Sunday, September 14, 2008

Goodbye, David Foster Wallace

One of my favorite authors is dead, by his own hand, at the age of 46.

It’s hard to think of another stranger whose death could have been more upsetting to me. David Foster Wallace was not only incredibly talented and funny, but his writing always had a humane and optimistic streak which I always respected, although I couldn’t share it. I read with bemused cynicism his article about how inspiring John McCain was and his monumental review of a dictionary which turned into a meditation on democracy, but at the same time I felt comforted that he was out there, being idealistic when it would have been easier to be nihilistic. I envied him his apparently sincere and principled search as much as I enjoyed his winningly, self-deprecatingly complex writing style.

The fact that he seems to have given up that search in suicidal despair only adds to the ache I feel at his death. I had several paragraphs more written, but I don’t want this to seem like a ripoff of Wallace’s sesquipedalian style, so I’ll just stop. I will miss him.

In almost every picture I’ve ever seen of him, Wallace was wearing a colossally silly-looking do-rag (à la Prison Mike), so I’ll just reproduce the cover of his best-known book, a cover which I feel represents both his refreshing style and the wide-open breadth of his unfortunately-curtailed literary ambition.

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