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by David Foster Wallace
Lately I’ve been struck by the notion that there might be no books more lost than those buried in the overwhelming bibliographies of authors who have simply published too damn much.
Wallace’s complex mind and neurotic tendencies found their most successful (i.e. accessible and popular) outlet in nonfiction, and that although history may remember his novels and stories as his most important contributions to literature, his nonfiction is more successful in doing what he aimed to do with literature and more representative of who he was as a person and a writer.
The only man who seemed to be showing us, through all that was modern and new in his literature, a possibility for an old-fashioned answer to the great existential questions that have guided philosophers and writers for ages. And he kills himself. When I heard the news, I turned off my computer and played the piano for an hour or so, trying to empty my mind, or fill it with something else.
Garcia Marquez solved an essential problem of the novel; he arrived at a moment of crisis for the form and offered the warring parties a graceful way out of it.
Here is a selection of recommended April reading, heavy on birth, death, and rebirth, and a little boredom.
As the practice of writing on paper (everything from telegrams to letters to books to Post-It notes) is increasingly devoured by technology, words on paper are evolving from widespread tools of communication into the rarefied stuff of art. As things recede, they also expand. As a result, words are becoming as legitimate as the more traditional subject matter of painting, drawing, video and sculpture.
What I lacked before coming to the U.S. was an appreciation of the rootedness of David Foster Wallace's work in a specific geography. I had experienced only how the map could shape the territory. Living in Cambridge allowed me to see how the territory might conversely underpin the literary map.
Enduring the everyday is relatively straightforward -- just keep breathing and putting one foot in front of the other -- but how to transcend the everyday, in this world neither you nor I have made?
It left me inarticulate and emotional, as if I'd been zapped back in time to the broodiest moments of my childhood.
A last hurrah for our number one, and a new collection of essays from a master who is missed.
I am the cataloger of David Foster Wallace's final work, The Pale King, and I'm here to tell you that in cases like these, the rules will only get you so far.
It’s not really that David had any answers for people. But he never stops taking his life seriously and he never stops taking the reader’s life seriously. And I think that’s the connection: you never stop mattering to him and he never stops mattering to himself.
Excerpt: The Opening Paragraphs of D.T. Max's Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 18
The first definitive treatment of David Foster Wallace's life arrives next week.