Saturday, September 13, 2008
I'm feeling a little stunned by the suicide of David Foster Wallace. I have often wondered about the ways in which genius and madness (by which I mean both psychosis and neurosis) are sometimes connected in artists, writers, mathematicians, etc. Certainly, not all geniuses are mad, but sometimes I wonder if the gifts of sight, awareness, and unearthly intelligence come with downsides.
I must admit that I never finished Infinite Jest (I think I know only one person who did), but I did read every brilliant word in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, in which the essays are true knockouts. His Harper's essay on grammar, "Tense Present," made me laugh-out-loud over pancakes at a cheap local diner. Yes, I laughed out loud while reading an essay on grammar, which is certainly a testament to his genius (as well as my geekiness).
I also just found out that he also wrote an essay about following John McCain during the 2000 campaign. I plan to rush out to get a hold of that one tomorrow.
A couple of years ago, The Husband and I went to see/hear Wallace do a reading. It was around the time that Everything and More: A History of Infinity came out (which was a great read for us since I'm a literature girl and The Husband is a math guy). I remember asking Wallace a question after the reading, and I could sense his impatience. He wasn't rude, but he seemed weary of the stageyness and feigned patience required by readings and book tours and interviews. Then I felt kind of stupid about my question. Not his fault, but his weariness made me realize that my question was kind of a silly timesuck.
My insights on this are incomplete since I'm just not sure what to say (or how much to say) about a suicide, so I will stop the words here, keep this post short and finite--as d.f.w. becomes infinite.