And make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us. The reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to pin down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicit "I don’t really mean what I’m saying." So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it’s impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it’s too bad it’s impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: "How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean."And how banal to actually give a shit! This too-hip-to-care kind of detachment is practically the form of communication nowadays, and woe betide the commentator or essayist who's caught out saying precisely what they mean; this is to be "shrill" or "overzealous" or just plain "ridiculous". It's far preferable to come at any given issue sideways: this way, one has plausible emotional deniability. It's strange that Wallace often struggled to meet his own high standards of connecting, but, as Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times, the conflict that must've roiled within Wallace produced a body of work that was stirring and eloquent in its vacillation. The knowledge that one would at least feel like a participant in Wallace's creative turmoil made reading him an event; it was the literary equivalent of seeing the new Kubrick or Scorsese (in their prime, of course). I don't know why David Foster Wallace hanged himself yesterday, but I'm acutely aware of the troubles which might've driven him to unthinkable despair. I can hear them issuing from the television in the other room, which is tuned in to an inconsequential professional football game in which I have zero interest. After I finish this half-assed obituary, I will likely stroll back into the living room, crack open a beer and be numb for a few hours. I will not feel because to confront what's become of our world is to hurt, and to be powerless in the face of it is to grieve. Turn back, turn away, do nothing. Barely be. I am not immensely pleased. Faithfully submitted, Mr. Beaks
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:28 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:29 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:29 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:32 p.m. CST
and quite a good one at that. Beaks, that was an illuminating obit. You are one of the best writers here.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:33 p.m. CST
Infinite Jest is simply one of the finest books of the late 20th century. I absolutely loved every single word and digression and footnote.<p> The word genius is overused, but it applies to this work. He will be greatly missed.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:34 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:35 p.m. CST
I think so
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:36 p.m. CST
RIP. We've still got Pynchon and DeLillo, but in my opinion Neal Stephenson is the only youngish writer out there who even comes close to DFW.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:37 p.m. CST
And he's almost 50! Crap.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:38 p.m. CST
was actually a bit short in the end. I read it for so long that I sort of had withdrawal symptoms. I got used to being able to pick up the book whenever I had a bit of time and reading it, I never did get around to reading his other novel or his short work. I don't want to read them now because people will think I'm only reading them because DFW is dead. I am too insecure in my ironic detachment to let people see me mourning by reading. Too bad, Wallace you selfish bastard.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:40 p.m. CST
The most brilliant writer of his generation.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:41 p.m. CST
by vic twenty
I apologize, my ironic detachment has brought about such malaise. I am heretofore thankfully fully driven to distraction. To think, to feel, to live is as shards in the eye. Good day to you, sir. I SAID GOOD DAY!
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:45 p.m. CST
May offer insight into why he took his own life. The despair, the utter unrelenting, unrelieved despair that he portrayed in a life that from the outside showed so much promise, perhaps points the way to his own suicide. That is not to say just because he wrote about suicide he was more prone to commit it. But his description of it stays with me more than ten years after I first read the book. It is a masterpiece - and for those who are easily daunted, do not attempt it. It is not an inaccessible work such as Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, it is a very funny at times, very dark at times, but it requires work on the readers part. But the rewards are well worth it. <p> It is a stunning achievemnet that I recommend to anyone who seriously loves the written word in the hands of a master.<p>
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:49 p.m. CST
You may be on to something; just look at PJ O'Roarke. Yeesh. On topic, RIP David Foster Wallace. I've always wanted to read 'Infinite Jest.' I might give it a try again, if I can lift it.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:50 p.m. CST
by Cotton McKnight
Actually I don't know who Mr. Wallace was, but I always read "goodnight sweet prince" in every talkback for an obituary. I have no idea where that line comes from. Unless it's from 3 men and a baby in which case is kind of dumb. Anyway, I had no idea that Mr. Wallace was behind some of these works. I will look into some of his stuff today. He will be missed.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:54 p.m. CST
The quote is from Hamlet
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:55 p.m. CST
truth is a rare thing
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:57 p.m. CST
As is the title of IJ. So it's kind of appropriate for once.
