#29 = Volume 10, Part 1 = March 1983
Disching It Out: An Interview with Thomas Disch
Thomas M. Disch is a writer's writer because he makes other authors envy his
stories and poetry. Yet many readers often misunderstand Disch's fiction and
find it difficult, puzzling, disturbing, and even sacrilegious because Disch
aims to be ironic and clown funny in an allusive way about subjects which some
consider to be sacrosanct. As Camus said of Franz Kafka, the whole art of Thomas
Disch is to force the reader to reread him: to take a second, closer look. And
then, perhaps, from behind what appears to be an innocent, lyrical scene, a
demonic grin of mordant satire will peer out at the reader. Or what seems like
an uncomplicated, stereotyped situation transforms itself suddenly into
something intricate, locked in the vice grip of Disch's humor and irony. The
recognition of this full effect may make the reader laugh, cry, and marvel at
the same time.
Although he has sometimes been cited as an American apostle of the British New
Wave of the '60s, Disch follows his own creed, and his work is extremely varied.
He has written suspense novels, such as Black Alice (co-authored with John
Sladek, 1968) and The Prisoner (1969), gothic novels, such as
The House That
Fear Built (co authored with John Sladek, 1966) and
Clara Reeve (1975), horror
novels, such as The Businessman (1984), and books of poetry, such as
Way to Figure Plumbing (1972).
But it is his speculative fiction and SF for which Disch is best known,
including collections such as Fun with Your New Head (1968),
Getting into Death
(1976), Fundamental Disch (1980), and
The Man Who Had No Idea (1982), and the
novels The Genocide (1965),
Echo Round His Bones (1967),
(1968), 334 (1972), and
On Wings of Song, winner of the 1980 John W. Campbell
award. His work has appeared in a wide variety of magazines such as Triquarterly,
Transatlantic Review, Omni, Antaeus, The Paris Review, Playboy, Penthouse, and
Thomas Michael Disch was born on February 2, 1940 in Des Moines, Iowa and grew
up in Minneapolis St Paul. He graduated from St Paul's Convent School in
Fairmont, Minnesota and Central High School in St Paul. He spent a short time in
the architectural school at Cooper Union. After two and a half years at New York
University, where he majored in history, he worked for a while at a bank and in
advertising. When his first SF story, "The Double Timer," was published in
Fantastic in 1962, he dropped out of college to devote more time to writing. His
subsequent travels have included London, Rome, North Africa, Spain, Austria, and
Istanbul—locations which, like his home base in New York City, often are the
settings for his unique fiction.
One of Thomas Disch's early series of columns was called "Disching It Out, " and
in this interview, conducted in Buffalo (in 1981) and Niagara Falls (in 1982),
he is still doing just that.
JF: Let's talk about your ideas about the writing process and about revision.
There is a neo Platonic idea I've often heard expressed that the artist is
something like a conduit, unconsciously receiving inspiration and unable to say
very much about why or how the act of creation proceeds. A contrasting idea is
that the artist realizes a structure, in both senses of the word, and proceeds,
more or less, analytically as regards form.
Disch: I have a pretty coherent view of how form and structure work for an
artist, and especially how they work for me. I have a very analytical mind
towards writing in general, although I don't think I'm mechanistic about my
writing. But I do have my own formulated theories, and certainly they do impinge
on the work at every stage of the creative process. I think about
macrostructures and microstructures in whatever work I'm involved with. I mean,
I write a lot of very formal poetry, and you can't write formal poetry without a
great deal of self consciousness as to how forms and structures work. At the
same time, if you do it enough, you develop an instinctual ability to accelerate
the process of inspiration, correction, and self criticism. I mean, just
crossing out a word is a structuralist decision.
JF: How do you go about accelerating the writing and revision process?
