Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David Foster Wallace: RIP

I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of David Foster Wallace. I don't have a whole lot to add to the body of tributes and remembrances building up across the Internet (most of which seem to be collected at The Literary Saloon; also see Brandon Soderberg's post here--just as Brandon wonders absurdly about Wallace's dogs, I keep thinking about the deliberation of those final terrible moments), except to say that, for me, Wallace the writer was not about tricks or gimmicks. Nor did I see him as a "post-modernist" writer, in the sense usually meant, but rather as a writer with concerns very much like those of the Modernists, grappling with the post-modern world, with the problems of communication and isolation. I enjoyed the novel Infinite Jest. I generally enjoyed his non-fiction, though I consider it to be relatively minor in comparison with his fiction (and where some of his stylistic tics most often threatened to overwhelm his great voice). But I believe that it is in his shorter fiction, particularly in the collections Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (e.g., "The Depressed Person") and Oblivion (e.g., "Good Old Neon" and much of "Mr. Squishy"), that Wallace most showed that he was for real. He was painfully aware that the choices made by writers in the past were not, and could not be, available to him. A great vein of sadness runs through his work, not the sort that could predict or explain what happened, but the sort that revealed a writer able to see and to understand. He was writer with a lot of heart. He will be missed.



Anonymous John Self said...

I'll second that, though I have only one book of his - Brief Interviews - and to be honest I don't think I ever finished it. That was probably my usual prejudice against length, as even in short form, Wallace's virtuosity and facility meant he could sustain vitality in his prose even at great length. A sort of anti-Updike, perhaps...

September 17, 2008 6:26 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

also re: Modernism, A.O. Scott has a piece worth reading in the NTTimes.

September 22, 2008 8:10 PM  

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