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David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

One wants to think that, should you live one of these lives that are full of suicidal ideation in the teens and early twenties, as long as you later find a stable point from which to reflect back on those years—to reflect in fiction, even—then they won’t come back. If suicide is a door that you can open at fifteen, you should be able to close it at twenty-five. One wants to think that.

But I don’t want to Assess his Importance right now. I just pulled Infinite Jest off the shelf, read ten pages at random and found them comfortingly close to what I remembered from ten years ago. Like a lot of gifted people, Wallace wasn’t the best judge of his own output; the stories were uneven, the essays often overreached, and Infinite Jest carries a lot of minor conceits far past the end of the signal. Still I think the fairest thing to do with writers, especially those who have passed on, is to forgive the misses and count the hits. His best work took the dizziness of seventies metafiction more seriously than the metafictionists took it themselves, and made it into something lovelier and sadder. I thought he had time to do more.

 

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