Sept. 14, 2008, 4:57 p.m. CST
I was a big fan of DFW. I slogged through Infinite Jest and enjoyed his turns of phrase. I'd just this week finished his recently republished essay about McCain's presidential bid - brilliant! If you don't have the patience of his longer works, his short stories and nonfiction are great for those with short attention spans. He was one who called 'em how he saw 'em. Thanks, Beeks, for stretching outside the movie genre to recognize what an amazing contribution this guy made. RIP, David
Sept. 14, 2008, 5 p.m. CST
by King Kull
To quote Christy Brown: "Hamlet was a cripple." Brown was the subject of MY LEFT FOOT, an Irish writer and painter who surffered from cerebral palsy--and did not hang himself (leaving his body for his wife to find).
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:02 p.m. CST
Couldn't agree with you more. Neal Stephenson speaks to the geek world like with humor and intelligence like no one else out there today.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:03 p.m. CST
And while the crushing banality of mass culture is enough to drive anyone to distraction, it's devastating it could drive someone to suicide (if that's your implication, Mr. B). Lovely obit, by the way. More erudite than the ones you'll find in the broadsheets, I'm certain. Please do mine when I snuff it... with the caveat that I'll have achieved next to nothing.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:05 p.m. CST
I did not know that. Thank you. I have read Hamlet - and that line never registered with me as the inspiration for the title of Wallaces' book.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:05 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:07 p.m. CST
...if you ever plan on opening a newspaper or flicking on CNN ever again in your life you better have a little ironic detachment in your back pocket.....or you will have to kill yourself. Oh, right. Sorry.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:08 p.m. CST
Can *he* account for his whereabouts?
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:10 p.m. CST
by King Kull
From your brilliant retort.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:13 p.m. CST
Why do you feel the need to disparage a man you probably know very little about? The reasons for suicide can be far more complex than just melancholy.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:13 p.m. CST
For a guy who harped on irony....it's pretty ironic.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:21 p.m. CST
that last paragraph is fairly profound. strong work sir!
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:37 p.m. CST
Wallace has a fascinating essay about David Lynch (reprinted in *A Supposedly Fun Thing*), in which he discusses what "Lynchian" means and tries to explain what "Lost Highway" is about. I recommend it to all of you.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:39 p.m. CST
Can use the word 'asshole' in a post about the death of an author.
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:53 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 5:56 p.m. CST
by Coma Baby
So sad when I found out last night. That was a well written tribute. And I think it gets to the heart of what he wrote about, at least in what I read. I haven't taken on Infinite Jest yet. But I enjoyed so many of his short stories - he was such a creative writer. For me his non-fiction reporting was where he was at his best. I was always amazed at how he could take something that wouldn't seem interesting on the surface, but then show you some insight or meaning in it. Everyone should read his set visit essay on David Lynch and Lost Highway. Very funny, personable, and illuminating. All those footnotes - he was always trying to get at the truth and show you everything. There is something to be said for saying what you mean and expecting nothing less. Some people may be unfamiliar with him on this site, but I think he shared the same kind of unembarrassed enthusiasm and curiousity that so many true film geeks have.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:04 p.m. CST
Christy Brown had cerebral palsy and hence, could not have hanged himself, had he ever desired to do so. But you, I assume, have two working hands. So you can go ahead and give it a shot whenever you'd like.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:09 p.m. CST
To this day, I don't know whether I enjoyed reading Infinite Jest. There was lots to like and I was gripped in many placed, but when I reached the end (about 4/5 of the way through the book, before all the footnotes begin) I threw it across the room in frustration. Then I picked it up and threw it again, harder. Even if I never "got" him, he certainly got *to* me, and that is a rare and powerful thing. I never loved his work but the world is a richer place for him having written it.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:25 p.m. CST
I think it's wonderfully fitting that there's an obituary for DFW on AICN. You could not love DFW's writing because some magazine or critic told you to love it. You loved it because it spoke to you, made you glad to be alive, made you hungry to take in life with both hands. His work is like Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," something that delights you when you see it, and fills you with hope that there's more where that came from. A new, extended print of "Metropolis" was just uncovered and perhaps one day will see wide release in the US. Unfortunately for all of us, the same cannot be said of DFW's writing.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:27 p.m. CST
I read the footnotes as a part of the story - whenever one came up I simply flipped to the back of the book and started reading it, then went back to the main story. It felt more like an expansion on the story and characters, as opposed to simply reference information. I came to love reading those footnotes as much as the main story. Like I said in an earlier post, it requires work on the readers part. But it was well worth it.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:27 p.m. CST
David Foster Wallace was my hero. Thank you for issuing a comprehensible tribute that separates itself from the rush google-job that all of the major newspapers have bothered to do so far.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:48 p.m. CST
I read a lot of DFW in college, the broom of the system and his short stories. He was extremely bizarre and great... I liken this death to Toole and Egolf, as these authors all killed themselves before their time for unknown reasons. It sucks when authors do this to themselves. This is a sad loss to the literary world... thanks for the obit Beaks.
