Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thoughts on David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

Like all admirers of his writing, I was deeply saddened to learn of David Foster Wallace's suicide this past weekend. Making it even more troubling was the fact that last week, I was immersing myself in his essays from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. There was going to be an essay posted on here about those writings, but I'm holding off for now. Usually I shy away from writing remembrances and tributes to deceased artists, since there's simply nothing to say that hasn't been more eloquently touched on by other writers. It was this logic that made me scrap plans for an essay on George Carlin a couple months back. However, I felt such a deep admiration for Wallace, and I don't think that any writer today can deny his importance.

What I loved the most is that he was the best living writer period in two genres: fiction and non-fiction. I didn't start reading his works until roughly four years ago, and his balance of fictions and creative/critical essays was literally refreshing, in the sense that it made me fall in love with reading and writing all over again. Whenever I reach the apex of my writing skills in the future, I will not have 1/50th of Wallace's talent and seemingly instinctual way with word crafting. This is not an ode or personal self-deprecation in the face of his death; it is fact, plain and simple.

Of course, the news reports of his passing also mentioned that his books were seeing an increase in sales since last weekend. This could be a post in itself, the fact that it always troubles me when an artist/writer/musician dies: the interest in his/her work doubles and triples. Why does that always seem to happen? For example, more Frank Sinatra CDs were sold in May 1998 than ever before. Do these sales increase because of the actual death, the increased media attention, or a combination of both? It bothers me because a person's talent doesn't change because they've died--Wallace's books should have been selling at their current rates before, regardless of his death. However, it's not bothering me as much with him. If it means that more people happen to discover his works because of these sad circumstances, that's worth it. In due time, if not already, David Foster Wallace will be placed among the best ever. Period.

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