September 13, 2008

Dear God.

David Foster Wallace has killed himself. Hanged himself! Terrible. Horrible.

ADDED:

Autograph

77 comments:

Lem said...

If he was that good, maybe I should look him up....

Palladian said...

Sometimes words just aren't enough. For the author, or those the author leaves behind.

Krishnan Viswanathan said...

A terrible and shocking loss."A supposedly fun thing i will never do again" gives me all the ammunition whenever my wife brings up the topic of stepping on a cruise ship.

Ann Althouse said...

"A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again"... and now, never, anything ever again....

Matt Brown said...

Did he, or anyone else, write about having a history of depression? It was obviously there, but I don't know enough of his works to know if he ever wrote about it.

James said...

What a shock!!! Infinite Jest is my all time favorite book. I was just about to start rereading it (for like the fifth time). How terribly sad. Some of his essays were fantastic too. Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley is a gem too if you're at all into tennis, tornadoes, or math.

By the way, even if you don't read the whole thing, read the 20 or so pages of Infinite Jest about the Eschaton Match. So much mischievous fun.

Chris said...

Wow. What an unfortunate loss for everyone. I usually like too many things to name favorites, but for years I could identify Infinite Jest as my favorite novel. And, of course, anyone who, by the age of 40, has a style is unique enough to be lampooned by The Onion really had achieved something.

Awesome said...

What an asshole. 46! Jesus! He was too terribly smart for his own good, but suicide???

You can hear it in every sentence he wrote though, tragedy a tone underneath everything - it's what made him such an intimate writer. What a shame. I'm horrified.

Lem said...

His writing sounds a little like the japanese manga Ghost in the Shell - the puppet master..

I defenetely have to look this up!

vbspurs said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I don't know who he was, but I can tell you admired him greatly.

RIP.

Cheers,
Victoria

amba said...

My niece studied writing with him at Pomona. She is going to be shattered.

Haunting, horrible.

chuck b. said...

What a shame.

chuck b. said...

Victoria, his essays are right up your alley.

vbspurs said...

I couldn't find Infinite Jest in Kindle format (I just ordered the Paperback here), but I am considering buying this book of his:

McCain's Promise

_Up Simba!_ and _Oblivion_ are both available in Kindle, but it's odd that so many of you mentioned Infinite Jest, and it's not available yet.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Thanks, Chuck B. I appreciate the tip, though such a sadness that I discovered him too late, as it were.

Lem said...

He wrote... a profile of the director David Lynch for Premiere.

Im defenetly looking him up!

vbspurs said...

Oh, of course. "Consider the Lobster". Man, now I got it. What a shame -- so wry...

PatCA said...

Horrible!

Lem said...

Anything with David Lynch's imprimatur it's worth it's weight in gold!

James said...

Also, an old Chicago scav hunt list - check out number 64. And believe me, everyone tried.

http://scavhunt1.uchicago.edu/oldsites/1999_2/list99.htm

Lem said...

I'm trying Amazon for 'Infinite Jest' and i keep getting the german language amazon.

Palladian said...

"I'm trying Amazon for 'Infinite Jest' and i keep getting the german language amazon."

That is the very definition of "infinite jest".

Ron said...

"I'm trying Amazon for 'Infinite Jest' and i keep getting the german language amazon."

That is the very definition of "infinite jest".


Indeed? Where are your japes now, Herr Palladian?

Palladian said...

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.

Lem said...

Odering from Amazon reminded me of my father waiting for news about his last born, my little sister.

I swear, porn is easy, literature is hard ;)

Lem said...

It's estimated that I will get it on the 19th.

Nexflix got them beat.

How are we expected to read?

Lem said...

Delivery estimate: September 19, 2008 1 "Infinite Jest"
David Foster Wallace; Paperback; $12.23

Sold by: Amazon.com, LLC

reader_iam said...

Oh my God.

reader_iam said...

Oh my God.

reader_iam said...

He gave up.

reader_iam said...

He gave it up.

reader_iam said...

Both.

Guesst said...

.....learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.


It was always on his mind.

Randy said...

Oh no! This is sad & terrible news. If he was a personal friend, Ann, my condolences on your loss.

Lem said...

"Line-Pioneer."

You have any idea what he meant?

Jesss, I sound like a line in a David Lynch....

reader_iam said...

He couldn't find the "it" that, for himself would make it worth not giving up. (And that after--no doubt; it is clear--years of struggling with his perspective that his own "it"--the "it" the rest of us cherished about him--wasn't enough to make it worth it.)

reader_iam said...

Wow. I'm knocked off my pins just now.

F'n depression. F'n soul-sucker.

Alex said...

Blogger Lem said...