Disch: When you're starting off in an art, there is an awful lot of renderings
of nuance that you have to think about and fuss with. In the same way, when
you're writing formal poetry at first, it's a slow, rather clumsy process. As
you write more and more of it, you learn. . .to improvise counterpoint. Bach,
for instance, sat at the keyboard and improvised counterpoint. It was probably
very good counterpoint, but then I'm sure when he wrote it down, he would find
technical matters that had to be corrected with pen and ink. Similarly with
painting. The whole question of nuance of brushstrokes is something that, as a
beginning painter, you're swimming around in; you don't have that control. The
more you paint, and the more gifted you are, the more that control becomes an
So, for instance, when Harlan Ellison says that the process of writing for him
is all instinctual, what he means is that he's been writing for so long that he
doesn't want to remember how he, as a centipede, walks. And I usually don't pay
that much attention to my footwork as a centipede either, in terms of the
microdecisions of nuance in prose, just the right word, just the right rhythm. I
don't think in terms of: "Do I want an iamb here or an anapest there?" In
dealing with macrostructures, things like the balance of one section of a book
against another, it's like riding a bicycle. You have to give more conscious
thought to larger structures, and most writers do. If they are writing a novel,
most writers, if they've written nine pages just describing something without
any dialogue, will have a little bell ring in their head that tells them: "Hey!
You've got to vary the pace or the tone here." I mean, that's the simplest kind
of structural decision.
My book 334 has an ambitious, conscious, formal structure. The last part of it
has a three dimensional grid system which relates to and orders all the elements
in the last novella of the book. And if you sit down and figure out what that
grid system represents in terms of how it determines the progress of the story,
and then look at the story, it does something that great formal poetry does. You
don't know that you're being controlled by this incredible, intellectual
apparatus that is totally artificial—you just read through it. And the challenge
and reward of working with an artificial form is that you have to pay such
attention to the smoothness of continuity of the "meter," as it were, that the
reader glides past these moments. So a difficult form simply tends to create a
larger challenge, and if that challenge is met, the form vanishes before the
reader. But I just couldn't resist putting the diagram into the book anyhow.
It's meant to be a Friday's footprint on the sand. Nobody has ever taken up that
particular element of the book; no one has ever pointed to what it does or what
JF: What about the simultaneity of that insight of form with the actual process
of writing? Is the form, in any sense, prior to the act of writing? Someone like
John Barth, for instance, has said that he imagines writing a story with the
form of a logarithmic spiral and then sets out to do that. You seem to suggest
that you grope your way, from that first flash of inspiration, towards a form.
Disch: It depends. There's free verse and there are strict forms. And the same
obtains for every art. There's fantasia and there's counterpoint. The same basic
structural rules of language apply, and those are the ones that are truly beyond
conscious grasp, that is to say, how language "means," the kind of thing
semiologists and linguists fuss about. Writers certainly don't write with
anything like that in mind. Even Samuel Beckett, for instance, isn't concerned
with that kind of ordering. He writes with an incredible sense of nuance, but I
don't think he has, as it were, a "program" for writing to structuralist
JF: One of Beckett's prose works, Lessness, begins with a series of sentences
and images which are programmatically repeated throughout the rest of the work.
Disch: That's a formal task, but I don't think it's based on theories related to
structuralism, in the way that critics use the word. To me, it's a formal,
poetic challenge. You set up a particular problem, say, the use of an extremely
limited vocabulary, and then you work within that structure.
When I was just learning Italian, I tried once to write an Italian text with the
little Italian I knew. I didn't get very far at all. Writers play with words,
yes, and they give thought to the sort of mental field of energy which a certain
cluster and grouping of words will represent. But that field is still something
that exists and that one apprehends in the unconscious, beyond analysis.
Even late Roman Silver Age poetry, full of such things as alphabetic rules and
macaronic verse, and so on, is still in the nature of a poetic challenge.
Because once you define the problem, then you have to reach for a statement that
can be made within the parameters of that problem. And when you reach for the
statement, you're reaching for poetry, and that can't be generated by a
program. You can keep making the area that you're reaching for more and more
difficult, so that you have to reach for not the first meaning that comes to
mind but a secondary or tertiary meaning. And that's to me always the advantage
of any formal problem that's set up that way. If you've got a formal problem to
solve that seems insurmountable, it provokes a deeper, more poetic solution. But
I think that the actual moment of reaching is always a descent into the chaos of
You also reach a point of diminishing returns with these formal constraints.
The Romans certainly did, and they aren't our favorite Latin poets these days. I
would think that that kind of writing is a very writerly thing that always
appeals only to other writers who have to sit in amazement to think that any
meaningful statement can be accomplished within such strict parameters. The more
and more you define the rules of the game, the less and less liable you are to
be able to write, say, Anna Karenina. Because that is the other side of fiction.
Fiction writers are the ones to insist that they don't know how they do what
they do. Mostly because they don't like to be bothered with thinking about it.
They just like to get on with the business of telling a story, which is
something they know they know how to do.
