Monday, September 15, 2008

RIP DFW

for what it's worth, i'm going to join in the chorus; the loss of David Foster Wallace is a terribly sad thing.
i remember when "Infinite Jest" was making a sort of insane amount of waves for a "literary" novel clocking in at over a thousand pages; it seemed like it, and DFW, were everywhere. Wallace was being touted as "the new Pynchon" and the "voice of a generation" and all the pictures i saw of him looked like he was a grunge rocker. a grunge rocker with a PHd.
"FUCK THAT", i thought, and vowed i'd never touch that book.
a couple years late, i was living in a closet in Olympia, washington, and playing racketball a lot with my pal Brian, who had told me that Infinite Jest was the best thing...ever. i relented, and started the thing (mostly because brian is awesome).
from the first page, all my suspicions were totally confirmed: the guy was TOO smart, the writing was TOO clever, the writing was FAR TOO GOOD. and over the next month or so, i just kept going, and every couple of days rant with/ to brian about it; i could not believe the sort of...fever pitch of hyper-EVERYTHING the novel was attempting to achieve, and, to my near constant disbelief, hitting the mark almost constantly. he was setting up far too many things, there wasn't a chance he could pull it off (and i had my deep suspicions he wasn't even going to TRY, he was just going to find some SMART AND CLEVER way to BEG OUT OF IT...). the thing reeked of ambition and there was no question the writer was shooting for the next "novel that changes everything, including the concept of 'the novel'".
and i finished it.
and he pulled it off. and all the cleverness and smartypantsness all faded away from the fact that underneath it all, this book was sad, and human, and naked, and deeply felt. and i've never read anything like it before or since (though i've certainly read a bunch of stuff that ripped him off stylistically). and, more than anything, it's a book that stuck with me. and probably "changed everything, including my concept of 'the novel'".
it's just an astounding work, any way you cut it. and absolutely fantastic.
i've purchased some of his other books, but...to be honest, his writing is something that is the polar opposite of "light reading"; when you take on something he wrote, you know you are IN FOR IT.
and so. it'd be sad in any case, but when it's by his own hand, well.
no fuck that; it's just sad. a sad loss.
RIP.

ps-- i'm gonna post about something happy and great real soon. like next week, or tomorrow, or-- as soon as i finish the BRAND NEW ISSUE OF COMETBUS.

2 Comments:

Anonymous -p. said...

Nice post. Perhaps I'll try that Infinite Jest, and see for myself. Whenever I read of a writer killing himself--or herself (or for that matter, anyone, not just writers--it brings about a certain melancholy that just hurts, hurts, hurts. I can only hope there's some peace now, because the road to that point must have been just hell. I've seen it in others, maybe even tasted a bit myself. There's almost nothing worse.

That having been said, I just didn't get the guy. Oddly enough, the only thing I've ever had published in the hyper-pretentious Harper's magazine was a letter complaining about DFW. He wrote something very nasty about the Iowa State Fair. I'm not particular to fairs myself, but this seemed arrogant, and worse, cruel. So I shied away from the books, thinking it would be more of the same. The sadness and humanity were missing from the piece--though in retrospect perhaps this was a shield he used to protect himself from pain. Who knows. I certainly don't.

8:13 AM  
Blogger David Lasky, Esq. said...

Thanks for the 411 on a new issue of Cometbus. I just got mine in the mail.

I will have to read DFW one of these days. Big books intimidate me.

1:46 PM  

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