Saturday, September 13, 2008

American writer, David Foster Wallace, dead at 46

[update-9.17.08, 4:41 am: Once again, up before the sun. I wanted to update last night, but my internet connection was on the fritz. I found a comment at MetaFilter by Sleepy Pete I liked, especially this part.

And that is what makes it hardest to accept, Mr. Wallace, that you wrote those stories and went through hell like those that you wrote about and still made it through with their fucked up lives however they could... and you couldn't. For that I can't be pissed off at you. For this I can't be angry. I can only try to wonder what I can do for everyone I've known in that situation and try to make it better... try to make the world a place where footnotes are life and acceptance is the only way to live.

Then there's this by Ziegler. What makes haters like Ziegler keep on spewing hate? I obviously have an answer to my own rhetorical question. I hope to reread "Host" and add some of my own thoughts. I do have this for the time being; Mr. Ziegler, your take on Mr. Wallace isn't unique at all. Also, you don't know genius, because it bit you in the ass and you were too stupid to recognize it!--JB]

[update-9.16.08, 4:27 am: Up early doing some work (before my paying gig); found this article on DFW from the Baltimore Sun. The writer, Childs Walker, captures David in a way that others haven't, using sports, and his own special way of writing about it (tennis). In fact, I've been rereading "ASFTINDA" and chapter 6 on "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry...", one of my favorite chapters in the book, and one that has given me, a non-tennis player, an understanding of the sport I didn't have. I now even watch tennis, just because of that chapter.

It's early, and I'm starting to ramble, but I hope Walker's article helps others "see" David again the way we saw him prior to the news Saturday night.-JB]

[update-9.15.08, 5:23 pm: I'm going to continue to add updates to the original post as I see fit; I don't really feel like writing about any other issues, at least for a few days.

I found Bruce Weber's article in the NY Times (may require free registration) worthwhile, particularly as it had a quote from James Wallace, David's father, about his son, and some of his recent "struggles." It also had reactions from other writers who knew Wallace, including Jonathan Franzen; “He was a huge talent, our strongest rhetorical writer,” said Franzen.

Mr. Wallace (David's dad) is quoted as saying Sunday "that Mr. Wallace had been taking medication for depression for 20 years and that it had allowed his son to be productive. It was something the writer didn’t discuss, though in interviews he gave a hint of his haunting angst."

James Wallace said that last year his son had begun suffering side effects from the drugs and, at a doctor’s suggestion, had gone off the medication in June 2007. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. The elder Wallaces had seen their son in August, he said.

“He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.”

For me, Weber's article helps provide additional context to this tragedy.--JB]

[update-9.14.08, 7:13 am: Still having trouble getting my head around the death of DFW. Didn't know him in a personal way, but readers will understand how certain writers make you feel that special connection, which is what DFW did for me. I've found a few sites worth checking out if you were a fan, or just curious why others were. An interesting thread here, and this post at Cosmopolis is very good, as the writer apparently knew Wallace.--JB]


I just got a text message from my son that David Foster Wallace committed suicide.

Wallace was one of a handful of writers that rarely failed to excite, and inspire. I wrote a fairly extensive post at Write in Maine about both Wallace and fellow writer, Jonathan Franzen, both gifted writers, equally adept writing either fiction, or non-fiction.

For me, it was Wallace's non-fiction that I was most familiar with, from two books of essays, Consider the Lobster, and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which happens to sit on the headboard of my bed, and its essays are regularly reread. Only a handful of other writers are in that category with me: Neil Postman being one, and another, Wendell Berry.

Wallace has an essay in Consider the Lobster, about the author's travels as a member of the McCain press contingent during his 2000 "Straight Talk Express" tour, as McCain is stumping for the Republican presidential nomination. Wallace captures the meaningless of political campaigns like few other writers I've read. He also writes about the Maine Lobster Festival, in Rockland.

There's little else for me to write on this subject other than to say it saddens and troubles me.

1 comment:

Alyssa Radcliff said...

Thanks for posting this news and the links. It's too bad his demons got the better of him.

A year or two ago I found an article about researchers who had looked for a link between creativity and depression. In the end, they found none, so I keep the following words on an index card to remind myself why the two seem to go hand and hand, and to move on to more productive thoughts when I stray down the wrong path.

"Be wary of rumination... Researchers found no direct link between depression and creativity. However, self-reflection was correlated with both an increased risk for depression and an interest in, and talent for, creative behavior."