Saturday, September 13, 2008

David Foster Wallace, dead at 46

I am crying as I type this. My favorite nonscriptural writer, David Foster Wallace, killed himself last night.

From the Associated Press:

CLAREMONT, Calif. — David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46.

Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department.

Wallace taught creative writing and English at nearby Pomona College.

Wallace's first novel, "The Broom of the System," gained national attention in 1987 for its ambition and offbeat humor. The New York Times said the 24-year-old author "attempts to give us a portrait, through a combination of Joycean word games, literary parody and zany picaresque adventure, of a contemporary America run amok."

Published in 1996, "Infinite Jest" cemented Wallace's reputation as a major American literary figure. The 1,000-plus-page tome, praised for its complexity and dark wit, topped many best-of lists. Time Magazine named "Infinite Jest" in its issue of the "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005."

Wallace received a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 1997. His short fiction was published in Esquire, GQ, Harper's, The New Yorker and the Paris Review. He wrote nonfiction for a number of publications, including an essay on the U.S. Open for Tennis magazine and a profile of the director David Lynch for Premiere.

Born in Ithaca, N.Y., Wallace attended Amherst College and the University of Illinois.

His writing was amazing, his humor was wicked and his insights about the human condition and our idiosyncrasies were fantastic. I'm not exaggerating when I say that reading Infinite Jest was a turning point in my life.

I was also lucky enough to have a brief correspondence with him -- I sent him a letter in care of his publisher after finishing Infinite Jest to say how grateful I was that he'd written it and how much I enjoyed it. He wrote back (!), thanking me for thanking him, and we exchanged a few subsequent notes. What a sweet and kind thing to do for a fan.

I'm heartbroken.


David said...

Craziness...he was professor at Pomona College, which is likely the second best educational institution in all of Claremont (after Claremont McKenna, of course). Why would someone who seems to have everything going for him do something like this? Was there a suicide note? Could it be that he came to realize that apart from God everything in life is but a chasing after the wind (see Ecclesiastes 2:11)?

Unknown said...

so sad...

Nora :) said...

I would never presume to understand the depth of pain of someone who thinks the only solution to what he's feeling is to take his own life. I've been close to that point in the past, and from that experience I know there are no simple, clear answers.

All this is especially poignant given how much joy he gave others, directly and indirectly.