Sunday, September 14, 2008

DFW, in memoriam

Salon writer and admirer Laura Miller has already written a beautiful elegy for David Foster Wallace, who hung himself last night.

I learned about his suicide over the phone from a friend, a fact that seems appropriate considering how many times Infinite Jest doubts our ability to connect as humans in a world saturated with technological middlemen, a world where news reaches us on our teleputers as we watch them, alone.

In his work, he engaged with despair readily. His suicide does not surprise, given the dark and hopeless moments he often portrayed in his fiction.

I do not pretend to be qualified to eulogize him. In fact, I spent the better part of this year reading and attempting to review Infinite Jest, and I never reached a point where I felt comfortable making claims about it. I disliked the feeling it gave me; I rejected its message. But I could not shake its effects free, and suspected that that was the ultimate marker of art.

But I will make a recommendation here, to whoever reads this. Out of respect for one of our time's most talented writers, we should read his advice on how to live, and follow it for an hour or a day, if we can. Before his death, David Foster Wallace did at some points advocate a kind of hope. Not the kind that fits in campaign slogans, but the kind of hope that exists, humbly, despite an extremely detailed and attuned awareness of the infinite number of arguments against it.

Your fitful fiction enlarged our concept of peace, by excavating all of its alternatives. Rest in peace.