Monday, September 15, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962–2008

I'm too profoundly sad to write my own comments on the suicide of David Foster Wallace today, but here are some lovely words from Laura Miller at

"Perhaps someday we'll be offered an explanation for why David Foster Wallace took his life on Sept. 12, but any reader can see how his fiction had, in recent years, moved into greater darkness. ...

Every author wants to sell books, to please his or her publisher, to reap critical accolades and to bask in the admiration of colleagues, and Wallace did want those things, at the same time that he was more than a little embarrassed by such desires and acutely aware of the fact that none of it could make him happy. However, all great writers -- and I have no doubt that he was one -- have a preeminent purpose: to tell the truth. David Foster Wallace's particular vocation was to allow us to see just how fraught and complicated, how difficult yet how necessary, that telling had become -- not just for him, but for all of us. What will we do without him?"

And the full piece is here.


Fran said...

Hi Jessica, This was such a good way to handle a terrible happening. I continue to enjoy your blog. Just referred a nice guy named Will to the site; he's doing a piece for and I hope he contacts you. Peace & good cheer - Fran Johns

Jessica Knapp said...

Thanks Fran. I appreciate your kind words ... and the reference. I always enjoy your blog as well.

exurgency/Spectacularrr said...

I was also very upset by the news of DFWs death -- sad, angered, and mostly shocked. I was looking forward to a Nobel-prize-worthy writing career. Now, as with Jeff Buckley, we'll just have to wonder at the little bit of brilliance he did leave.

A friend emailed this quote, which I thought was perfect:

"Found this quote in DFW's Infinite Jest. It becomes incredibly eerie considering his suicide:"

The so-called 'psychotically depressed' person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote 'hopelessness' or any abstract conviction that life's assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire's flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It's not desiring the fall; it's terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling 'Don't!' and 'Hang on!', can understand the jump. Not really. You'd have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.