David Foster Wallace

"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

Crying all morning. Edit: all day.
His death is unbearable to think about.

Geras asked me to choose "the most important personal quality", and I named two - attentiveness and humor. Wallace exuded (and elicited) both. Tim Feeney, a former student of Wallace, called him a noticing machine. I hope George Saunders will someday publish a remembrance of him.

9/15, some more info. Of course I assumed he suffered from depression, but had no idea how severe it was. His father said he had even tried ECT this summer, which means he had to have been feeling desperate enough to risk memory loss to get some relief. The thing about depression is that it cripples your ability to do what he's describing below - it's like your brain is hijacked by someone abusive saying mean things to and about you all day long.

9/16, some personal remembrances of Wallace @ McSweeny's.
More reactions at Ed Champion's blog.
KCRW Bookworm interviews.

From his commencement speech at Kenyon in 2005:

"Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
[...]
But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day..."

2 comments:

marcia Miner said...

I cannot think about this.

Jen Bradford said...

Unfortunately I can't stop thinking about it. As I wrote to someone earlier today, to the extent that one can love a total stranger, I really loved him.