I only saw this awful news a few hours ago, and even as someone who's only read a smattering of his work it's achingly sad, in the succumbing to loneliness and unrealized potential and still other ways. This reaction, from someone who knew him, feels right: "To learn tonight that he had taken his own life, it is just inconceivable to me. Inconceivable. I don't know how I can make that word register with the strength it needs to right now."
And this, too: http://quomodocumque.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/a-letter-from-david-foster-wallace-maybe/
I don't know what else to say. I hope you're managing to sweep up the wreckage.
Posted by Chris at September 15, 2008 7:23 PM
What self-stalling and -sidelining? Since Infinite Jest, he released two short-story collections, two essay/journalism collections, and another non-fiction book.
There’ve been hints in a couple of the tributes that in the absence of Epic Novel #3, Wallace must have been dicking around, which I disagree with. Though I realize that’s not necessarily what you’re saying.
Posted by DW. at September 17, 2008 6:23 PM
"Dicking around" would be a ridiculous claim, since the guy clearly worked like a dog, but I do feel like the quantity of DFW's non-fiction output in that time served to sideline him: While a lot of it is fantastic work, a lot of it also seems inessential and a distraction from what DFW himself was always clear was his main gig - I wouldn't think he especially needed the money, although maybe he did, how would I really know. The short fiction, though uneven through those years, is full of more substantive rewards. But yes, the absence of another (not necessarily epic) novel can't help but loom large.
But I sympathize with how easy it is to get sidetracked by saying 'yes' to borderline projects, and of course it wouldn't feel like it mattered if he had another two or three decades as he should - and of course he didn't know that was going to happen.
Posted by zoilus at September 18, 2008 1:56 PM
well, certainly the question on my lips for the past few expectant years was "So how's he's going to follow up Infinite Jest?" I never thought it would become a rhetorical question whose answer was a big zero.
I ended up re-reading his NY Times piece about Roger Federer (which is one of his best essays), then spent hours watching highlight reels of Federer playing, as all the while a question my friend had asked echoed in my head: "How can someone who can see so deeply into the beauty of an act like tennis playing--whose artfulness isn't apparent to everyone--how can this same person do away with himself?"
Kind of a silly and unanswerable query, but one that you can't help turning over in the mind. Which is exactly what I'll miss about him, his cheerfully and gamely probing the depths.
Posted by Dan Nelson at September 18, 2008 2:33 PM
I dunno -- discussing the quality of the work is one thing, but it seems weird to me to be deciding what KIND of work an artist should be spending his time on.
Even if you discount or consider secondary all the non-fiction (which I certainly wouldn't), I wouldn't feel any disappointment if he wrote nothing but short-story collections for the rest of his life. Why is a novel the only valid Major Statement?
Posted by DW. at September 18, 2008 4:28 PM
You're totally right, DW; that was inappropriate. It would have been better just to say that I was really hoping all along for another novel, feeling that it was his best medium.
After all, if someone decided that I was best at record reviews, say, and bitched because I was wasting my time writing books instead, my reaction would be, screw you.
We're allowed to have opinions, but not to decide someone else's path.
Posted by zoilus at September 18, 2008 8:08 PM