September 15th, 2008


David Foster Wallace, R.I.P.

Ignore all these people going on about Infinite Jest-- if you ask me, his best book was A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. In particular you should read his essays on:

1. The Illinois State Fair
2. Taking a luxury cruise (this is the source of the book's title)
3. Playing tennis with the 100th best tennis player in the world

All three of these essays are brilliant, funny, insightful, memorable.

See also: Federer as Religious Experience

At his best, he was hilarious. He was capable of transmitting what it's like to think, in a specific way I could identify with. Isn't that the value of writing? We're all trapped in our own heads, with no inkling of what it's really like to be anyone else. Writers help bridge that gap. In reading DFW I felt less alone.

He had a remarkable memory and a reporter's eye for detail. He had a passion for tennis that was contagious. His digressions were endless. He went to the Adult Video Awards, thought hard about vegetarian ethics, and wrote about Alcoholics Anonymous / drug addiction in a way that was both completely sympathetic and 100 miles above.

He wrote the best description of clinical depression that I've seen; it helped me understand what it might be like to be clinically depressed, and how that differs from garden variety depression. I thought it was in his past. But in recent years his writing had turned darker, with less of the humor I loved so much.

To get to the point where you're stringing up a noose-- I really can't imagine.