His writing sounds a little like the japanese manga Ghost in the Shell - the puppet master..

I defenetely have to look this up!
12:19 AM


I love Ghost in the Shell!

Lem said...

.....learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.

Thats true to some extent..

reader_iam said...

Let me rephrase that: F-u-c-k-i-n-g depression. F-u-c-k-i-n-g soul-sucker.

Lem said...

I love Ghost in the Shell!

It makes me think while looking at beauty..

I love it when that happens ;)

Lem said...

F-u-c-k-i-n-g depression. F-u-c-k-i-n-g soul-sucker.

dont go there... it's just literature..

Alex said...

Another brilliant work by David Foster Wallace:

"Roger Federer as Religious Experience"

Federer as religious experiece

Lem said...

Oh my God, he just wrote about the US Open?

Lem said...

Almost anyone who loves tennis and follows the men’s tour on television has, over the last few years, had what might be termed Federer Moments. These are times, as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K.

That is Federer!

Federer does things that are not supposed to happenen in the realm of phisics...

former law student said...

What a horrible thing to do to his wife. Did he hate her?

Guys, jump off a height. Smash your car into a brick wall. Do not let your wife find you dead when she gets home.

Hilary said...

I graduated from Pomona last year. I was an English major, so although I never took a class with him, I saw DFW all the time in the halls, at department events, etc. Pomona's a small school, and everyone in the English department knew everyone else. He was adored by all of the students. I'm reeling right now.

Lem said...

I know exactly waht he is talking about!

one of the best american palayers last year, while playing Federer said for everybody to hear - "you are good"...

Lem said...

My Federer moment was seeing a bolley from a place where it was supposed to be an imposibility..

and yet the play was a bolley it just that it was incredible..

I remember saying to myself i dont think that has ever been done before..

Lem said...

his early problems with fragility and temper,

watching Federer you would never know that.

Lem said...

This present article is more about a spectator’s experience of Federer, and its context. The specific thesis here is that if you’ve never seen the young man play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of Wimbledon, through the literally withering heat and then wind and rain of the ’06 fortnight, then you are apt to have what one of the tournament’s press bus drivers describes as a “bloody near-religious experience.” It may be tempting, at first, to hear a phrase like this as just one more of the overheated tropes that people resort to to describe the feeling of Federer Moments. But the driver’s phrase turns out to be true — literally, for an instant ecstatically — though it takes some time and serious watching to see this truth emerge.

I've only seen him live here in Queens... and still.

Lem said...

What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.

It's like when i discover sex..

I was better at sex than piching.

Alex said...

For myself, I've seen lots of Federer moments the last 2+ years I've actually watched his matches on the internet/TV. But one I'd like to point out would be a half-volley he executed against James Blake in the 2006 Masters Cup final that left everyone astonished. Nobody had ever seen a shot like that and nobody has done it since.

Lem said...

The more I read the more it's like he said what was on my mind..

Federer is that good.

Even if he never beats Nadal on clay Federer is the best of all time.

The powers that be will not see past Nadal...not for now, but I do and so did David Foster.

Charles Noland said...

Here is an interview with him on Charlie Rose, it runs about 31 minutes, lots of talk about David Lynch.

http://tinyurl.com/5w2lx5

Lem said...

half-volley he executed against James Blake in the 2006 Masters Cup final that left everyone astonished. Nobody had ever seen a shot like that and nobody has done it since

I think thats it..

I was there. I was incredulous, I was OMG!

Lem said...

Blake at one point said - "you are good" and I heard him..

I said to my girfriend this is a great match.

Lem said...

Here is an interview with him on Charlie Rose, it runs about 31 minutes, lots of talk about David Lynch.

OMG

I'M indisposed...

Lem said...

Uncomfortable having to peddle his work...

Lem said...

When describing Lynch he does a facial expression that to me represents I'm not doing his work justice.... Lynch is on another realm.

But artist are allways reluctant to criticize other artist especially when they like them.

so..

Alex said...

Federer is struggling this year of course. I don't think David Foster Wallace would be writing any paeans to Federer right now.

Lem said...

Oh boy, the Darmar Lynch connection..

This is the guy I heard about.

but because he dared to criticize my idol I never red him.

there you go...

Lem said...

there he goes with that facial expression again..

rightwingprof said...

Who?

Oh. A hack writer. Sorry for his family, if he had one.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Complete insanity. Loved his words...every book. Speechless.

Roger J. said...

only we know our personal demons--RIP

Roger J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John K. said...

