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David Foster Wallace RIP

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CLAREMONT, Calif. (AP) -- David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel ''Infinite Jest,'' was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46.

Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department.

Wallace taught creative writing and English at nearby Pomona College.

''He cared deeply for his students and transformed the lives of many young people,'' said Dean Gary Kates. ''It's a great loss to our teaching faculty.''

Wallace's first novel, ''The Broom of the System,'' gained national attention in 1987 for its ambition and offbeat humor. The New York Times said the 24-year-old author ''attempts to give us a portrait, through a combination of Joycean word games, literary parody and zany picaresque adventure, of a contemporary America run amok.''

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This really upsets me. I'll confess that I never managed to finish INFINITE JEST, but I always found his writing--both fiction and non-fiction--of interest, and sometimes startling in its power. He was a few years older than me, but I thought that the writing voice he had developed really caught the feeling of contemporary life in a much deeper and nuanced way than, say, Bret Easton Ellis or other members of the Literary Brat Pack ever did (it was Wallace's good fortune not to be associated with that school...in fact, in Spy Magazine's wonderful CLIFF NOTES TO HIP YOUNG URBAN NOVELS OF THE 1980s Wallace is dismissed as being too talented to qualify for their scathing canonical critique).

Here--for better or worse--is Michiko Kakutani's posthumous appraisal.

Edited by ghost of miles

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I should add that Wallace turned the footnote into a short literary form all its own in INFINITE JEST (one reason why I found it difficult to finish the book--I kept getting absorbed in its myriad of footnotes).

Here's his 2006 Kenyon commencement address.

An interview on Charlie Rose.

Edit: looks like jazz historian Ted Gioia was a fan as well.

Edited by ghost of miles

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At the time, when Infinite Jest came out, I liked it though at the same time wondered what all the fuss was about. Strangely, I feel now that the fuss has waned unfairly - he was a very intelligent and at times pretty far out writer. I enjoyed his nonfiction quite a bit.

I don't know how to add footnotes to a post, so I'll just say again, RIP.

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Sad news. The novels and stories (esp. "My Appearance", a dissection of both the dread and fascination televised spectacle inspires in us) are mostly wonderful, but I'll really miss Wallace the essayist. Wide-ranging and pretty fearless on that front. The "profile" he wrote on David Lynch for the old PREMIERE was one of the best peices of magazine writing I've ever read.

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I've only read Broom of the System, which I liked a lot. Wasn't that crazy about some of the stories in Girl with Curious Hair. After reading a couple of stories, I gave it away. Never even attempted Infinite Jest. Maybe someday.

It is terribly sad, and I guess the question is whether given a couple of good days in a row, or perhaps more sleep, or even anti-depressants, he would have made the same decision. I've slowly learned to try not to make crucial decisions when I am bone-tired (which is too much of the time) because I simply don't make good decisions. Things always seem a bit more managable after I can take that step back (and perhaps sleep for 7 hours).

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I've been chipping my way through "Infinite Jest" for over a year now (it's sitting right in front of me on my desk, btw). I LOVE his non-fiction writing. The essays in the collections "Consider the Lobster" and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" are amazing.

I will admit (because I have a fairly ghoulish sense of humor) to immediately thinking of a headline to follow the news of his death:

"David Foster Wallace Leaves 732 page suicide note, not counting footnotes."

He was funny. He was brilliant. He will be missed.

RIP

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I became aware of Wallace upon reading "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", a book of "essays and arguments", the title of which perfectly describes in hysterically funny prose the "ordeal" (my term) of going on a cruise. It is quite disturbing that someone with so much literary talent and accomplishment would end his life so young. Really unfathomable and a damn shame. :(

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Read about this yesterday and was really shocked. There must have been some real problems he was wrestling with.

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Really sad. In addition to the titles mentioned above, I'd recommend "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" as well.

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Man, that's messed up. I can't imagine the stress/horror that his wife went through discovering her husbamd like that.

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in fact, in Spy Magazine's wonderful CLIFF NOTES TO HIP YOUNG URBAN NOVELS OF THE 1980s Wallace is dismissed as being too talented to qualify for their scathing canonical critique).

I missed that the first time through the thread. I'm pretty sure I had a copy of that (no idea where it would be now). If I recall, it came with a wheel with several discs and it allowed you to plot your own novel by setting the book in different neighborhoods (SoHo, NoHo, TriBeCa, New Haven), coming up with different addictions and having different existential crises (sort of like a very structured Mad Lib -- it's hard to describe if you don't have one in hand).

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in fact, in Spy Magazine's wonderful CLIFF NOTES TO HIP YOUNG URBAN NOVELS OF THE 1980s Wallace is dismissed as being too talented to qualify for their scathing canonical critique).

I missed that the first time through the thread. I'm pretty sure I had a copy of that (no idea where it would be now). If I recall, it came with a wheel with several discs and it allowed you to plot your own novel by setting the book in different neighborhoods (SoHo, NoHo, TriBeCa, New Haven), coming up with different addictions and having different existential crises (sort of like a very structured Mad Lib -- it's hard to describe if you don't have one in hand).

Yep--it was the Spy Novel-O-Matic, and it produced 16 million different narrative possibilities. That book was hilarious! Practically a lit bible for a friend and me after it came out...before the Onion, there was Spy.

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...before the Onion, there was Spy.

Ain't that the truth!!

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interesting, thanks for the link. He was one of my all time favorite writers, I was bummed out for weeks after his passing. Such a tragic loss.

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I've read "Infinite Jest" (it only took me about a month to read) and I think it is definitely up there with "Gravity's Rainbow" and "Lolita" as one of the great 20th century novels. I've also read "Broom of the System" (DFW's first novel) which isn't quite as good, but is still very well done. I'm working in reading his short story collections now...

Looking forward to his final novel!

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