RIP, David Foster Wallace
I sadly, ironically, discovered the news of David Foster Wallace's suicide while reading the Onion this afternoon, the hilarious headline being "NASCAR Cancels Remainder Of Season Following David Foster Wallace's Death". The image above is an illustration Harry Aung.
This happened September 14. I have no comment, other than one of my favorite collections of short stories ever is his, titled Girl With Curious Hair. No comments here, just a shooting forward of energy from inside me, out into the universe. Haven't been faring too well myself lately, but all in all, I still want to live. If you're unfamiliar with this genius, I suggest googling him, looking up his books at the library. His other works include Broom of the System and Infinite Jest. The below is from Gawker. May you rest in peace, DFW.
Police have confirmed to Gawker that David Foster Wallace, novelist and essayist, was found dead of an apparent suicide in his home in Claremont, California, where he was a professor at Pomona College.
It's been reported that his wife found him after he hanged himself. Foster Wallace, longtime darling of grad students and civilian PoMo lit fans, was often very funny in print (see his famous essay skewering the cruise ship experience, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"), but as his 2005 speech at Kenyon College implied, he was not unfamiliar with the heft of existence:
"[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."
Very Sad. Indeed.
And Here's a Salon interview by Laura Miller, circa 1996, on the occasion of the release of Infinite Jest.
David Foster Wallace's low-key, bookish appearance flatly contradicts the unshaven, bandanna-capped image advanced by his publicity photos. But then, even a hipster novelist would have to be a serious, disciplined writer to produce a 1,079-page book in three years. "Infinite Jest," Wallace's mammoth second novel, juxtaposes life in an elite tennis academy with the struggles of the residents of a nearby halfway house, all against a near-future background in which the U.S., Canada and Mexico have merged, Northern New England has become a vast toxic waste dump and everything from private automobiles to the very years themselves are sponsored by corporate advertisers.
Slangy, ambitious and occasionally over-enamored with the prodigious intellect of its author, "Infinite Jest" nevertheless has enough solid emotional ballast to keep it from capsizing. And there's something rare and exhilarating about a contemporary author who aims to capture the spirit of his age.
The 34-year-old Wallace, who teaches at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal and exhibits the careful modesty of a recovering smart aleck, discussed American life on the verge of the millennium, the pervasive influence of pop culture, the role of fiction writers in an entertainment-saturated society, teaching literature to freshmen and his own maddening, inspired creation during a recent reading tour for "Infinite Jest."
What were you intending to do when you started this book?
I wanted to do something sad. I'd done some funny stuff and some heavy, intellectual stuff, but I'd never done anything sad. And I wanted it not to have a single main character. The other banality would be: I wanted to do something real American, about what it's like to live in America around the millennium.
And what is that like?
There's something particularly sad about it, something that doesn't have very much to do with physical circumstances, or the economy, or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news. It's more like a stomach-level sadness. I see it in myself and my friends in different ways. It manifests itself as a kind of lostness. Whether it's unique to our generation I really don't know.