Monday, September 15, 2008

DFW RIP


Devestating, blanching news that David Foster Wallace died Friday, apparently a suicide. Nothing swallowing its own tail. A brilliant, mischievous, warm and cold and hot and sterile, funny and deadly serious talent, Wallace hung himself at his home in California for his wife to discover. The story refuses to provide any hand-holds for meaning, any crevices for a joke to hang. I wrote to him in November 1997 -- one of the few writers I've ever written to -- as I was blown away by Infinite Jest and had a clipping, a fragment really, of an old Smithsonian article that seemed to echo a crucial part of Infinite Jest. My letter to DFW went as follows:

"The enclosed reminded me of the wonderful first broacast of Madam Psychosis in Infinite Jest, so I have to send it on to you. I don't quite remember the source, but suspect it was from an old Smithsonian magazine about a photographer of freaks, since the reverse contained the fragment '- unfortunate freaks, living or dead, afflicted with every kind of physical oddity. Graphic as they are, they radiate a sublime beauty, and have made Joel-Peter Witkins one of the most-'"

And here is the clip I sent him (click to see full-size image):

Full disclosure: I also whined to him about what I'd written and never published. DFW wrote back in December thusly (again, click on image for full-size):


Needless to say, I was thrilled at his response. Getting up the nerve to write had been my achievement: I didn't expect a reply. As Wallace has been lionized thus far in obituaries and notices and appreciations, both for his off-the-charts brilliance and ambition, and for his warmth and graciousness, I just wanted to chime in, enthusiastically if amateurishly on the first count, and from real life on the second.

1 comment:

Kerry Madden said...

I loved this post, Sean. Joe Purdy just sent it to me. It's taken me weeks to stop crying. David Foster Wallace's death hit me so hard, and I never met him or any correspondence. I was just a fan and an admirer. Have you read his Kenyon address? Thanks for posting this. His letter to you just affirms everything everybody has been saying about his tremendous generosity of spirit and kindness.

All best
Kerry