Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tom Disch - Poet & Writer

In the 1970s Tom Disch lived on Union Square in Manhattan with Charles Naylor. There were books in most of the rooms and long metal shelves filled with boxes of books all the way down the long hall.

One time they were looking through books, Chris noticed a paperback by Victor Hastings packed in with copies of Disch's books. Chris picked it up. "Tom," he said. "Did you write this one?" Disch abashedly 'fessed up.

Another time Disch volunteered the history of how The House That Fear Built came to be.

Someone from Paperback Library, probably Hy Steirman, called Disch.
Quick, Tom, I need a Gothic mystery by Friday.
I don't know Gothic mysteries, Tom said, I've never written anything like that.
You're a writer aren't you. If you're a writer you can write and I need you to write me a Gothic mystery by Friday. I'm paying $300.

This exchange took place when $300 would cover a couple of rents and then some. Besides, Tom Disch relished a challenge. He accepted the commission. In the 1960s Disch was living with John Sladek. John watched Tom write through Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. On Wednesday Tom bogged down. He was totally blocked. He couldn't move the plot forward.

Give it to me, said John. Why don't I write on it for a little while? So they passed it back and forth and finished it by Friday. It was published under a Paperback Library house name, Cassandra Knye, but it was really a couple of guys taking turns at it writing through a week.

Hy Steirman was right though. Tom Disch was a writer. He could write. He settled into science fiction and later horror. He also wrote mainstream fiction, criticism, and of course he wrote poetry.
Above all, Tom Disch was a poet. He kept a 3x5 card with details of every poetry publication. There were thousands of them.
Once when I was teaching English to a bunch of hoodlums, I found a Tom Disch poem reprinted in their literature textbook. I told my students that the poet lived around the corner and that he was a big, strong fellow with tattoos, who would snarl most menacingly - and worse - if annoyed. The description was so much counter to their impression of poets that Disch got their attention. They listened to the poem with interest.

Many people read Tom Disch with interest. His poetry, stories, novels and criticism have a forcefully provocative edge that keeps that interest keen.

Thomas Michel Disch 1940 - 2008

Tom Disch's live journal
Dana Gioia remembers Tom Disch

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