David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

Edward Champion first delivered the sad news that David Foster Wallace hanged himself on Friday. I have nothing to add, really, except to express bafflement that a person who seemed to so clearly understand the lives of people in recovery couldn’t reach out for help himself. (That’s not to suggest that Wallace’s death was addiction-related, just that healing depression similarly demands that you say something. Why on Earth didn’t he?) Back in 1996, I spent a lot of time lugging Infinite Jest to my dreary Web 1.0 job in San Francisco’s South Park, and the book made those bus trips and lunch breaks a lot livelier; I doubt that I could pass a quiz on the novel’s plot points now, but I recall the powerful feeling that he had crafted a postmodern novel whose metatextual games were inviting and respectful instead of cold and esoteric. That is a terribly difficult thing to pull off, even if you’re good. (Who here has finished Ratner’s Star? Anybody? Anybody? Right.) He was a fine reporter, an artful essayist, and the closest thing the generation that doesn’t read had to a writerly voice of a generation.

A source for a good laugh line too, if it’s not too indelicate to mention. Even at this glum moment, the bit at 1:20 in this video still makes me smile. Who else could so climactically turn on a pair of bright minds?

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