JF: Even in works such as Samuel Beckett's The Lost Ones, in which people are
trapped inside a giant cylinder, he manages to tell a story despite the strict
rules of behavior he sets up involving the people climbing up and down the
ladders in a specific pattern.
Disch: I always like to oscillate between the two extremes. My imaginative
response to your description of the Beckett story was to connect it to my last
remark about Anna Karenina, and have Anna and Vronski on the ladders, having to
cope with Beckett's rules, and nevertheless maintaining the impetus of their
affair in the circumstances. That's the middle ground I try to inhabit.
And as you eliminate more and more of those areas of possible relevance and
reference, the fewer stories you can tell and, if nothing else, the fewer jokes
you can make. What's great about Beckett is that he manages to make so many
great jokes within that circumscribed structure, and those jokes are always
based upon nuances of spoken speech which are learned in dealing with other
people, on the streets, at parties, and so on. What continues to be so
humanizing in Beckett is just the way he can lift his minimal eyebrow to great
effect. And that part of it isn't part of the program. That part is just
bullshit by a bullshit artist knowing how to talk and how to lay somebody out
with a one liner.
JF: Donald Barthelme once mentioned that it was impossible today for any serious
writer to write a good novel without irony. I suppose anyone coming to your
works for the first time would find themselves steeped in irony.
Disch: Joanna Russ, in a review, made the comment that she wished that I weren't
sometimes so unremittingly ironic. And I guess I simply can't escape it. My
roots are there. I think that possibly I have read some good books lately that
weren't ironic, but don't ask me to name them.
JF: Isn't there a danger in using irony so much, in being so unremittingly
ironic in that everything in the work drops towards a kind of infinite absolute
negativity, a void which obscures meaning?
Disch: You don't use irony; you have irony. It's part of your world view. And
who can help being ironic about certain basic things? Isn't it ironic to think
that we're going to die and yet we eat, drink, and be merry today? Or take the
idea of "the death of God." I am certainly a "death of God" writer. My story
"The New Me" is a lark about the death of God. Now that idea is not something
that's necessarily a lark. That story, in fact, grew out of one of the worst
nightmares I've ever had in my life. My first attempt was to write an evocative
prose summary of the dream. But that prose summary could have been meaningful
only to me. It was too unformed. Next I tried a poem, in which there was a lot
more formal ordering and many shifts away from the specific images of the dream,
just trying to hold on to the structure of the dream as I understood it, and
preserving the mood of terror and distress. Finally, I realized that I could do
it as a story and take the dramatic events of the problems of trust, betrayal,
inauthenticity, and a view of just how dismal the world really is, and I could
make a hilarious story of it. It makes people I've read it to laugh, and
laughter is just a slowed down scream of terror.
JF: Doesn't it become more difficult to control meaning once you're locked into
an ironic mode? For example, the statements you intend not to be ironic tend to
be taken ironically in that ironic context.
Disch: Voice is the key. If every good joke is a slowed down scream of terror,
within every good joke is feeling. And feeling is what registers, but not
ironically. Feelings aren't ironic. The expression of feeling may be, because
it's very complicated, and you may condense several contradictory feelings into
any interesting statement. That's different from stage one irony, which is
simply saying one thing and meaning another. Everybody says one thing and means
another. Language can't escape that. Two meanings are always operating in any
statement. The one that's expressed and the one that can't be expressed. That's
a dialectic you have to live with all the time. But I don't think that anybody
can escape complicated feelings. The way to write about them is with Irony.
For instance, a lot of the stories by Franz Kafka I love, from his late, mellow
days, are really blissful stories told by someone who realizes what a shithole
the world is. How can you write about these celestial visions living there in
the gutter? Every artist is always confronted with that basic contradiction
too. Because art is one of the routes of access to joy, and joy is always
problematical the moment it stops happening. You're always asking, "Where is it?
Why can't it be brought back?"
And within Kafka's jokes is terror, or at least fear, one of the four basic
emotions. Perhaps a complicated fear of his father combined with a
contradictory love and identification. That's why the paternal voice of
authority in Kafka is so paradoxical and ironical.
Whenever I take over in my fiction what I consider the paternal voice of
authority, you know, "his master's voice," it is usually with a sense of glee.
That's why we identify with villains in stories, villains mostly being father
figures. I always get off on my villains, since there's a feeling of delight
when I'm writing the part of the bad guy.