Sept. 14, 2008, 6:52 p.m. CST
by Dollar Bird
That was really well written. Thank you.
Sept. 14, 2008, 7:19 p.m. CST
by Bad LT
is from the Big Lebowski - John Goodman says it as he scatters Donnie's ashes, and it always cracks me up, and provokes a bittersweet laugh. The Lynch essay was great - an obessive, detailed, footnoted exam of lynch. And he recently had some interesting comments about the Bush curtailment of civil liberties in the war on terror. Saying if we accept 40,000 deaths a year in traffic accidents, and consider that acceptable price to pay for commerce and convienence, what number of terrorists deaths per year would we accept to preserve the Constitution.
Sept. 14, 2008, 7:22 p.m. CST
Has been used in many, many movies. SOB come's immediatley to mind. The phrase is from Hamlet originally.
Sept. 14, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST
For constantly being one of the more professional and lucid writers on this site. Always a pleasure.
Sept. 14, 2008, 8:14 p.m. CST
David Foster Wallace is indeed a talented writer - I particularly enjoyed his collection "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" - but his "takedown" of Terminator 2 struck me as misguided and largely untrue...Wallace doesn't think T2 succeeds dramatically. Well, ok, I can't argue with that except to say that I disagree. However, the idea that T2 is somehow a betrayal of the first Terminator strikes me as a little too close to that bullshit meme that "Duel" is Spielberg's best movie. And to say that T2 somehow created the effects-driven blockbuster...complete horseshit. Not mention it's an idea fairly ignorant of movie history. What about the original King Kong? Ray Harryhausen movies? Cecil B. Demille epics? Those weren't popular movies known for their (at the time) ground-breaking special-effects? Maybe audiences enjoy those movies on a level that goes beyond "FX Porn"...maybe what they're thrilling to is the combination of storytelling and new imagery...if T2 is FX porn does that make Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton movies production design porn? Storytelling-wise Twister and Volcano have nothing to do with Terminator 2. (They have their roots firmly in the bloated disaster films of Irwin Allen.) And The Lost World is a bad movie because Spielberg didn't really give a shit about it. Twister and Volcano are bad movies because the people who made them were either cashing a check or they weren't that talented...it's got nothing to do with T2.
Sept. 14, 2008, 8:27 p.m. CST
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:01 p.m. CST
From a commencement speech of David Foster Wallace's, from 2006: <P> "Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.<P> This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."<P>Obviously he didn't shoot himself, but I think it's an illuminating piece of writing regarding the why of his death. Anyone who's read his work can see the war between him and his brain-- the wrestling, the moments of symbiosis. Beautiful, haunting, funny, sad... and now sadder. I'll miss him very much.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:08 p.m. CST
You were wearing a "I GO FROM ZERO TO HORNEY IN 2.5 BEERS" t-shirt.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:22 p.m. CST
Because they aren't getting good meds, or the meds don't work. It's wonderfully romantic to eulogize a suicide, but it doesn't solve the basic problem of the harm it does to those who are left behind, and who have to carry the scars.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:33 p.m. CST
I didn't think he succeeded in making his argument but it was an interesting read. What the hell does this mean? "even his goofy 16-r.p.m. Austrian accent" how many revolutions per minute is normal for non-accented people?
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:35 p.m. CST
something to entertain and take us away from our pathetic lives. I just read his fx/porn rant, man, guy needed to loosen up. T2 is a classic.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:35 p.m. CST
...but he sounds like my college screenwriting teacher who thought morphing effects were the end of decent cinema.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:36 p.m. CST
This was one of the best things I've read on this site - it's unfortunate that this was the occasion for it.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:52 p.m. CST
point one, as per the obit, it is a sad day, and i'm glad to see that Beaks saw fit to post on it (read: thank you mr. Beaks). point two, pedophile III, a muslim clearly fucked your wife, but you shouldn't take it so hard........after all a christian steals my tax money and you don't hear me decrying Christianity. buck up, there are other fish in the sea.
