Sunday, September 14, 2008

an untimely death

David Foster Wallace has died, suicide apparently. I wince a bit to join the rememberance cavalcade, to lament intimately, throwing my contribution into the inevitable "literary innovator" chatter. Though intermittently uncharitable considering she's writing a eulogy of sorts, Michiko Kakutani got DFW's writing right enough in the NYT: "fat, prolix narratives filled with Mobius strip-like digressions, copious footnotes and looping philosophical asides." So I'll just say it was actually his nonfiction work that was always more the model for me. I liked the unapologetic and raw courage in his observations. And god, his words made me laugh.

I remember reading a statement he made once that very few of his close friends were actually in the writing circuit. And having touched that wire of literary industry--through haughty New York scenesters and grad school luminaries--I adored him for this from a distance. His life was like mine. He was not surrounded by dull, cutthroat name-droppers, but salt-of-the-earth comrades who'd earned his allegiance over time. Or so I assumed. I just unearthed this from a speech he gave:
The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
The disappointment that this care is not enough to keep someone as infinitely talented as Wallace alive is a cracking blow. Humans are, at the core of things, solitary beings. And each private universe harbors deep and lethal darkness. And that is a stunning, if unsurprising and familiar, revelation.