Thoughts on David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

I started this blog with the intention that it would be strictly limited to my photography adventures… well, several days ago I found out that my favorite author, David Foster Wallace, had hanged himself on Friday, Sept. 12th. This news has saddened me immensely, and I find myself seemingly unable to stop googling for snippets of audio, interviews, readings, and rare short stories, etc that I can find of him. I shot a wedding on Saturday that I really should be editing (oh, I’ve started, don’t worry, it’ll get done by the saturday deadline for online proofing) but I keep going back in my mind to David Foster Wallace and the immensity of our loss, as readers and citizens, of the precious voice of this mammoth American mind.

He was the only famous person I’ve ever written a letter to– I couldn’t help it. I finished reading Infinite Jest and immediately began typing a letter to him. With it I sent several prints of my photographs, as a thank you. He wrote me back, indeed, we corresponded for some time– he asked me to send more prints as he had put a few over his desk for inspiration. I felt so honored thinking of him now and then glancing at a photograph of mine. At the time I hadn’t yet planned to become a professional photographer, but I’m certain that this small validation of the quality of my work made me take myself more seriously and aim higher.

I am not the first person to mourn him on a blog… but I feel I must join voices with the choir of his readers and say that we are all culturally poorer in his absence. I actually feel the world is a lonelier place without his brilliant and insightful commentary– however infrequently it was published. Reading his work made you feel like you knew him and he knew you– more intimately than any best friend. His capacity for communication of complex inner truths, his genuine kindness and deep empathy with other human beings, his endless curiosity and passionate observation of the workings and dysfunctions of our civilization– these qualities were unmatched by anyone I have read or known. I would recommend his writing to anyone who likes reading insightful, unbeleivably funny, painfully sad and true, minutely descriptive writing… I just can’t fathom why someone so clearly intrigued by experience– a fascinated watcher of the world– why he wouldn’t want to stick around to see what happened next. But the nature of fatal depression is, of course, something one can surely never quite fathom from the outside.

His books, for anyone interested:

The Broom of the System (novel, quirky metafiction-ish, maybe not for everyone)
Girl With Curious Hair (short fiction, amazing)
Infinite Jest (giant novel, worth the investment– his best work by most appraisals)
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (experimental fiction: scarily excellent)
A Supposadely Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (essays, amazing)
Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (i don’t recommend unless you love math)
Consider The Lobster (Essays, also great)
Oblivion (short fiction, some real knockout stories among the collection)

A friend forwarded me a link to a commencement speech he gave at Kenyon in 2005. It is, sadly, wincingly good in its assessment of the value and true purpose of a college education to a modern american adult. I can’t imagine anyone not getting something of value from the thoughts he expresses here.

the link is here:


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