It’s taken me a few days to write this post, partly because I’ve been busy (remarkable in itself, since I’m officially unemployed right now), and partly because I’m still not really sure what I want to say.
David Foster Wallace committed suicide last Friday, and the world lost an acrobatic writer and a dazzling mind. People either love or hate his fractured, self-conscious, self-interrupting, heavily-footnoted style. Some people dismiss it as pretentious or as a kind of academic pandering, but I think his suicide represents a final verdict that shows he was his own biggest critic.
I am a huge admirer of DFW, and I’m not sure there’s ever been another writer so versatile. His work is at times manic, funny, quiet, sad, high-flying, firmly-grounded. Most of it is so multi-dimensional it defies description. He was a virtuoso who came closer to representing the way our brains process life than anyone else I can think of. His magnum opus – Infinite Jest – was 1000+ pages long and packed with footnotes, but as you read it you recognize that your own mind produces this kind of fractured and multi-layered narrative about every second.
Finally, it’s crystal clear in his writing and in the way he would talk about his writing that he wrote out of love. It feels trite to actually write that here, but I think the whole of his writing has a tenderness running through it that is ultimately about the pain of modern life. He recognized how difficult it is to live in the world we’ve made for ourselves, especially for people inclined to examine it.
He was one of those people, and in the end he couldn’t endure what he was able to see.