So David Foster Wallace has gone and killed himself.
I have maybe spent more time thinking about suicide than your average person, what with Jenny having been seriously damaged by an ex-boyfriend who killed himself. One of the discoveries along the way is that the suicide is not only a victim of violence, but also a murderer. And David Foster Wallace has stolen from us one of the most brilliant, insightful, compassionate writers we had.
We needed Wallace. Hell, I needed Wallace. I’ve read Infinite Jest three times now, once snce getting sober, and I’ve quoted it often in twelve-step meetings. I even incorporated its wisdom into a list of slogans I compiled, adapting one of DFW’s insights to read, “No God minor-league enough for you to understand is going to be major-league enough to solve your problem.” That line helped me get through a tough period of struggle with faith and let go of my need to understand God in some kind of comprehensive, philosophically bulletproof way before I could let God into my life.
Wallace is one of the few writers who has helped me understand the world and my life in a serious way. Most of the others are philosophical writers, usually in a Buddhist or Eastern religious vein — Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön, Michael Pirsig and Benjamin Hoff at an earlier point — but Wallace was broader, helping me to understand everything from rural America to addiction, English usage to infinity.
And now he’s gone. There will be no followup novel. There will be no DFW essay on getting old, just around the time I would need one. Fuck.
Let’s let it end with a passage that must have haunted Wallace:
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning?