I was surprised as hell to find out this morning that David Foster Wallace has died. You’re never quite prepared for death, anyone’s death, whether it be a loved one or simply the death of someone that you’re invested in–though you don’t know her personally. It strikes a strange chord. Unexpected.
But when is death ever prepared for?
Apparently, Wallace hung himself on Friday night. He was discovered by his wife at their home in California.
I heard Wallace many years ago when he gave a reading to a packed audience at the Boston Public Library. I wasn’t necessarily interested in his work, but felt a need to go because he was such a young lion. He’d just published Infinite Jest, his seminal work, and the audience–mostly kids in their twenties and solidly hipsterish–were gaga. I didn’t recognize him at first because he was sitting in the audience in a shabby dress coat and sort of with his shoulders hunched like he didn’t want to be there. As the Q&A went on, however, and Wallace’s young fans rolled out their detailed, obviously admiring, questions, I began to see him relax. I could sense a great internal sigh, an affinity with the audience, and his initial reluctance to fully participate fade slowly away.
Alden’s been on my case to read Girl with Curious Hair for years now, and I’ve always pushed it to the bottom of my reading list. Though I’ve loved his story “Mayfly” and taught it in my creative writing courses for many years (it’s a great example of voice and mystery), I’m going to go back and read his short work in earnest.
We’ve lost one of the great ones.