Friday, September 19, 2008
David Foster Wallace
Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker, has this remembrance of David Foster Wallace. I have read only two things by Wallace. The first is the famous "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," which I read when it was originally published in Harper's. It's the story of Wallace's journey on a cruise trip and I read it over 10 years ago and scenes from it still come to my head at random times. If you've never read it, go do so. The other thing I read was a review essay, also in Harper's, of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (the first edition). That essay instilled in me the belief that teaching grammar is a powerful thing, a political thing, a thing I could and should do, once I learn some more grammar. I ripped that essay out -- it's right here in my "articles" folder and it's called "Tense Present: Democracy, English and the Wars over Usage." Brilliant. I should re-read it. But I can't say much more about his writing. I can say that his suicide made me think of the unimaginable demons he must have suffered, that anyone who takes such a step must suffer. It makes me mourn not only his mind and his writing, the part of himself that he put out into the world and that I know to mourn, but the human experience that can drive people to such extremes and leaves the rest of us shaking our heads in a baffled "why?" Why.