David Foster Wallace Dead

First shock to see that David Foster Wallace has killed himself with a length of rope, but then not really surprise, because he seemed pretty tortured. I only saw him read once, in Portland, and it was a spectacle: on stage with Sherman Alexie and a few other current notables, DFW was grubby and expectorating into a can the whole time. He looked pained. He evaded questions.

I once rode a ferry with a dude who said he didn't read the works of authors who had killed themselves. I scanned quickly and came up with a few favorites of mine who did: Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Plath ... thought to myself "Why rule them out, just 'cause of that?"

But now, with DFW taking himself out of the game, I'm a bit bitter and unwilling to pick up one of the more current volumes that I have yet to read. But maybe I will. I mean, Broom of the System was not my favorite, but I really really liked the footnotes in Infinite Jest. Like really liked them. And the tennis stuff. And the ending.

UPDATE: I now see that it is becoming seen as clever to begin obits for DFW in a pseudo-David-Foster-Wallacian way. The one from the Washington Post reads:

In the footnotes of the brief life of David Foster Wallace, a reader might discover that in addition to penning one of the seminal novels of the latter 20th century, and in addition to trademarking a dizzying writing style populated with parentheticals and those brilliant footnotes, and in addition to becoming a symbol of pop culture and intelligentsia for a large segment of Generation X, the "Infinite Jest" author lived for a time in Normal, Ill.

And from the NYT:

David Foster Wallace, whose darkly ironic novels, essays and short stories garnered him a large following and made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, was found dead in his California home on Friday, after apparently committing suicide, the authorities said.

Kind of cheesy, but I think he'd giggle.


  1. Yeah, I've added _consider the lobster_ to my list. In my bodies & lit class I taught his amazing short story called "highdive" about a kid going off the highdive on his 13th birthday. it was graphic (and not graphic in the way you have come to know that term), but everyone was in awe. It's strange, the effect of suicide--it's the only time I stop to really reflect on the inner life of someone I never knew. Makes me think of those I do know and want to pull them close.

  2. Because it's so strange and over-the-top, I think a lot about his account of going to a county fair in _The Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again_. That piece, along with a few others, gave me a sense of what it's like to observe, watch, and look around behind the little buildings we otherwise pass by.