September 14, 2008

Goodbye, David Foster Wallace.

I took you on my honeymoon; you were just what I needed.

That sounded wrong. I mean to say, I read most of Infinite Jest on a cruise in Alaska while I was recovering from an overwrought wedding. The book was very nice, though there was an awful lot of it.

Did you ever do anything about that attention-span problem? I really dug the footnotes; really.

* * *

Overheard:

A: I was in a bad way again on Friday night.

B: Are you okay?

A: I'm fine. I didn't think about The Bad Thing; I just threw up.

B: Throwing up is better than The Bad Thing.

* * *

Why didn't he just puke his guts out? This way is so . . . permanent. Nearly irreversible.

* * *

I keep finding out that circumstances push other people further than I will allow myself to be pushed. One time I was having one of those "make sure I don't do anything stupid" nights and the very same evening a friend of a friend swallowed a bottle of pills and had to get her stomach pumped.

* * *

I did discover that if you have a strong stomach, and you only barf every several years when afflicted by a bad case of influenza, there are abdominal muscles that simply don't get worked very often. No pain, no gain.

But I have concluded that it's not hormones; I think it's . . . sunspots.

It's all about . . . well, you know.

* * *

David Gates, in Newsweek:

In Wallace's last book, a story collection called Oblivion—oh, now we get it—the self-tormenting protagonist of "Good Old Neon," an ad man who has felt like a "fraud" his whole life (and who used to know one "David Wallace" when he was a kid) swallows antihistamines and drives his car into a bridge abutment. And in Wallace's commencement address to the class of 2005 at Kenyon College, he dragged in—if not exactly out of left field, certainly out of left center—"the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master . . . It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."

It will take a while for all these apparent "clues" in Wallace's work to stop pulsing like neon signs when we stumble on them. But that work will outlast the garish particulars of his death. In years to come, no one will be able to dismiss it as the symptomatic productions of a depressive head case: the dread to which he gave artistic shape is too real, too universal. True, Wallace was a head case, but in the sense that we're all head cases: encased in our skulls, and sealed off from our fellow humans, we have worlds upon worlds of teeming, unruly sensations, emotions, attitudes, opinions and-that chillingly neutral word-information. "What goes on inside," Wallace wrote in "Good Old Neon," is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at a given instant."

Yeah. But that's no excuse; it's still an astonishingly selfish thing to do.

* * *

Marion Ettinger, the Los Angeles Times.

The Salon interview.

And the infamous/illustrious Ruth Reichl published him once, in Gourmet. Which is kind of cool.

The New York Press.

* * *

One thing, though: I think God secretly forgives; it's the people left behind who may or may not be able to accomplish that.

Posted by Attila Girl at September 14, 2008 08:07 PM | TrackBack
Comments
Posted by: Bill Dyatel at September 22, 2008 04:02 AM


work on a sector that has changed the lives of us all.,

Posted by: adam at September 23, 2008 09:02 PM




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