I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of D. G. Myers’s death. I have been reading A Commonplace Blog since I started blogging myself; I can still remember how pleased I was when I noticed that Novel Readings had made its way onto his blog roll. We have also both been on Twitter for a long time, and he was integral to many of the most stimulating conversations I have overheard or participated in there. We had very different reading sensibilities; there would not be much overlap between our lists of our top 100 favorite books. But I always enjoyed and learned from the learned and passionate way he wrote about books, and more than once he convinced me to try something I would not have picked up otherwise — Roland Merullo’s The Talk Funny Girl, for instance, or John Williams’s Stoner, which he was an advocate for well before it became a belated overnight sensation. With posts like “Francine Prose and the Great Tradition,” he gave the lie to those who dismiss book blogging as an inherently trivial and trivializing form of critical discourse. We had some of the same concerns about the direction of the modern academy in general and English departments in particular; his perspective on causes and possible solutions wasn’t exactly mine, but then, his experience was also different; posts like “An End to Readings” spurred me to think more and think harder about my own views on criticism. I was endlessly moved and impressed by his unsentimental candor and good spirits during his long illness; it seems fitting that what turned out to be his final blog post was entitled “Choosing Life in the Face of Death.” His was a sharp, smart, witty, provocative, generous voice in the online literary world; though I never met him face to face, I know already that I will miss his presence in my reading and thinking life.
A tribute from Terry Teachout appears here, another from Patrick Kurp here. Apparently an online “Festschrift” is in preparation; I’ll add a link to it when it goes up. As my own quiet form of acknowledgment, I plan to read one more book from the long list of those he convinced me I ought to, Christopher Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder. “Along with handing [readers] something good to read,” he said about this novel, “it will renew their faith in what literature is capable of achieving.” That renewal always seemed to me the faith that his own writing was most profoundly about.
Update: Here’s a link to the round-up of tributes from friends and colleagues.