Sunday, September 14, 2008

In Memory of David Foster Wallace

This has been a hard weekend. Let me rephrase this, it has been a HARD weekend. And then a public life converged with my personal life, and I've been pensive and irritable. I'm not sure this is from the personal or public problems. I'm not a self confessional blogger, so I'll stick with the public news that writer David Foster Wallace was found dead as a result of suicide in Claremont, California.

Suicide is stupid, but then I don't think anyone in their right mind decides on suicide so forgiveness is the only course left for the living. Wallace was a hugely influential writer for me, more for his essays than his fiction. I confess I have a copy of Infinite Just that I've never been able to successfully make it through. I no longer have the stamina to make it through. Wallace had a highly observant style not only of the external events of his topics, but remarkably about the internal state of his topics. It's not possible to be observant of the the internal but his capability to infer were astounding.

What fascinated me about Wallace's discursive style is how it mimicked the fragmented nature of my own mind. I struggle to write this blog post while I have a football game being shown, and as I navigate the personal thoughts that have hijacked my mind. That back and forth of ideas captured the scattershot nature of my own ideas more effectively than any stream of consciousness style that had been captured before. I remember reading his Esquire story "String Theory" on Michael Joyce, who at that time was the 100th best tennis player in the world and it brought to mind my own personal struggle with the limits of my own capabilities. And while I am no where near being the 100th best at anything, I was afflicted with the self consciousness of the limits of my own capabilities while understanding I had some real gifts. If anything, dissatisfaction with one's affluence may be our definition of affluence. The article and it's understanding of tennis was so profound, I took the step of going to my local kinkos and making a copy of the article for my friend who was a tennis fanatic as well.

I also remembered for some reason recording an interview between Wallace and Charlie Rose, and watching it over and over again. Hearing Wallace recount his path from college, the turns he took, the choices he made was telling. Biography may not be prescriptive, but it does show that achievement is a discursive process despite what the books tell us. In it captured the struggle of art, and ominously he said he did not foresee himself killing himself. Sadly, that feeling did not last.

What does this have to do with the environment, carbon free living. Not much, except that we spend our lives trying to give life meaning through our actions and our creations. Cliche yes, but that doesn't diminish it's truth.


At 2:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I cried when I heard the news. It scared me. Always scares me when someone really smart with everything supposedly going for them commits suicide. Could it be me next? Or someone I love?

Like you, I have a copy of Infinite Jest. Unlike you, I have read it all the way through. In fact, I was so mesmerized by it, I called in sick for two days in a row so I could finish it. The book itself, for me, was like the killer video that one can't stop watching. (I will admit, however, to skimming a lot of the tennis stuff.) I dreamed about those characters. They were my friends.

People's minds are such a secret. I'll never forget the guy in my high school who was headed to be the valedictorian who shot and killed himself a month before graduation. This is why I will never have a gun in my house. But hanging... like Foster Wallace... takes planning. Holy shit.

What else to say? The whole thing makes me sad and scared and I'm glad you brought it up.



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