Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Shock to the System

Reading the other day of the suicide of 46 year old writer David Foster Wallace took me aback. I've never read any of his novels (although Infinite Jest has been on my mental list for about eight years, now), but I remember being enamored with his essay "Consider the Lobster" when I read it in Gourmet in 2004. It was such a remarkably entertaining piece of writing. In 2005, I found his cover article in The Atlantic, "Host," about political talk radio. The article used footnotes in a visual way that was completely innovative. I began to realize that not only was this guy a good writer, but he was perhaps a writer of the best footnotes I had ever read. His short stories (the few I have read) are the same way, innovative in perspective, and containing some unexpected nuance that makes a reader appreciate not simply the joy of story, but the craft of writing.

And then, I read his book on the history of infinity, Everything and More. And I knew this was a brilliant human being. I had to put him on the side of the table with the other people smarter than me (more and more, this side of the table is growing...ah, for the ignorant cocksurety of youth!). And now, we'll get no more brilliance.

It is a tragedy when someone takes their life. It is a tragedy when a writer whom people admire departs this world. It is a tragedy of the highest order when someone so talented and so bright chooses to leave the rest of us behind.

Rest in peace, Mr. Wallace.

1 comment:

La Fashionista said...

I've never read any of his works...yet. As a result, I can only feel the sadness of his death in the abstract. P has Infinite Jest - loves it - and was very upset about Wallace's suicide. It is indeed tragic.

"Ignorant cocksurety of youth" - nice.