Mostly in my fiction I kvetch about my father. He was really pretty much of a
schmuck. Eventually I came around to seeing that he was a hard pressed, dutiful,
and sometimes loving schmuck, but he still was a schmuck. And I've never
forgiven him for that. I could never bear the thought that there was nothing in
this man that I wanted to identify with. But, of course, I have.
I've taken his ideal of how a salesman comports himself—always to charm people,
not to raise hackles, to tell good jokes, to dress upward by way of charming the
world into saying that I'll be successful. Whenever I'm going to appear in
public, I always wear a suit. I never wear blue jeans. I only wear them in my
neighborhood as camouflage so that I don't get mugged. All of this attitude is
from my father. He never went out of the house on any day without a hat, like
the hat I wear. So you think that you escape the identification, but nobody
JF: In a Foundation review, you expressed a preference for late Kaflka, such
stories as "Investigations of a Dog" and "A Hunger Artist," over early stories
like "The Metamorphosis" or "The Judgment."
Disch: Well, "The Judgment" is just too short to amount to much. Let me make a
comparison. I like paintings much more than I like drawings. I know that there's
a whole school of art critics who say that draftsmanship is revealed best in the
slightest sketch than in the "big machine" paintings. I still prefer the "big
machine" paintings. When I'm in a museum I walk past all the neat little,
discreet drawings that display the artistry in miniature. And I feel that way
about "The Judgment." It's just too small to express anything more than a primal
scream. Anybody can do a primal scream—you just let it out. Maybe that story is
important historically because it let out one at very high decibels in a
noticeable way. But that doesn't make it great art; that gives it historical
significance. As opposed to "The Metamorphosis," which is a full-scale, great
work that I have no quarrel with. However.... People who tend to read
imaginative writing tend to be young. They're in school, still open to
experience, and they're casting about. The older you get, the fewer writers
there are who continue to speak to your condition. And what I love in the older
Kafka is that he grew up, and so he speaks to the older reader.
For instance, the last thing I read and enjoyed by Kafka was "A Hunger Artist."
I read it for the subject. I was thinking of writing something along similar
lines, and I wanted to see what he did with that because I couldn't remember it.
JF: Let's talk about your novel, Camp Concentration. The ending of that novel has
been criticized. Samuel Delany, in his book The Jewel Hinged Jaw, repeats the
criticism that the ending brings the story suddenly back to an optimistic, Roger Zelazny land. Another criticism came from Stanislaw Lem, who thought the ending
was unnecessary. It seemed to me that the moral problem of choice, which the
novel raises in the beginning—Sacchetti and the prisoners have no choice about
being injected with a drug to raise their intelligence—is not resolved. If the
beginning situation is the indictment of the captors who take away freedom, then
the ending allows the former prisoners to take away freedom and choice in
exactly the same way.
Disch: Yes. That is exactly the point of the story. People who object to the
ending of the story are objecting to the meaning I raised, because what I am
saying is the way to survive is to accept being in complicity with a social
structure that is evil. If you don't like that meaning, you won't like that
JF: So, in a sense we should read Mordecai's final statement in the book with a
little more cynicism and irony? His statement is the final entry: "Much that is
terrible we do not know. Much that is beautiful we shall still discover. Let's
sail till we come to the edge."
Disch: Doesn't Sacchetti say that? Isn't it part of the journal entry?
JF: No, Sacchetti quotes Mordecai in his journal entry. And it's a very
un-Mordecai like statement, given his cynicism in the rest of the book. What I'm
asking is, are we supposed to see that statement which ends the book
Disch: Oh, no. Not at all. "Much that is terrible we do not know." And
presumably they will soon discover it. Yes, that makes sense for people who are
in complicity with the social system as it exists. Similarly for beauty. Modern
art hasn't been put off by the fact that it's had to live in captivity of a
social system that is destructive, ruinous. Indeed, beauty is probably the
antidote to evil—in practical terms for an artist. Although who's to say what
the objective value of beauty is? But at least it is not inconsistent with
evil. We know that from too many examples. The symphony orchestras in the
concentration camps might have played Mahler beautifully. There's Quartet for
the End of Time, which was written in a concentration camp and could not have
been written elsewhere. That is not an argumentfor concentration camps. I simply
mean that they force the problem of evil beyond Dostoyevsky's placement of it as
the injustice of the children, I mean Ivan Karamazov's challenge to God. Camp
Concentration takes the concentration camps as a metaphor for the universe in a
similar way. The question is really whether Skilliman wins the debate. He
doesn't. Because I think human nature won't tolerate such violations. The faith
of the book, the happy ending of the book, is Skilliman's attempting to shoot
the stars with a gun. The futility, hopelessness, and folly of that gesture is
the optimistic part of the book. The ending is the pessimistic part.
