Monday, September 15, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

The death, by apparent suicide, of David Foster Wallace has really gotten to me. I have sat down to write this at least five times and given up. As we listen to the clowns spinning this way and that, juggling their balls, mugging, in their political ivory towers (oh, let's face it, there are no issues, there are no facts, there is nothing but spin & it's rotten to the core -- see! I can't be moderate!). Millions of people are homeless, thousands dead in Haiti after the aftermath of hurricanes Gustav and Hanna, but what are we doing about it? We are debating lipstick. And then there is DFW, someone who actually tried to think deeply about issues. Here's the opening paragraph of Michiko Kakutani's appreciation from the NY Times:

David Foster Wallace used his prodigious gifts as a writer — his manic, exuberant prose, his ferocious powers of observation, his ability to fuse avant-garde techniques with old-fashioned moral seriousness — to create a series of strobe-lit portraits of a millennial America overdosing on the drugs of entertainment and self-gratification, and to capture, in the words of the musician Robert Plant, the myriad “deep and meaningless” facets of contemporary life.

Here is someone who tried to figure out the tangled threads of the universe and to make sense of it in its senselessness, but he gave up. And look at that beautiful face. It's an image borrowed (stolen) from the New York Times, and I've been staring at it, transfixed, trying to understand it. And the idiots continue to fret and strut, and we are supposed to feel optimistic about the world?

In the middle of writing this, struggling, it has to be said, with my own sadness, the VeryShortList email pings into my inbox. Of course, they have it right.

UPDATE: I like this comment (response) by Zulu in the LA Times:
Last night I found myself at an avant-garde dance performance. Not my usual Saturday evening pastime, and my mind wandered as the evening progressed. At one point I started thinking about David Foster Wallace, speculating if he would possibly glean meaning from the dancers festooned in plastic shopping bags as they twirled around the stage. I can only speculate that brilliantly gifted humans such as him, Spaulding Grey, and countless others, could not bear the terrible beauty that they saw so clearly and tried to alert the rest of us to. I'm so sorry, so sorry, we have lost him.

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