Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace

Brilliant writer David Foster Wallace, an inspiration to a whole generation of emerging writers, took his life Sept. 12th, 2008.

The choice of Sept. 12th certainly resonates. Each Sept. 12th, after the numbness of another Sept. 11th of remembrance wears off, I am left contemplating a whole host of personal and political quandaries, a pile of vexing questions about the whys of the world and the seemingly ever-failing quest for mutual understanding between both persons and people. I didn't know him, but I can imagine the possibility that Wallace had similar feelings conjured up by this inauspicious date. Wallace's desperate portrayals of the world in his work, commented upon already by others such as Salon's Laura Miller who noted the "increasing darkness" of Wallace's writing, was a perfectly reasonable response to observing the society around him.

It's even understandable to me that someone with so much to offer could have possibly felt quite the opposite. Feeling that way is pretty much par for the course in an overpopulated, overstimulated world. The profound lack of understanding and compassion displayed by too many people makes it simple to feel like an insignificant voice, one which conveys nothing but one's own failure and fraudulence, particularly when one has chosen to dedicate themselves to communicating emotions and ideas to others.

There is conjecture that Wallace felt this way, based particularly on Wallace's "Good ol' Neon," -- as well as the opposite feeling that to believe this is to deny the ability of Wallace to look beyond himself in his writing. People are complex, the trite observation goes. Writers put a bit of themselves into everything they write. I can fully understand the uncertainty about where the observation about the world ends, and the observation about oneself begins.

What I can't understand, because to do so could bring disastrous consequences, is making that final choice to accept as real whatever form of imagined defeat he must have been feeling. It is even sadder than the world in which nonexistence can seem -- even for a fleeting moment -- to be a superior option to existence, that a single instant can be so irreversible, can so easily turn a glorious hero into a tragic one, and thus deprive the world of someone with so much left to give to it.