15 September 2008

David Foster Wallace

I was hoping to start blogging anew today, silliness and light, but then the news of David Foster Wallace and a few other things threw me off my stride and put me in a foul mood. DFW, one of my favorite writers, took his own life over the weekend. In reading all the postmortems, I keep seeing the word "inevitable" but I think that's a dangerous assumption. Writers point to his bouts of depression and the thread of despair that ran through much, if not all of his (brilliant) work.  

Aside: And let's not forget about the reader's despair as well.  It took me almost an entire year to read his novel Infinite Jest and I even skipped most of the notes.  

The despair in his writing betrayed his dark side, no doubt, but is that the whole story?Depression is a manageable illness. How does someone lose the will to live?  
I guess reading DFW with some hindsight, it'll all be in there.  Sort of like when I listen to Elliott Smith now and have those wow-I-can't-believe-I-never-saw-that-coming epiphanies. I have to believe that DFW, far beyond the reach of Wellbutrin, descended into complete madness.  I can't imagine how else someone could make a conscious choice to end his life at age 46.  It was impossible not to think about my 46-year-old sister-in-law who battled back from ovarian cancer and for whom every day is a gift.  And every day she makes a conscious choice to live and to live large.  It's tough to reconcile this afternoon. I'm irrationally angry. 


Bob said...


Little did I know (and yet, equally little did it surprise me), that you were (are) a fan of DFW.

A friend of mine held out Infinite Jest to me like a big fat joint, and I Bogarted it over one delicious summer in the late 90s. (I am way too obsessive/compulsive to have skipped the footnotes).

We are both mourning the passing of this gifted soul, and wondering how people manage to die from depression or heart attacks these days. It just seems so hard to do.

KJ said...

Hey Bob-So great to see you back in the comment box. Totally agree. It baffles the mind that someone would "choose" to die from a manageable illness but you always hear these stories of how drugs and therapy numb artists' and their livelihoods. Nevertheless, he probably had more life to live (and to write) ahead of him then he did behind him. It's ironic (and DFW would hate that) that people who have no choice with illness fight like mad to get healthy while some with treatable illnesses fold in on themselves and give up. Where's the fight? I guess I'm just not as much of an empathetic tortured soul as I fancy myself to be :) I'll have to reread Ifinite Jest, with the notes this time. Hope all are well!

Tim said...

I left this note on your Facebook:

“Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth,”

"It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot th... Read Moree terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."

David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College 2005


Bob said...


As superficial as this might sound at a time like this; are you on Facebook? Please befriend me.


KJ said...

It's a done deal, BB