• 101
    Best Websites
    for Writers

    Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the 101 Best Websites for Writers download.

On the Death of David Foster Wallace

Categories: This Writer's Life.
I’m going to interrupt my normal tone because I want to talk about  
the writer David Foster Wallace’s suicide. For those of you who don’t  
know who he is, I’ll link to his NYTimes obit here.  As readers of  
this blog may or may not know, I love Foster Wallace’s work. I became  
obsessed with it in grad school, wrote a paper studying his  
postmodern style, and blatantly tried to copy some of his stylized  
methods and techniques. I’ve read (almost) everything he’s written,  
and have to admit that I prefer his nonfiction over his fiction  
probably because magazines and other things put restrictions on his  
seemingly unlimited and boundless talents as a writer, and I’m afraid  
some of those things were lost on me when he took off his rhetoric  
governor and just let er rip.

My earliest memory of reading Foster Wallace comes from college, from  
a friend recommending that I pick up his first collection of  
nonfiction, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I read  
through the first couple essays unimpressed (or maybe just confused  
and college-style unwilling to admit said confusion) until I got to  
his profile of a mid-level tennis pro Michael Joyce and was  
completely and utterly blown away by his excruciating attention to  
detail, his knowledge of the game (being a former junior champion)  
and his humorous, confident, exuberant style.
“I want to be him,” I remember thinking, probably knowing even then  
that I didn’t have those sort of writing chops in me, but at the very  
least it made me want to try. And when I ending up reading the title  
essay about a cruise ship trip during my own cruise ship experience,  
I had the meta-feeling that he had actually jumped inside my head,  
taken everything I wanted to say out, and glossed it, gleaned it,  
times’d it by 20, and then made it much, much funnier and more final.  
So actually–from a personal confidence perspective– that kind of  
sucked.

But really, that is just how he rolls. When he decides to write a  
piece, he writes THE definitive piece on whatever topic he chooses.  
On (2000 election maverick!) John McCain in “Up Simba”, on talk radio  
in “Host” for the Atlantic, on the porn industry in another piece  
whose title fails me, he didn’t simply take on topics, he destroyed  
them, sealing them off for any other writer. Which is why I think he  
influenced my style both in the ways that I copied him and in making  
me realize that there are some people that operate on a completely  
different level, and I should just try and appreciate the fact that  
these people exist and are willing to put their work in the public  
sphere. We are all worse off for not being able to experience more of  
him. I feel sadness for not just his family and friends, but for the  
entire American literary world. He truly will be missed.

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts
  • Print Circulation Form

    Did you love this article? Subscribe Today & Save 58%

12 Responses to On the Death of David Foster Wallace

  1. papaciy says:

    Great post. If you need posts you can buy it at writing service : http://www.essayslab.com/">to buy
    at essays lab

  2. I too began my DFW obsession with A Supposedly Fun Thing… I just saw this post in my reader and I’m glad I went back to look at your older stuff. I still can’t believe I won’t be waiting for new stuff from him…

  3. Custom Essay says:

    I never knew! Sorry to here that. Suicide is the ultimate crossover on our life. Genevieve is right.

    Quote: The memory of those who leave us, lives on in the minds of those who are left behind. And how much more so for those of us who write. Whether it’s about some silly dream we had or about the angst of adolescence, we put our hearts on our sleeves in the form of paper and ink for everyone to see.

  4. Erin says:

    This is probably a really inappropriate place to post this (I don’t want people to think I don’t care about David Foster Wallace’s death, because I really do) but I just wanted to let Kevin know that I really, really loved his latest column from Writer’s Digest, which is now up on their website. I’m about to finish what should be my final draft of my novel (I set myself a deadline of Halloween, because that’s when the first scene of my novel takes place) and I’m already paranoid that when it’s done, I’m going to get the same paranoia Kevin experienced about sending his manuscript out. I’m going to tape that column to my wall above my desk to remind myself to do it, since I don’t have a mean dentist roommate to issue ultimatums. ….Really awesome column! Everybody go read it if you haven’t yet!

  5. Olivia says:

    NO LONGER SPEECHLESS, AND NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE, KEVIN

    As I was laying on my cotton sheets staring at a solitary spider crawling across the ceiling last night and hoping that it wouldn’t drop on my face, this blog suddenly went through my chaotic mind and gave it focus.

    We don’t always get to choose how we leave this world, but the end result is always the same. It’s an end.

    Or is it?

    The memory of those who leave us, lives on in the minds of those who are left behind. And how much more so for those of us who write. Whether it’s about some silly dream we had or about the angst of adolescence, we put our hearts on our sleeves in the form of paper and ink for everyone to see.

    And hopefully, when our timeline reaches an end, it won’t be finished. We can still bring joy to those who love to read, even in our absence.

    Don’t ever stop daring to write.
    Don’t ever stop loving to write.
    Don’t ever stop writing.

    Olivia

  6. Genevieve says:

    Don’t apologize, Kevin. You’re the guy at the party who doesn’t always have to be funny for us to like you :) Your blog is about your writing life and his work is a part of it. I think it was appropriate to take notice. More people probably didn’t comment because it’s kind of like not knowing what to say at a funeral. Or something.

    That said, I’m going to begin downing Gatorades for next week. Let the comment aventure begin!

  7. Kevin Alexander says:

    Sorry, friends– I feel like I’m that guy who makes a serious, gravely sad speech at a time of levity, and kills the mood at the party. I just wanted to comment on DFW, because it really is a shame, and I do care so much about his work. He and John Jeremiah Sullivan are the writers I read when I’m helplessly stuck on a deadline, and I don’t feel creative, and I have no idea what I’m doing, and all I want to do is go to sleep and wake up in the morning with the piece finished. I read him to get inspired again, which–to me– feels like the best compliment a writer can get. Next week, we’re going to do our monthly choose your own comment adventure, so prepare yourself mentally and start drinking fluids.

  8. Olivia says:

    Wow….(speechless)

  9. Well said, Genevieve. I agree and am also intrigued enough to read his work.

    Lisa

  10. Tom says:

    I will simply say that I agree with Genevieve.

  11. Genevieve says:

    I will shamefully admit that until yesterday I didn’t know who he was. Odds are I’ve read something by him. But in the last 24 hours I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about his writing and how it’s influenced other writers like you. So now I’m intrigued. It is upsetting hearing about anyone who has taken themselves out of the world prematurely, but especially someone who has inspired so many other people.

Leave a Reply