Death Is Not The End


“I was working, actually. I was sitting in my chair at the office in the gym (the job basically consisted of handing out towels and locks to students for four hours a shift), and someone had left a copy of his short stories in the back room. I opened it, and was fascinated by the fact that he’d written an entire short story — beginning, middle, end, with obvious climax and development — in one very long, run-on sentence that lasted about three pages — one page after he’d written one that was two paragraphs.  I would finish two stories in this book a shift, and when I was done, I asked my bosses if anyone had come for it, and if I could keep it. They let me, and I still have that copy.”


“I think he spoke to me, and was an added inspriation in my desire to write fiction at the time (my other favorite author at that point? Walter Mosley) because he wrote about subjects that I’d known fairly well. In that book, there’s a story called “The Depressed Person.” It’s about a woman, but it addresses all the nervousness and contradictions that one has to rack their brain about when it comes to a relationship with a person you pay to listen to your troubles, diagnose, and medicate you. Having gone through years of that sort of thing as a teenager while feeling entirely uncomfortable about it, it reflected that back upon me.”


“Oh, sure. You can see the reflections of satire throughout; I still peel through a few pages of Infinite Jest every now and then to see how much closer we’ve come to that world, and also, on the off-chance I’ll find something I didn’t see last time in the rush of footnotes.”


“I suppose it’s the background as an essayist, y’know? That’s the only thing I can think of. But to tell entire stories in footnotes; to make them useful as a device in the story itself — I mean, it still seems like literary genius to me at 26 in the same way it did when I was 19. I was in awe . It was just another unexpected way of telling a story. When I was taking creative writing and fiction classes, I would try to aim for that kind of ideal while trying not to steal his concepts (easier said than done, I know.)  Imagining the questions to the brief interviews was a challenging exercise; it informed your view of the characters as much as the responses. That’s still my favorite device of his; it was so simple, yet so revelatory.”


“When I learned he had been teaching at Pomona, I was kind of well, ‘Damn, I wish I could have had him for a professor,’ because that was one of the few schools that accepted me, and it was a tough decision to not go there.  But at least we all still have his work, in various forms.  I know it’s totally trite to feel sad about musicians, writers, etc., whom you’ve never met when you hear about their deaths, but I feel awful for his wife, and I hope he finds comfort now, wherever he is.  I remember my mother telling me at a very young age: ‘Son, there are people who are extraordinarily talented out there, but they’re always a bit different. They may have trouble talking to other people. They may suffer from depression. In some ways, they can’t function like you or I do.  Those are the trade-offs people are assigned when they are given or develop such talents.’ It was a speech she meant to tell me, to comfort me about not being a well-adjusted teenager, like many of the others in school (and I did have some talent musically and in terms of writing), but it was comforting to think and maybe know this; that we were all fallible and human in some way.”


“I’d have thanked him for writing stories that I stumbled on right at the point when I needed to read them.  You know how the music you listen to is linked to the memories associated with the time period? That’s what that time in college, in terms of expanding my idea of what writing could be, was like with his books in my first year of school.”


One Response

  1. Q:

    How much more empty is the world today? I will continue to cherish the work and mourn the man.

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