In all honesty, I've never read anything by David Foster Wallace and knew nothing about him, but was intrigued enough by guesst's quotation of him above to watch the Charlie Rose interview. He seemed very self-conscious about avoiding cliches. (Out of respect, I'll avoid pointing out that he finally failed to avoid the cliche of the tormented artist committing suicide.) E.g., from guesst's quote, Wallace considered the idea of "the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master" to be an "old cliche." For myself, while I've encountered that idea before, I hadn't heard it expressed quite that way -- powerfully and pithily -- before. Perhaps I haven't read enough. His expression of the idea, even if he had gotten it from someone else, was valuable to me nevertheless.

Perhaps in the end, Wallace couldn't escape the feeling that all of life was a cliche. "Nothing new under the sun," and all that. The desire to do and be something completely new and original can be a real ball-buster.

The following from the Wikipedia article on Wallace also increases my posthumous respect for him:

In the November 2007 issue of The Atlantic, which commemorated the magazine's 150th anniversary, an invited series of authors, artists, politicians and others were asked to prepare 300 words or so on "the future of the American idea". Wallace asked whether some things were still worth dying for, and presented a "thought experiment" in which "we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea." He goes on to say that we might have to accept that every now and then "a democratic republic cannot 100% protect itself [from terrorism] without subverting the very principles that made it worth protecting." By comparison, he continues, we accept the 40,000 highway deaths each year as the price we pay for the convenience of the motor car. Finally, he asks, in the context of Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, and warrantless wiretapping, "Have we become so selfish and scared that we don't even want to consider whether some things trump safety?"

Paul said...

I don't know this author. Would it be a correct evaluation to say that this writer was famous for his run-on sentences, a stylistic mashup of Joyce and Kant?

rhhardin said...

Never heard of him. I subscribe to the wrong magazines.

Pogo said...

Very sad. May his wife find solace in the selfsame sorrow of those he touched with his words.

chickenlittle said...

Do you suppose he left a note?

George said...

Creepy how he drew a line through his name.

Was a piece in the NYT Magazine a while ago which interviewed people who had survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. They all agreed that the instant they made the decision to jump they really regretted it. The theory seems to be that the urge to suicide seems to be a passing madness. Remember, folks, it always gets cloudy, but the sun always shines again.

William said...

By the way, it’s right around here, or the next game, watching, that three separate inner-type things come together and mesh. One is a feeling of deep personal privilege at being alive to get to see this; another is the thought that William Caines is probably somewhere here in the Centre Court crowd, too, watching, maybe with his mum. The third thing is a sudden memory of the earnest way the press bus driver promised just this experience.

It is a shame that he forgot that at one time he appreciated enough the privilege of being alive to realize and even write about it.

bleeper said...

I knew 4 people in high school who later killed themselves. In every case I could say, with the benefit of hindsight, they applied a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

And no, it is not possible to know how much pain another person is in, but I do know that the only guarentee in life is change. If you live, things will change.

I have known writers who thought that you had to be drunk to write. I have known drunks who, well, that's a story for another day. Poor Hemmingway survived 3 plane crashes but suffered head injuries. He killed himself, but in those days brain injuries were not well treated. More's the pity.

In any case, somehow, drinking and suicide have been linked, by some, to good writing. I prefer sobriety and living, but then again, I don't write. I read.

KLDAVIS said...

Very sad...A Supposedly Fun Thing actually forced my wife and I onto a cruise. It was terrible, but we had a blast constructing DFWian critiques of the experience.

"James said...

Also, an old Chicago scav hunt list - check out number 64. And believe me, everyone tried."

He's immortalized in the Scav Bylaws.

"Matt Brown said...

Did he, or anyone else, write about having a history of depression?"

Yes. From a Chicago Trib piece, "He told me that after his first burst of fame...he'd entered a hospital and asked to be put on suicide watch.

'In a weird way it seemed like there was something very American about what was going on, that things were getting better and better for me in terms of all the stuff I thought I wanted, and I was getting unhappier and unhappier,' he said."

"Lem said...

'Line-Pioneer.'

You have any idea what he meant?"

I would guess she was first in line at the signing.

I will miss his footnotes most of all.

David Baker said...

Wallace's handwriting sample (I'm an experienced handwriting analyst) gives no indication of depression (bipolar disorder) - yet he [apparently] killed himself.

What his writing does show is extreme emotional conservatism, an inability to initiate or maintain close personal relationships. For Wallace, genuine intimacy was virtually impossible, the cause of which may be traced back to childhood.

When depressive strokes are essentially absent in one's handwriting, especially following a suicide, we're left to evaluate what is there in order to draw a conclusion. In this instance, we start and end with Wallace's emotional conservatism as the primary, negative force. It was the strongest influence in his personality... the silent culprit that eventually did him in.

Even in a crowded room, such loneliness becomes unbearable.