Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On David Foster Wallace

No eulogy or obituary here. Lots of other places to get those.

From me, just a complaint. We were robbed.

I've always admired Wallace's writing, of course, as anyone who has crossed the threshold of literacy really must to some extent. His non-fiction work, especially, is astounding. As Peter Sagal pointed out, everything Wallace wrote became the best piece of writing on that subject. He wrote the definitive piece on state fairs, the definitive piece on cruises, on porn conventions, on talk radio, on lobsters. He was that good.

I never met the guy. I do know that when he was asked to be on the "Good News, Bad News, No News" segment on our show he said he'd rather put a fork in his eye which we all thought was pretty great. I never knew him like a surprisingly large number of my colleagues did, all of whom loved him.

No, I was just a consumer. My relationship with them was one of a customer. An audience member. And we were robbed.

Robbed of Wallace's next book, his next explanation of the world we're all living in together. We were robbed of that portion of the beauty of insight. We were robbed of AHA moments by someone, one of the few people among all us billions, who can generate them, in his case seemingly at will. We live in a darker place without that book. We could live in a lighter place with new Nirvana records. We could be illuminated by what Spalding Gray can tell us but instead we were robbed of that light by his disease. We were robbed by medicine, by that person, by dumb luck, by society, by a lot of things but it was sure as hell a case of theft.

Hemingway robbed us. Virginia Woolf robbed us. Elliott Smith robbed us.

Ever been robbed? Like where your house is broken into and someone steals your stuff and you're just sitting there thinking about it? Your stuff is gone. Suddenly. Your goods, the things you acquired to make your life better, are just gone. You're angry, you're confused, and you're scared because that's the world you live in.


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