Thursday, September 18, 2008

David I Hardly Knew Ye

8463 I'm late to the fan club. I only discovered David Foster Wallace this year, which is why I was all the more shocked and saddened by the news this weekend that he took his own life.

I had heard of Infinite Jest, but it came out just as we returned from Russia and I was decidedly done with 1000+ page novels.

A few months ago I read  The Best of American Essays 2007, for which DFW was the guest editor. I remember reading lines of his opening essay aloud to Brian, because it was funny and accurate and so consciously uncomfortable with the whole enterprise of the book.

That led me to other essays and stories by Wallace. Some are available online:

Good People at the New Yorker site

Incarnations of Burned Children at Esquire (warning: impossible to forget, despite wishing you could)

He grew up in Illinois and got his MFA at UA, where Bri and I went to grad school. The littlest connections always make me take note.

Two quotes of his are on my board here:

"Both destiny's kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person's basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e. almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can't even hear because you're in such a rush to or from something important you've tried to engineer."


"In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it'd find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it."

Our friend Dzhon, who was a much bigger fan, shared this link to Wallace's commencement address at Kenyon.

I'd just begun to discover his work, but I find his passing a great loss for readers and profoundly sad.

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