"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, September 13, 2008

R.I.P. David Foster Wallace

When I was young my grandfather told me that "People who commit suicide are cowards."
I would have been very young but I remember clearly his argument for fastidious labor and strength in the face of life's adversity.
And but so last night America's greatest young writer hung himself in his home.
And still I know with all of my heart and mind that David Foster Wallace was a man of incredible courage.
I write not of his obvious and incomparable stylistic invention or of his formal acrobatics.
Better minds can and have written tomes dedicated to the intellectual fellatio of Mr. Wallace's hilarious/morbid/neurotic/exultant prose.
What brought me and bound me fast to DFW's writing was his relentless pursuit of Humanity.
Wallace NEVER dealt short his characters or his readers.
He constantly challenged himself in the search (the desperate search it now seems to me) for our shared pathos.
No one writing today has Wallace's fantastic ability to transport us so completely into the minds of people so foreign to ourselves and then make us identify with them entirely (read this recently published story in The New Yorker).
David Foster Wallace wanted above all to understand everyone and everything. To have his readers and himself feel compasion for people by entering their most private thoughts (read, the now eerily titled, The Depressed Person).
He offered us the best of what literature has to offer in every sense but most of all in this.
And what fucking courage this must have taken.
To never deal in the obvious or the easy.
To never pander to the public's notions of what certain people do and how they think.
To embark on the rigorous pursuit of what binds us all as human.
That takes courage.
And that is the great tragedy of this loss.
We have lost the writer who most challenged us to empathy and understanding.
The two things we now need most.

You're the bravest man I've never meet.
I know your brilliance and compassion will be missed in a literary scene so impoverished of both.
Most of all we send love to your family and friends who in this time need it the most.
Because that's what you would want from us.


Tyson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyson said...


Tosh Berman said...

Depression is really a tough nut to beat. It's hard to understand the illness when one doesn't suffer from it - and I don't understand it.

i never read any of Wallace's work, although I own some of his books. Nevertheless it's a real tragedy for his readers, his family (of course) and i imagine his students as well. My translator (Paul Knobloch for the Vian and Gainsbourg bio) is a huge fan of his work. Very depressing lost to the literary community. And I suspect his work won't be forgotten.

Kanani said...

What a nice remembrance.
I never thought of people who committed suicide as cowardly. I always saw it as a move of honor, to save face or to take the blame for something so the family did not have to suffer. Yes, this is Asian, and so I just didn't attach the stigma to it that westerners do.

But yes, I view it as tragic, and most of all as a lonely act.

So my heart goes out to his family and his friends. I hope they keep his words close by. We're all very lucky he left such a legacy.