Sunday, September 14, 2008

On David Foster Wallace, or Something I'm Unqualified To Write

David Foster Wallace is dead, and on the floor by the bed lays my copy of Infinite Jest, unloved since I first bought it when I thought that, maybe one day, I'd fall in love with someone who'd be attracted to me solely for my owning the book.

Fortunately, that didn't come to pass. What did come to pass, however, last night, as I too-drunkenly and too-full thumbed my way through the pages, is the stark and utter realization that things like this happens. Great minds expire in a puff of smoke. And this, this happening on the same day I first turned the first page in the first Amy Hempel book I ever picked up, only to, two pages later, have to throw the book on the floor from the inability to not shake from the fucking beauty her sentences unleash in the world.

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town-that, apparently, is how it goes.

DFW's non-fiction and short stories had placed him in my top 10, with Infinite Jest being that work that always hung around, that was always on the bookshelf but had never made it any closer to the bedside, if only because the time was just never there. I feel like it's a neglected friend now that I'm supposed to say a few kind words about when the neglecting had been entirely my fault. That's insane, I fucking know, but if you don't have personal relationships with your books I don't understand you and would rather not try to.

I spent last night drunk, seeking consolation from the cold stark-bare minimalism of Amy Hempel's "at the gates of the animal kingdom" stories (thank you Mister Palahniuk for that), finding nothing but bones and limbs and this

"I want him to know what it clearly seems to me: that if it's true your life flashes past your eyes before you die, then it is also the truth that your life rushes forth when you are ready to start to truly be alive."

A friend's blog reminded me about the existence of Dear Mr Henshaw, and how I desperately want to read that book again. It was always a favorite of mine since long before I could understand what it meant-everyone comes from mire and muck, there's hope nowhere unless you find it-and it seems about right right now.

I've had several people-old colleagues, etc-tell me how DFW's death being suicide has placed him in questionable status for them, for their students, for his students, for anyone who looked up to him. I recognize that, I do. I won't get into a dissection of suicide, other than to say that there's not a person who can say they've never thought of it. No one. Not a soul. But there's a difference...thought vs action...and it's his work that's going to live on, as Infinite Jest continues to stare up at me from the floor by my bedside.

I will find the time.

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