I'd not heard of Rhodes until late last year, when my university tutor gave us four passages of prose to 'try on' in terms of style - one by Susan Sontag, Grace Paley, the brilliant S.J. Perelman, and all 101 words of Dan Rhodes' 'Baby', from Anthropology. The story I submitted for that assignment has already been on this blog, it's called 'Uncrossed'.
Something just clicked about it with me. The concrete surrealism, the concise and precise language, the blatantly obvious attention to microscopic detail. The empathy, the sadness, the humour, the pathos. I bought the book.
Since then, I've read everything he's written. Nothing has disappointed. I adore his digressions, an example being the lives touched by the titular character in Timoleon Vieta Come Home - each tiny bubble as well-rounded and fully developed as those surrounding the book's 'main' characters.
Rhodes has found a way to fuse the miniature perfection of short stories with the depth and length of a novel, and successfully create books that encompasses his clear talent for brevity, clarity, structure; wit, irony and utter, utter heartbreak.
Anyway, where was I...
So I went up to him at the end of the thing (show? performance? evening?) and was really rather nervous - I've never done this to a writer before, only bands, and they don't count - and asked if he would sign my copy of GOLD, and he did and we had a little chat and I went home having met my favourite author (sorry Ali Smith, sorry Douglas Coupland, you'll have to make do with 2nd and 3rd).
Everything he has written has inspired. I know as a writer I'm not 'funny', but as a reader, I do enjoy a smile with my wordplay. I try to make my own prose as tight as possible, never a sentence where a word will do. Like many new writers, I've had an over-descriptive prosaic flowery-language spell: not anymore, I'm over it now.
This is not to say that I want to bottle his literary gift and repeat and mimic and imitate and purloin: far from it. I'm not 'that' kind of writer, and while I love his stories, they aren't 'my' stories. But they are brilliant ones that even though I wouldn't / couldn't write them, I love reading them. I felt humble just shaking his hand. Why that Dan Brown fella sells more than Rhodes does, I just don't know. It's not fair.
It's late now, and I don't really have the words right now, but Dan Rhodes, honest to blog, is a fricking genius. And a really nice person too*.
* Based on reading online interviews and having a three-minute chat with him.