Raise a toast to David Foster Wallace. I think he might have been our only decent teacher.

“It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately — the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms blandly filled with excrement and meat? To what purpose? This was why they started us here so young: to give ourselves away before the age when the questions why and to what grow real beaks and claws.” (Infinite Jest, 900)

One of my heroes is dead.

David Foster Wallace faced down some of the fundamental problems of existence: how the fuck do you communicate with any other person, share a shred of authenticity, while you’re stuck in your own dumb head and he or she stuck in hers; how can you give yourself away to something wholly other (that phrase is not a mistake) than yourself and not go insane; how do you write about this stuff in an engaging and original and above all direct way, while getting at all the feelings these problems drum up. That he died by suicide enrages and saddens me, because his books are such a force for life. And I’m not the sort to tear up when famous people kick the bucket.

The internet is ablaze with eulogies, so I’ll keep this brief. Here’s a song about inspiration and a hero; a song by that hero, also dead too young; and a couple of links to hints toward what made David Foster Wallace such a hero.

The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer” from Stay Positive (2008)
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – “Coma Girl” from Streetcore (2003)

Charlie Rose Interview
Commencement Address

Buy all his books

Posted by Glenn

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2 Comments

Filed under 2000s, Rock

2 responses to “Raise a toast to David Foster Wallace. I think he might have been our only decent teacher.

  1. I hadn’t read any DFW before today, but I read this article about English usage (probably not the best introduction to his work) and am inspired to read more.

    http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html

    Sometimes I think words are useless anymore because nobody ever simply says what they mean, and everyone is indeed “stuck in [their] own dumb head.” Everything anyone ever says is buried beneath layers upon layers of socially constructed meaning, most of which are pure bullshit. Once our language becomes devoid of truth, I think it’s time to start over.

  2. When I heard about his suicide, I thought of the Hold Steady song about John Berryman’s suicide: “He was drunk and exhausted, and he was critically acclaimed and respected.”

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