he never achieved the very wide fame his readers assumed from the first he might be heir to was that the Disch voice took no prisoners: it was a voice you agreed with, or it dismissed you.
Along with Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Zelazny, Disch was soon thought of as representing a new hope for science fiction; in the hands of these writers, the genre might finally be recognised for shaping valid responses to the world, rather than just as escapist entertainment. But by the time Disch published his first novel, The Genocides (1965), in which Earth is harvested by aliens totally indifferent to the fact that their actions are exterminating the human race – he had already begun to wander, ending up in 1965 in London, where Michael Moorcock's New Worlds was beginning to agitate for adult, modernist, unforgivingly experimental speculative fiction.
Disch's response was partial: Camp Concentration, first published in New Worlds and still his most famous novel, describes, in an intense iteration of his already unmistakable voice, a concentration camp run by the American military which is subjecting its inmates to fatal doses of a drug designed to increase intelligence. The echoes of Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus (1947) are clear and deliberate. The novel won some plaudits but no honours from the science-fiction community, which from the first could not tolerate Disch's corrosive disdain for the technocentric uplift typical of "normal" science fiction, and for anything that seemed to him to pander to the immaturity of most genre fiction.
Meanwhile, he published, in 334 (1972), a formally demanding but ultimately extremely moving portrait of non-heroic life in a desolate near-future New York (334 is the number of an apartment block). And in On Wings of Song (1979), he published what has come to be recognised as his best single novel: it depicts the life of an earnest but unsuccessful artist in an even less habitable New York; the interplay here between a life dedicated to art (even mediocre art) and the unstoppable degradation of America into a land raddled by starvation (spiritual and physical) and malls, is utterly melancholy, but hilarious, too.
To him everything that humans did about things that mattered – from God to sex, from the Pope to the sestina – was ultimately silly. The heart of Tom Disch in person, gossiping profoundly about the world and its makings, was glee.
The rest of Clute's obit was laid out in its opening paragraph:
The death of the American writer Thomas M. Disch, by his own hand, on the Fourth of July, was the last act of a drama that had been unfolding in public for several years.
Clute lends insight even unto an obituary.
ADDENDUM, July 10, 5:04 p.m.: Telegraphobit is also good.
[...] "Tom Disch is one of the few people I have ever met who I would consider a genius," said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. "He was like a brilliant child in the richness of his imagination, although certainly no child had as dark and twisted an imagination as Tom did."
[...] Endings are seldom pretty. Tom knew that. He knew that not very much is pretty, in fact, once you scrape the patina off.
Except the arts. Tom was a great patron not only of poetry and fiction but also of opera, music, painting and sculpture. I don't think he believed our arts would magically save us, but he was pretty sure they were our best bet, perhaps our only bet -- even if they, like everything else in life, might well be taken with a sprinkling of salt, a dash of cynicism, and half a cup of good-natured fun.
Searching for words here (in silence, without the hum of the Selectric these days), I remember our sitting on the porch in Milford discussing a change from "could" to "would" in one of his poems. I recall the growing list of "Hard Words" he kept over his typewriter for years, and I wonder if he ever got the chance to use them all. I remember him, Pam Zoline and John Sladek trading nonce words back in London, "epithesis" being a favorite. And later, his childlike joy at the sound of the word "micturation," his delight at our describing a lawn game to be played "with mallets and forethought."
Pictures on cave walls, fiction of both low- and highbrow caste, history, opera and musicals -- it's all a way of remembering, which is all we can do, finally. It's what I've been doing since learning of Tom's death. Both difficult people, we moved and grew apart; the braid of our lives unraveled. I thought of him often, read virtually all his books as they came out, fondly knew how important he had been to me.
Making their way to the inmost chambers of caves, bypassing other interiors that seem to us just as suitable, our ancestors covered walls with their paintings. We've little idea what purposes (social? religious?) the chambers served, all those detailed renderings, those grand animals. But there in privacy a few invented, for us all, the entire vocabulary of our arts: image, narrative, celebration, form. They speak to us still: We were here. This is what we saw. This is how we experienced our world.
So it is with each individual writer or artist today.
Style is not about word choice, cadence, sentence structure, point of view, momentum; finally, it's not even about writing well.
Style is, finally, the direct reflection of how the writer connects with his or her world, the way in which he or she lets us see our world anew, new perspectives, new visions, new glimmers of comprehension here in darkness.
You speak for many of us Gary. Good job with the poems, too.
I've been wondering if he chose Independence Day deliberately. It would be within the compass of his wit to choose that day to 'go off with a bang.' In any case, from now on, the Fourth of July will always have a Tom-shaped shadow lurking in it.