Wallace’s work will be seen as a huge failure, not in the pejorative
sense, but in the special sense Faulkner used when he said about
American novelists, “I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure
to do the impossible.” Wallace failed beautifully. There is no
mystery whatsoever about why he found this novel so hard to finish.
The glimpse we get of what he wanted it to be—a vast model of
something bland and crushing, inside of which a constellation of
individual souls would shine in their luminosity, and the
connections holding all of us together in this world would light up,
too, like filaments—this was to be a novel on the highest order of
accomplishment, and we see that the writer at his strongest would
have been strong enough. He wasn’t always that strong.
John Jeremiah Sullivan writing for GQ.
David Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, on rebelling against postmodernism:
Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law.
take me with you, i promise to keep quiet
“The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace” by David
Lipsky for Rolling Stone
Despite his struggle, Wallace managed to keep teaching. He was
dedicated to his students: He would write six pages of comments to a
short story, joke with his class, fight them to try harder. During
office hours, if there was a grammar question he couldn’t answer, he’d
phone his mother. “He would call me and say, ‘Mom, I’ve got this
student right here. Explain to me one more time why this is wrong.’
You could hear the student sort of laughing in the background. ‘Here’s
David Foster Wallace calling his mother.’”
A great summary to a tragic life if you don’t know already who David
Foster Wallace is. If you haven’t read any of his works, I
Stories—starting with the second story because the first
develops slowly. Even if you
disagree with how he writes, what he writes will click with you,