And that's why the Bunyan epigraph from The Pilgrim's Progress is set at the
beginning: "Now, reader, I have told my dream to thee;/See if thou canst
interpret it to me." Because the book is a set piece in interpreting allegory.
Anyhow, I stand by the ending of Camp Concentration. One thing that Chip Delany
said was that it had the element of hastening to a close. But I forestalled
against that possibility because I left off writing the most crucial middle
section of the book until I'd finished writing the ending, just so that I knew I
wouldn't hasten to an end. And so that I knew there would still be a major part
to compose in the middle that would be my real, physical writing of the end of
the book. The last thing I wrote in the book was the Aquinas dream because I
knew everything would hinge on that and that the condensation of
poetry had to be at the height there.
JF: There is a section in Part Two, after the Faust play and the dream sequence,
after we know Sacchetti has been injected with a drug which makes him a genius,
where his vocabulary shifts to a lower level. Why? I would have thought that his
gradual development of genius would have been reflected in an exponential
increase in vocabulary and abstractness.
Disch: It would have been impossible to do that. The cut up section, the first
part of Part Two where Sacchetti spins out of control, is meant to suggest the
possibility of exponential increase.
JF: It does achieve that through the use of fragments, because the connections
are lost between fragments, and what may pass as genius on the part of the
narrator is the unsuccessful attempt by the reader to make connections, to make
Disch: Yeah. That was all stage magic. I had to posit that he was deliberately
reining back his genius and telling his story so that people could understand
it. It's like having aliens from Alpha Centauri talking to Earthmen by learning
their language and talking so that Earthmen can understand. So that reduction of
rhetoric had to happen in order to make the story possible to continue writing.
And the stage magic trick is done to suggest the very fact that he has to make
JF: I remember that Samuel Delany quoted some editor as saying that he hated
your early story "Descending" and that the editor tried his hardest to cut it
but couldn't remove a word.
Disch: Some writers and readers react to everything of mine as if it were a
personal assault on their sanity. One writer actually said about my story
"Concepts" that if he thought life was like that he would commit suicide. Yet he
knows that's the way life is.
JF: You were mentioning before how upset you were that books like yours aren't
normally reviewed in certain places such as the New York Times or the New York
Review of Books.
Disch: It's not a matter of money, and it's not that I want the cognoscenti to
be aware of the books. The cognoscenti can be expected to cope for themselves
and find out what's good, and generally they do. It's the big readership that I
know is going to enjoy my books that I'm concerned about. When I hear a whole
auditorium full of people cracking up over the jokes in one of my stories or
poems, I know they're good jokes. And I know other people would crack up too. If
the books aren't published and publicized in a place where enough people can
discover them and crack up over them, then I'm being cheated of my audience.
That's what I resent. I resent the readership denied to me by a bunch of
assholes who belong to the same, old club, and have gone to the same schools.
In New York I've seen how people from a very small intellectual capital parlay
that sort of background into a literary reputation. Their success is not because
of talent but because of who their parents were, how much money they had, and
whether these writers can buy their way socially into being partof the beau monde. The literary establishment that considers itself the
monde is as venal, self serving, clubbish, and hypocritical as any Baptist
It is hard to have a literary conscience because it means you have to deny the
friends you grew up with. Every successful writer has 60 or 70 percent of his
friends who are not good writers, and these successful writers end up plumping
for their friends, getting these sycophants on the same publishing lists and
giving their lousy books rave reviews. Everybody is just sucking everybody else
off in one big literary daisy chain that does not have anything to do with
A writer can't give in to this sort of temptation, and that's why I started to
be a reviewer. The best way to secure your own integrity is to make a "put up or
shut up" situation where you're offered books to review and you say what you
really think of them even if you know the author.
I've written a historical novel, Clara Reeve (under a pseudonym), which has sold
more in hardcover than any book of SF I've ever published. It also got more
attention, reviews, became a Book of the Month [Club] alternate, and so on. It's
only because the label "science fiction" is attached to my books that my
readership is being denied.