Sept. 14, 2008, 9:53 p.m. CST
by dragon of sorcerer
You know, people have been writing about DFW's writing, and about the recurring themes of depression he treated. Yet while those themes were definitely present, I never once figured him for a depressive or for a suicidal type. Even when he discussed some of his personal doubts during his college years, it didn't sound too far afield from the doubts many experience during that time. In his essays especially, he always sounded very assured and confident. . . even when discussing the darkest subjects, he always sounded cool, hip, authoritative. It was a bit like chatting with the smartest member of a fraternity or a sports league. . . personally, he never seemed like a Kafka or a John O'Brien type. Also, though he wrote much about the need for un-ironic sincerity in our culture, he often kept readers at something of an intellectual distance. In much of his writing, he seems to be almost burying you in facts, detail, and his own stylistic prowess. . . graduate students love DFW, and DFW almost wrote like a grad student or an academic at times, like someone trying really hard to impress a professor. His writing was brilliant, no question, and this artifice was indeed part of his greater point about the role-playing often found in contemporary culture... however, the feeling remained that Wallace was simply unable to write from his gut. This cultural paralysis is part of what made his work so interesting, and perhaps part of why this suicide will take many aback... even with such a startling body of work, we feel as if we never really knew Wallace.
Sept. 14, 2008, 10:29 p.m. CST
just sayin. I like lebowski and all, but its a quote.
Sept. 14, 2008, 10:57 p.m. CST
I mean about that part where you said, "I'm still trying to make sense of a world in which insincerity is a virtue and "connecting" a sin."
Sept. 14, 2008, 11:10 p.m. CST
Thanks to Mr. Beaks for posting an obituary for someone so out of step with popular opinion here. We need dissenting voices and just lost a great one today.
Sept. 14, 2008, 11:28 p.m. CST
by D. Allusion
I agree with the poster who said despite the nature of his subject matter, he seemed the last person to have taken this step. I thought art would always win in the end. And you can avoid Infinite Jest for now: pick up Oblivion, say, the last book of short stories (last, indeed, I guess); they will blow your mind. He was truly brilliant, and funny and startling, probably my favorite writer out there, and this isn't postmortem hyperbole, I would have written it last week, too. Ah, shit. What a drag.
Sept. 14, 2008, 11:50 p.m. CST
by Tom Cullen
I met the guy once, he seemed like the type of person that couldn't take simple pleasure out of anything, entertainment had no place in cinema, everything had to be deep and profound and multi-layered or else it was of no worth whatsoever, and, worse still, would lead to the cinematic downfall of society. Everything old was better than everything new, and all those old clunkers were conveniently forgotten, while all the newer examples of cinematic misfire were used as shining examples to prove his theory. Personally I thought he was a bit of a pretentious wanker to be bluntly honest, despite his clear intelligence, and the fact that he offed himself doesn't really come as that much of a shock in retrospect, although I didn't think of it at the time. That said, the guy could seriously write, although too often it also seemed very deliberate in what points were made, what buttons were pushed, and how he did so, particularly his essay/opinion pieces. Almost as if it was a study in not just presenting a viewpoint, but presenting it as if it were inarguable fact, and layering that into a latticework that was as inpenetrable as possible in regards to picking easy faults or counter-arguments, even, or especially, when you didn't agree with the statements being made. Very tricksy writer in that regard.
Sept. 15, 2008, 12:30 a.m. CST
for the uninitiated, here's his Lynch article: http://www.lynchnet.com/lh/lhpremiere.html. Here's his "failure" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVzhhvCRTCo&feature=related. This is his classic essay on Roger Federer: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. After you read those, search out his essay on cruise ships, then move on to A supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and if you're still thirsty for more, Infinite Jest. Make sure to polish it all off with this Onion article: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/27769
Sept. 15, 2008, 1:18 a.m. CST
Is becoming my favorite writer here... Well done, sir.
Sept. 15, 2008, 1:21 a.m. CST
tear apart T1 the same way. Maybe he got depressed cuz TDK ruined his high budget = crap theory.
Sept. 15, 2008, 1:39 a.m. CST
if you don't want to look like a complete idiot it's prolly best to lie low on a talkback about someone you obviously know nothing about.
Sept. 15, 2008, 2:45 a.m. CST
That actually is shocking news for me. Love his work. Infinite Jest is one of the best books I've ever read, and I'm not even a hipster asshole. When I heard he died, from this headline, my immediate thoughts were suicide. Hope he left a note. Stupid creative genius' and their dissastisfaction with life.
Sept. 15, 2008, 2:58 a.m. CST
...Invest in two bookmarks. I learnt that the hard way.
Sept. 15, 2008, 3:03 a.m. CST
...I didn't even know he was a critic. He was primarily a novelist. He has at least one work to his name that is better than anything Cameron has ever released.
Sept. 15, 2008, 3:14 a.m. CST
Saw this news on Yahoo yesterday. Had the same falling gut feeling I got when Heath Ledger died, but more concentrated. IJ is my favourite book, though I believe I only understood 0.04% of it, and will probably re-read it soon (1). The quote PotSmokinAlien posted was one I'd not read before yesterday, but while looking across the nets I found that speech, and scrolling randomly down I landed right on it. It gave me a chill.<p>D. Allusion makes a good point. Oblivion:Stories (2) should be the first port of call before trying Infinite Jest (3), but beware the very short story Incarnations of Burned Children (4). It will haunt you for the rest of your life. <p>(1) Go for it, Mockingbuddha!<p>(2) Or Girl With Curious Hair <p>(3) And I'd say avoid Broom Of The System, which stuck me as pointless intellectual bench-pressing. <p> (4) If you feel up to it, you can find it here: http://tiny url.com/ 5cp6cx
Sept. 15, 2008, 3:15 a.m. CST
Thank you, Mr. Beaks, for writing this. If ever I'm on a payphone and you need to use it in a hurry, I'll jump off right away.
Sept. 15, 2008, 6:35 a.m. CST
actually occupied the 1990s, but has since faded. What we have NOW is an equally distorted posture of 'absolute sincerity'. Today's hipsters mistake sincerity for truth, and sentimentality for emotion.
Sept. 15, 2008, 7:39 a.m. CST
R.I.P., Mr. Wallace.
Sept. 15, 2008, 9:07 a.m. CST
by Lou C.
My condolences to anyone who was a fan (I've never heard of him), but that T2 rant was bizarre, arrogant, snide, boring and flawed. I'm not going to bore anyone with my detailed reasoning, but to me, that was just another smarmy critic deciding to pick apart every little thing about a big-budget movie. I would only say that the scenes I remember from T2 and love are not necessarily the special effects stuff. I think of scenes like the one in Miles Dyson's house after Sarah Connor tried to kill him. It's all a matter of personal taste, and I don't begrudge anyone who doesn't like the movie. But I also don't appreciate reading shit that tells me I'm a soulless moron because I do.
Sept. 15, 2008, 10:10 a.m. CST
P.S. Passion of the Christ was torture porn, right?
Sept. 15, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST
If not, it's gonna happen to someone someday.
Sept. 15, 2008, 1:29 p.m. CST
by Lazarus Long
Wallace was known for balancing his meta form with a deep empathy for the characters he was creating. Maybe some people finish Infinite Jest feeling like he was showing off, but I was profoundly moved, and like someone mentioned above, had a sense of withdrawal afterwards. I realize you've noted his wish for more sincerity in fiction, and it's too bad his own work didn't connect to you on a deeper level. But to accuse him of not writing from his gut...I mean, he's an academic. That style comes naturally to him, and his descriptions of pain, depression, and addiction are pretty raw to me. I'd recommend The Girl With Curious Hair for anyone wanting to try DFW for the first time. Probably his most accessible material. And if Infinite Jest seems too intimidating, try reading his first novel, The Broom of the System, as a warm up. It's not in the same league but it's VERY funny.
Sept. 15, 2008, 2:24 p.m. CST
Sept. 15, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST
Anyway, for those who may not know, Rick Wright was the keyboardist for Pink Floyd. He contributed heavily to their earlier albums (from Piper at the Gates of Dawn through Wish You Were Here), primarily musically. Not as flashy as other players like Keith Emerson or Tony Banks, but like the other Floyd members, he had his own style and was very good at it. Another sad loss in a damn depressing year that has been for too full of them.
Sept. 15, 2008, 4:57 p.m. CST
Oh yeah, I did the same. I was just making the point that the story ended well before the back cover of the book. Its the first time I've ever used *two* bookmarks in a single book!
Sept. 16, 2008, 10:49 a.m. CST
I'm impressed that Harry knew to use the word "hanged," though.