I was gutted to find out that my favorite living author, David Foster Wallace, committed suicide this past Friday. He was 46. This is a real tragedy and a serious loss. His gifts were enormous, perhaps even genius-level. It didn’t matter what subject caught his interest – tennis or cruise lines or depression or talk radio or addiction or math – he imbued them all with the same dazzling insight and wisdom and humor. I credit his book Infinite Jest with getting me through my year abroad in Vienna.
Everything he published is fantastic, but if you’re a newcomer, I suggest you start with his book of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, then move on to the short story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and then attempt Infinite Jest. And stick with it – you won’t be sorry.
Here’s a small excerpt from an essay he wrote about Dostoevsky, found in the collection Consider The Lobster. It by no means does him justice, but it’s relevant:
“Is it possible really to love other people? If I’m lonely and in pain, everyone outside me is potential relief – I need them. But can you really love what you need so badly? Isn’t a big part of love caring more about what the other person needs? How am I supposed to subordinate my own overwhelming need to somebody else’s needs that I can’t even feel directly? And yet if I can’t do this, I’m damned to loneliness, which I definitely don’t want… so I’m back at trying to overcome my selfishness for self-interested reasons. Is there any way out of this bind?”