ON WINGS OF SONG:
“A good playwright loads the dice,”
wrote in these pages, “to make [the collision of worldviews] compelling. A better playwright, like a god, unloads the dice, and devil take the hindmost.” For Tom, who deserved to have been a character of the best of all playwrights but was not so lucky, the unloaded dice fell in his New York apartment on July 4, when his spirit could no longer bear to collide with mounting misfortunes, the most recent of which was an eviction notice. Tom committed suicide at 68. He is survived by a large, varied and brilliant body of writings and by many sorrowing colleagues and readers at The Nation.
Tom reviewed novels and poetry books for The Nation, contributed his own poetry, anatomized politico-cultural follies and issued polemics; but he will be most remembered at this magazine as its supremely amused and amusing theater critic. From 1987 to 1993, he joyfully sawall the shows he wanted for free and in return for small sums shared his thoughts, which had a wit, depth, verve and range no one could surpass. He wrote about the new
drama and about the latest edition of Ice Capades. (“No other dance form commands such broad realms of space or moves through that space with such dreamlike seeming ease.”) He interpreted how Hamlet had again been reinterpreted, assayed the ratio of gold to dross in a
international co-production (boy, did Kantor’s fans get mad!) and famously described, in vivid detail, an epoch-making Titus Andronicus that
had directed–only he hadn’t, because Ludlam died too soon, of AIDS.
Like the speculative fiction that brought Tom his first acclaim–remarkable novels such as Camp Concentration and On Wings of Song–that review of the phantom Ludlam production showed how delight and sorrow, intellectual power and moral outrage were always at the core of his flights of imagination. In noting these qualities, at least one eulogist has compared Tom to that other ingenious novelist, poet and pamphleteer,
. It’s a just comparison. Let it be said of Tom Disch, too: “He has gone where fierce indignation can lacerate his heart no more.” STUART KLAWANS
PUT DOWN NO FLAGS:
Fawning memorials followed the July 4 death of former North Carolina Senator
. The grossest, no doubt, was Senator
‘s proposal to name an AIDS bill after the noted homophobe, who once said that people with AIDS got sick as a result of “deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct.” But North Carolina state employee
William Eason III
would have none of it. The 51-year-old manager of the State Standards Laboratory refused to lower the flags outside the lab; in doing so, he flouted a gubernatorial directive and was forced to resign.
Catching up with Eason at his home in Cary, it was clear his irreverence had not wavered. “The man was a horrendous monster. North Carolina should be very ashamed of what he did to both us and the nation. He voted against every civil rights bill that came before him. He filibustered the Martin Luther King holiday. He had the audacity to say he wasn’t a racist, and then he starts singing ‘Dixie’ when he was onan elevator with a black Congresswoman.” Eason took a breath, then added, “If I can convert a person or two to believe in civil rights and humanity, I’ll know I have done a good thing”–which would be the sweetest final comeuppance for the bigot from North Carolina. SARAH O’LEARY