Monday, September 15, 2008

DFW (1962-2008)

Sad news, folks. A true original and a mind-bogglingly talented writer, David Foster Wallace, was found dead in an apparant suicide at his home in California on Friday. It's an incredible loss, not only to his thousands of devoted fans, but to his wife Karen Green, and his students at Pomona College, where he has been teaching creative writing for the last few years. I've been an admirer of Foster Wallace since I happily plowed through what we can now say is his definitive work, the gargantuan Infinite Jest, last summer. I've also enjoyed numerous essays by him, on topics as diverse as John McCain's 2000 presidential bid, luxury holiday cruises, playing tennis and David Lynch. Whatever he turned his attention on, he illuminated with wit, depth and a characteristic curiousity about the world. His writing was lucid, funny, sometimes melancholy, often challenging but never obtuse. I'd often approach a new piece by him with a dictionary at my side, but finish reading with a head full of new concepts and questions about the world, and a heart full of emotions, rather than just a list of new vocabulary.

But while his own fiction often showcased his mastery of postmodern pyrotechnics — a cold but glittering arsenal of irony, self-consciousness and clever narrative high jinks — he was also capable of creating profoundly human flesh-and-blood characters with three-dimensional emotional lives. In a kind of aesthetic manifesto, he once wrote that irony and ridicule had become “agents of a great despair and stasis in U.S. culture” and mourned the loss of engagement with deep moral issues that animated the work of the great 19th-century novelists.
- from The NY Times

I'm really shocked and upset by this news, as are many writers, bloggers and others literary types. If you try to enter the McSweeney's site, you're greated by a blank page. "Timothy McSweeney is devastated and lost". I know how they feel.


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