I'm still wrapping my head around the news that author David Foster Wallace died over the weekend of an apparent suicide. At just 46 years old, he was one of the more inventive, original, and observant writers of our time.
In his all-too-brief career, Wallace used his incisive prose in a wide variety of forms, including essays, short stories, and two novels, including the gargantuan, more-than-1,000-page (if you count the footnotes) Infinite Jest. I read Infinite Jest, footnotes and all, over one very long Summer, and I'll never forget the way its sprawling cast of characters wormed its way into my thoughts.
Infinite Jest wasn't his only memorable work, though, not by a long shot. He put a different spin on journalism in his essay collections, including his skewering of the Illinois State Fair and hilarious retelling of his experiences on a luxury cruise in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. His short stories, too, were a unique window on our popular culture and an adventure to read. The word "genius" gets thrown around a lot, but I truly believe it might be the most apt label for Wallace. His work had as many detractors as fans — but it always got people talking.
As a reader, I will miss the chance to explore his work — but of course, I just knew him as words on a page. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes