I read “Infinite Jest” in college. A friend passed it along, told me it was something she knew I’d like. Hefting the 1000-plus pages, I thought that I was duty bound, therefore, to hate it, and started reading right away to prove so — such is the unfortunate person I was. And still am. I ended up finishing the book in three days, at the expense of class, sleep and any social interaction, devouring it in great gulps of prose, propping it open on the kitchen counter as I poked at some occasional ramen on the stove and unsteadily suspending it, wrist trembling, in front of my face in one hand while I brushed my teeth with the other in the morning or at night. I didn’t like it — I grudgingly but thoroughly adored it, that brash, annoying, unbelievably smart and hubristically ambitious doorstop of a novel, and worked my way from there through his essays, short story collections, earlier novel and whatever other drips and drabs made their way into glossies and weeklies and other -ies. And I find myself more upset about the passing of David Foster Wallace than of any other person I’d never met. Glenn Kenny, who had and who worked with Wallace on three pieces for Premiere, remembers and mourns at his blog, while Michiko Kakutani posts an appreciation at the New York Times:
[T]he reader could not help but feel that Mr. Wallace had inhaled the muchness of contemporary America — a place besieged by too much data, too many video images, too many high-decibel sales pitches and disingenuous political ads — and had so many contradictory thoughts about it that he could only expel them in fat, prolix narratives filled with MÃ¶bius strip-like digressions, copious footnotes and looping philosophical asides. If this led to self-indulgent books badly in need of editing — “Infinite Jest” clocked in at an unnecessarily long 1,079 pages — it also resulted in some wonderfully powerful writing.
Laura Miller at Salon wonders “What will we do without him?” And Sam Leith at the Telegraph reminisces that “I tried, a couple years ago, to get Zadie Smith to interview DFW and wasn’t able to make it happen. Zadie later told me she was scared of him.”
There’s a lot of DFW non-fiction floating around the web to be read:
On David Lynch during the production of “Lost Highway”: David Lynch Keeps His Head, Premiere
On locking oneself in one’s cabin for much of a luxury cruise: Shipping out, Harper’s (PDF)
On “the American idea”: Just Asking, The Atlantic
On John McCain in 2000: The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys And The Shrub, Rolling Stone
On, with splendid disregard to editorial appropriateness, the ethics of lobster eating: Consider the Lobster, Gourmet (PDF)
On 9/11: The View from Mrs. Thompson’s, Rolling Stone
On John Updike: Is This Finally the End for Magnificent Narcissists?, New York Observer
The only film adaptation of Wallace’s work is an upcoming film that marks the directorial debut of “The Office”‘s John Krasinski, an adaptation of “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” that still has no distributor or release date attached.
[Photo: David Foster Wallace, Marion Ettlinger]