I had been planning to write something maybe funny and lighter than the last posts, but in light of the news of David Foster Wallace’s death, I cannot.
My first encounter with Wallace’s writing was his collection of short works, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, then a collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I was completely hooked by his use of language, footnotes, and sarcasm. If you and I have talked about books I have most likely insisted you read DFW. I probably offered you my copy to borrow. I probably tried to describe it all and failed miserably.
After reading that first book, I wanted my writing to grow up and be like his. I still do.
Husband actually broke the news of his death to me as both of us sat at our respective desks in our offices. “David Foster Wallace is dead,” he called. I barked out a harsh, “WHAT?” and frantically started searching for the news. A friend had already posted DFW’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon.
My first thought when learning of Wallace’s suidcide was, naturally, ‘Why?’ What demons propel a genius to take his own life? He was brilliant, and widely acknowledged to be so. For some perhaps that is not enough or maybe it’s just not the point. Nobody ever really knows why someone commits suicide.
I had a macabre conversation with a writer friend several years ago during which we decided that neither of us is ever going to be a famous writer because we come from pretty mild backgrounds – no alcoholics, abuse, etc. – and neither of us is an addict or has any mental health issues. (Not real ones anyway. People say I’m moody. I’m not. I just have an artistic temperament.) We are no Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton or Virginia Woolf. It was a strange conversation and seems relevant now.
I was going to write my little wordpress post and go read a book on writing I’m halfway finished with, but I think I’m going to read some DFW. Probably A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again because it’s about cruises and I don’t really want to go on a cruise either. And it’s funny which I hope will stem the tide of dismay and sadness I’m starting to feel.