Saturday, September 13, 2008

DFW, RIP

Oh no--I just heard about David Foster Wallace's death at 46. He was one of my favorite writers--as I've said here from time to time, I loved his work even when I didn't like it. He was a master of moving readers with the banal, and seemed simultaneously populist and avant-garde...I will really, really miss his voice.

I didn't know him, but met him once. "This is the guy from Ithaca!" he told the woman he was with at the time--Wallace was born here in 1962. I found him to be cheerful, funny, and very collegial to a writer he didn't have to give the time of day to.

This blog offers its condolences to his friends and family, and everyone who liked his stuff, as we did.

EDIT: After sleeping on it, I am feeling even more devastated about this. I'm not sure how many other writers feel this way, but it's as though our generation has lost its literary leader--Wallace's writing was never universally praised and loved, but his status as an innovator was unchallenged, and I think he served as an example to a lot of us. He was the first writer our age who got out there and distinguished himself--a guy about whom you could think, at least somebody is trying that kind of thing. He was our Barthleme, or Borges, and I suspect that a lot of people who don't like him now will admit ten years from now how great a writer we just lost.

Rhian pointed out something to me last night that I don't think is often said about Wallace: he cared very, very deeply about his subjects, and took everything to heart. This was manifested most powerfully in his essays--his piece about the Iowa State Fair, for instance, and the more recent "Consider The Lobster." It's easy to speculate that perhaps it was this powerful, painful engagement with the world that killed him.

I dunno. I've always considered myself to be a fairly self-contained writer, but today I feel rudderless.

ANOTHER EDIT: Oh, for Pete's sake:

Two later collections of stories — “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” (1999) and “Oblivion” (2004), which both featured whiny, narcissistic characters — suggested a falling off of ambition and a claustrophobic solipsism of the sort Mr. Wallace himself once decried.

That's our Michiko, couldn't resist one last swipe. FWIW, I think those books are excellent, particularly the former.

12 comments:

ed said...

I just heard about it too, and am very shocked and saddened.

gcm said...

Terrible loss. I feel like I've lost a friend. Thanks for the post.

Matt said...

Very shocked when I read the news last night. I've only read an essay he wrote many years ago in Harper's (about the release of the revised OED, I believe), but his style was so memorable: hilarious, revealing, and well-crafted.

jrlennon said...

matt, you should definitely get your hands on the first essay collection, "A Supposedly Fun Thing." It's probably his best book.

adcaroselli said...

Someone was reading "Consider the Lobster" at the laundromat today. I didn't know Wallace was dead. I was bragging about him, robustly, to a friend hoping the entire laundromat would catch on to the Wallace wave. I move to be more robust in my recommendations of Wallace, but for now, I'm feeling strange and sad.

Matt said...

jrl - I will check that out. Thanks.

gcm said...

"He was our Barthleme, or Borges, and I suspect that a lot of people who don't like him now will admit ten years from now how great a writer we just lost."

Exactly. I haven't heard anyone express it better.

jeff said...

"I will really, really miss his voice": tragic, yeah, though if there's consolation it's that we'll always have his voice.

rmellis said...

I have nothing to say to this news.
It's too sad.

Louis said...

My favorite writer since I was 13. The guy who made me think my stuff could actually be viable :-(. RIP. I can't think of anybody who can actually carry his torch.

GFS3 said...

He was a talented writer -- and sometimes talent comes with a price. My king thoughts go out to his family.

jrlennon said...

Louis, I thought of you when I heard...assuming you're the Louis I'm assuming you're the Louis I'm assuming you are.