Monday, September 15, 2008

RIP, David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (DFW) is dead by his own hand.

I'm not his biggest fan. I didn't like everything he wrote. I thought Infinite Jest was way too long and self-indulgent and navel-gazing. I thought much of his writing worked as literature in the same way that a good close-up magician works: it's all a trick, but you're dazzled nonetheless.

I tried to read Everything and More and I was baffled by the math. He made me not just feel dumb, but KNOW dumb: I was the kid with his nose pressed to the window of the bakery, the dog staring at the pointing finger.

He hung himself. I wonder if he left a note. I wonder if that note had footnotes. I wonder how many miles of verbiage his act of desperation will generate. I wonder how many more people will kill themselves now. If that mind, that beautiful machine, that culmination of nature and grace -- if THAT mind can't take it, what are the rest of us supposed to do?

It would be easy to say he aimed too high. That would excuse us all for aiming lower. It would be easy to paint his as a cautionary tale -- hubris, over-intellectualism, the danger of youthful success. That would excuse us all for the failings of our ego. It would be easy to say he was depressed.

It's harder to think that that fine mind looked ahead, sensed the patterns in the weave, and made a rational decision. I don't believe that. I don't want to believe that. I'll wear this body down to a nub before I'll give in. We all tell ourselves that.

Fuck you, DFW. You were a genius. A polymath humanist trying to make sense of it all, or at least to dissect it into such discrete parts that others could admire the assemblage. But*

*this space left deliberately unfinished.

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