David Rhodes Death, Obituary – David Rhodes has passed away untimely and unexpectedly leaving friends, loved ones, family, and the entire community heartbroken and in grievance, according to a social media sharing. 2005 was the year that we were introduced to David Rhodes. Ben Barnhart, a younger editor who worked for our company, had been reading John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction at the beginning of that year. While he was doing so, he came across a passage that praised David’s first three books, which were all published to significant acclaim in the seventies.
It was John Gardner who first recognized David as a “brilliant visionary,” and in the mysterious way that letters work, his praise led Ben to read these novels, where he discovered an acknowledgment in one of them of David’s agent, Lois Wallace, and then to reach out to David directly, where he learned that he had written several subsequent novels, but simply lost interest in publishing. Ben was given access to one of these manuscripts by David, and before long, we were working with him to produce and publish Driftless, as well as to reissue his first three novels, which were titled The Last Fair Deal Going Down, The Easter House, and Rock Island Line.
The characters in the novel Driftless, which takes its name from the part of southwestern Wisconsin where it is located and serves as its setting, are just as unrefined as the environment in which they dwell. David’s characters are often very ordinary on the surface and nearly always off the usual path. Despite this, they are dazzling and profound, idiosyncratic and spiritual, and are propelled by passions that are just as baffling as they are commanding. It was exciting to be a part of an American master novelist’s comeback to a robust readership, which coincided with the publication of Driftless in 2008, which caused the book to become a national phenomenon.
The next year, 2014, saw the release of Jewelweed, which served as a sequel of sorts to Driftless. David’s fifth novel, Rich with His Signature Sense of Empathy and Wonder, Enlarged His Vast Vision David’s fifth novel, Rich with His Signature Sense of Empathy and Wonder, expanded David’s vast vision, in which the seemingly every day becomes magical, even legendary. And then not long after Jewelweed had been published, David approached me with an idea and a plan to build the novel that would become Painting Beyond Walls, which is his sixth novel, and which we released this fall. Painting Beyond Walls was a collaborative effort between David.
Painting Beyond Walls, which is David’s novel and takes place in the not-too-distant future and engages on present biology, philosophy, and history in ways that are both unsophisticated and complex, is possibly David’s most ambitious work of fiction. It investigates the things that make us human, the things that have the potential to make us better, and the ways in which and the reasons why it is necessary for us to gather together in community. David Rhodes was an exceptionally attractive human being, which is perhaps not unexpected given the artistic vision he possessed. He had an insatiable curiosity but maintained a refreshing humility, had a superb sense of humor, was acutely insightful, and maybe most importantly, he was truly caring.
David possessed a spirit that was fundamentally generous, and anyone who engaged in conversation with him invariably came away feeling enriched, even if they did not necessarily understand why. At Milkweed Editions, we are all deeply grieved by the news of his demise and indebted to the universe for the opportunity to have known and worked with him. The six books that he wrote are among his greatest gifts, and we can’t think of a greater way to show our appreciation for him than by reading his work. Engaging with his writing is the best kind of reciprocity that we can think of. David Rhodes, may you rest in peace.