“Choosing Life in the Face of Death”
That is the title of critic D.G. Myers’s final blog post. He passed away Friday. Patrick Kurp is organizing a Festschrift for David. I’ll post selections of remembrances and links when they are ready. In the meantime, here is my brief contribution. I didn’t know David well, but like many, I read him religiously:
If I wanted to know whether I should give a novel a shot or not, the first place I’d go was D.G. Myers’s blog. He had his blind spots—we all do—but his judgment rarely disappointed. Even if he disliked a book, his writing was such that I could tell if I might enjoy it. That’s because the focus of his posts was always the novel, the writing, never his judgment.
And he was a pleasure to read—specific, concrete, open to possibilities, but never enthralled with style for style alone. Considering Nabokov’s minutia, he asks: “How much of human life disappears into oblivion like this?” Charles Portis’s fiction, in a nutshell, is that “The difference between ‘independent thinkers’ and full-out crackpots is thin.” And on Marly Youmans’s latest novel, he wrote: “Youmans knows better than anyone that, for the peripatetic outsider, who feels as if he must keep moving, home is not without its costs.”
David wrote about fiction not to advance himself or his career, but because he loved it and because it was part of life. It’s hard to be both forceful and humble. David could.
David and I never met. We corresponded by email and kept up with each other on Twitter. I knew him mainly through his writing, and it’s a tribute to his intellect and skill that I feel that this was almost enough.
In that final post–a transcript of a talk he gave at Congregation Torat Emet in July–David wrote: “I never wanted to be known for having a fatal disease. But you don’t get to choose your reputation any more than you get to choose your fate.” His writing on his cancer was honest, selfless, funny, but he will be remembered for much more. He was one of our best critics. He will be missed.
Update: Patrick Kurp has posted this note from David’s sister-in-law.