I don't always want to say in public that I feel bitter about things like this.
You know, I don't want that persona. I can feel it, but I can also feel a lot of
cheer and elation for the good things that have happened, and I'm determined
that there will be more good things happening than bad. And I want to forget the
bitterness. I don't want to live with it all the time.
There is a respect in which poetry represents the highest idealism of
literature. Poets at their best, and there are always odious exceptions, are to
be commended for their stoic attitude. The ideal of poetry is that you're not
concerned with the marketplace and you shouldn't be. Lord knows that there is a
poetry establishment that's as venal in proportion as the rewards are few. Poets
can live off the funding situation for poetry, or link up with academic
positions, or do reading circuits. There are poets who are willing to support
themselves in what they consider honorable poverty by just doing the reading
circuits. But then they complain because the reading circuit doesn't make them
millionaires. The very fact that it exists doesn't occur to them as something
wondrous and peculiar, and an homage. Poetry is very like religion these days.
The fact that an Episcopal priest who has no congregation nevertheless can earn
a living never strikes people as astonishing. He doesn't inquire where the
money comes from. People still have this nostalgic belief in idealism and think
that if people are willing to declare themselves in some way removed from vice
and evil, they can be honored for that with a minimal income. Poets are in the
same situation, and they all develop the manners and hypocrisies of Episcopal
priests. I wrote a poem that speaks to this issue called "Literature as a
JF: Are you a reader of Walter Abish's books, Alphabetical Africa,
In the Future
Perfect, and How German Is It, or Harry Mathews' books such as Tlooth and
Disch: I haven't read Abish. I like Mathews' work but I wouldn't confuse it with
SF. Just as I wouldn't confuse Kafka's works, usually, with SF. There are a few
of Kafka's works, like "In the Penal Colony," that come close to SF.
I think there is a simple distinction to be made. One can make a verbal posit,
say like Raymond Roussel does, that describes something that can't exist. Yet
the verbal structure allows a mental image to be formed. But these writers'
images don't obey the rules of continuity. When that surrealist formula is
happening, the writer can switch off to another interesting verbal posit
generated out of language.
JF: That's how Roussel constructed his novel, Impressions of Africa.
Disch: Right. And that's how Harry Mathews works. I can enjoy that kind of
writing sometimes but it isn't SF. And I don't take the same interest in it that
I do in SF because SF has an interior conscience that says, "Given a single,
fantastic, speculative posit about the structure of reality, I will then use the
rules of naturalism to describe it."
JF: By beginning with this speculative postulate, this deformation of reality,
and then sticking to the rules of naturalism in describing it "realistically,"
aren't you suggesting that SF is a combining of non mimetic and mimetic fiction?
Disch: No it isn't. One doesn't always have to develop the story
naturalistically. There is a consistent world that develops in an SF story. The
world can always be "violated" in a surrealist story. The consistent SF world
remains, even if you use non mimetic techniques of writing. For instance, my
story "The New Me" has utterly unnatural dialogue. No psychiatrist would say
that we're going "deep down into the sub basement where your parents' bones are
buried." This is a shift into another gear of poetry that no psychoanalyst is
capable of because he or she doesn't speak in poetry. What that line implies is
the arrogance of psychoanalysis saying, "We command knowledge of superimportant
matters, and therefore you must give us your attention." It was a very quick way
of spearing my butterfly, and that was just a verbal trope. But it happened in
the context of a world that continued to observe its own consistent rules. You
could illustrate the whole story in the same visual style. You couldn't do that
with surrealism. Surrealism shifts within the same story even within the same
A critical essay I'm writing is about the whole nature of visualization.
Traditional critics write about plot and style and characters, the categories we
all know are as much fictions as fiction is. These are people who have suspended
their disbelief and write about fiction as if it were an event that had
happened. Now the event that has happened is the visualization in the reader's
mind of the events of the story. How that visualization happens and the nature
of that visualization and the associated affect are a middle ground between structuralist criticism, which talks about the "semes" of the text, in the
punning sense, and the real, important event that happens in your mind as the
story is visualized. I'm writing about that significant process of visualization
and how the words get us there.
Doesn't it seem strange that very few critics have addressed themselves to that
central imaginative act of reading a book?
JF: Yes, it is strange. And perhaps ironic that only fiction writers such as you
and Chip Delany tend to focus on that aspect in criticism. Thank you very much.
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