Monday, September 15, 2008

R.I.P. David Foster Wallace

On Saturday David Foster Wallace hung himself in his home.

He was one of my favorite writers, if only because he was so obviously more talented than I could ever hope to be. He was almost the polar opposite of Kafka or Isaac Babel, in his need to fully flesh out every aspect of his message, whether in an essay or a novel. Where their sentences are terse, with unfathomable depth, Wallace's are long, and struggle to convey every conceivable emotion and fact. The mystery in Wallace's writing is all on the page, if you've got the eyes to see it, and the mind to comprehend it.

Infinite Jest is an enormous, heavily-footnoted book. It has become the 21st century version of Ulysses - even if you've finished it, you didn't understand it. Not that anyone would believe you if you say you actually read the whole thing.

The lyricism in Wallace's writing is all mathematical and angular - his sentences don't so much flow off the page as march in robotic perfection. Despite that seeming lack of aenima his characters live and breathe, their words come naturally and true. Reading his stories makes your head crack open and leaves your brain and soul exposed, allowing you to pick through the mess and say to yourself, "wow, who knew I had all that inside me?"

His work is harrowing and beautiful and now there won't be any more.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

What was also cool about Inifinite Jest is that many of the landmarks in the book were in Brighton Center.

Very sad.

Yehuda said...

the correct term is "hanged himself," not "hung"

Pants Wearer said...

Sure, one of the greatest novelists of the past 50 years dies, and all you have to contribute is a grammar correction?

I'm just embarassed that I used the wrong term. And that if I'd seen the same gaff on someone else's blog for sure I'd have called them on it.