David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

Sad news indeed.  I have to choose my battles very carefully these days so I never got around to reading Infinite Jest, but I did devour any DFW nonfiction I could get my hands on, and I was certain that his next novel was going to be one of my favorite books ever.

And then there was the time I convinced an Upstanding Citizen to take an audio copy of Consider the Lobster on a car trip.  Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten about the highly entertaining, but far from Upstanding, essay therein concerning DFW’s trip to the Adult Entertainment Awards.  Even though the Upstanding Citizen had to frantically dive for the eject button so as not to expose his wife to the stream of naughtiness issuing from his speakers, he still had to admit that the rest of the collection was excellent.  In fact, they were so entertained and enlightened on their long car trip that they forgot to be mad at me for accidentally subjecting them to some very, very dirty stuff.  Such was the magnitude of Wallace’s talent.

And now, a salute to David Foster Wallace, presented in hyperlinks:

Wallace on Charlie Rose
Wallace on the 2000 Straight Talk Express
Wallace on conservative radio
Wallace Considers the Lobster
Wallace gives the commencement address at Kenyon
Wallace is appreciated by the New York Times

-Norm De Plume

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Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 11:12 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was so sad to hear he’d died. His nonfiction is some of my favorite stuff (Consider the Lobster, obviously; A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, particularly pertinent after my own nightmare cruise; and don’t forget his own McCain 2000 story). I was looking forward to reading whatever project he had in store next.

    For some gallows humor (er..), you know he left a 600 page suicide note with footnotes. You just know it.

  2. You’re probably right. And you know the coroner will go on and on about how great it was, even though he stopped reading it after the first 100 pages.

  3. For the record: There is absolutely nothing dirty about the AVN awards essay. I need to mention this because it typifies one of the many aspects of Wallace’s genius. It is a thorough exposition of exactly what the pornography industry does to all involved, from performers to consumers–never gratuitous, and never stooping to titillation or any such nonsense. There, as in “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”, he stares unswervingly into some seriously, seriously dark stuff and, as in the title piece of Consider the Lobster, written for of all magazines, Gourmet, he asks whether this or that aspect of American Culture, from eating Lobster to pornography, is ethical–always allowing his readers their own conclusions, and taking them outside of their assumptions and indoctrinations. This is a terrible and sad loss.

  4. Good point as always, Scripsi. I used “dirty” as synonym for “descriptive of sexual acts and organs” in order to emphasize how amazing it was that this guy listened to and appreciated the rest of the CD. But in doing so I ended up misrepresenting what the article- and by extension, DFW- was really all about.

    It’s amazing that Wallace’s nonfiction does all of the things you say, but it still manages to be an immense pleasure to read. And I think one thing that especially makes this loss so terrible and sad is the fact that as far as I can tell he was only getting better.

  5. So true. Not many writers can hook a reader while simultaneously making them feel all squirmy and uncomfortable. Other great DFW moments: “Host” in the New Kings of Nonfiction collection, and that piece about TV from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. His style is so personable and gratifying (how the hell he manages to get away with dropping “like” like a valley girl while sustaining these focused academic inquiries–I sometimes got the feeling that he used all that vernacular as if to say look, it’s all right to really, really think about this stuff. But most of all, you really come away from pieces like these, about media and so forth with a new angle on aspects of American life that are so ubiquitous they often go unconsidered. So it goes.


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