Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Sadly, our friend Thomas M. Disch has passed away , and even more sadly, apparently by his own hand on the Fourth of July.

The man could do anything involving words. He wrote award-winning science fiction such as Camp Concentration and (my favorite) the bleak volume The Genocides . He wrote a perennial children’s book called The Brave Little Toaster . He even wrote award-winning comic verse in fantastically difficult forms, including “Ballade of the New God”:

I have decided I’m divine.
Caligula and Nero knew
A godliness akin to mine,
But they are strictly hitherto.
They’re dead, and what can dead gods do?
I’m here and now. I’m dynamite.
I’d worship me if I were you.
A new religion starts tonight!

No booze, no pot, no sex, no swine:
I have decreed them all taboo.
My words will be your only wine,
The thought of me your honeydew.
All other thoughts you will eschew.
You’ll call yourself a Thomasite
And hymn my praise with loud yahoo.
A new religion starts tonight.

But (you might think) that’s asinine!
I’m just as much a god as you.
You may have built yourself a shrine,
But I won’t bend my knee. Who
Asked you to be my god? I do,
Who am, as god, divinely right.
Now you must join my retinue:
A new religion starts tonight.

All that I have said is true.
I’m god and you’re my acolyte.
Surrender’s bliss, I envy you.
A new religion starts tonight.

Endlessly talented, Tom was always a difficult character, with strange edges and an awkward, unbalanced and finally unbearably sad life. His friend and mentor, the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, once turned him into the FBI as a communist spy. He wasn’t, of course, and the incident probably tells more about the madness of Philip K. Dick than it does about Tom Disch. Still, it’s typical of the odd events that seemed to punctuate Tom’s life.

So much wasted, so many wrong turns, so much lost. This death has taken all my breath for speech.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles