Wow, I just found out that David Foster Wallace – won of my all-time literary heroes – died of an apparent suicide. It’s a total shock, seeing as I had always hoped that the deep irony and half-buried sadness in his stories was somehow more playful than it probably was.
The Times’ Michiko Kakutani, peppering a pre-written obit with new language that betrays her own sadness, has a good description of how good he was:
A prose magician, Mr. Wallace was capable of writing — in both his fiction and nonfiction — about everything from tennis to politics to lobsters, from the horrors of drug withdrawal to the small terrors of life aboard a luxury cruise ship, with humor and fervor and verve. At his best, he could write funny, write sad, write sardonic and write serious. He could map the infinite and infinitesimal, the mythic and mundane. He could conjure up an absurd future — an America in which herds of feral hamsters roam the land — while conveying the inroads the absurd has already made in a country where old television shows are a national touchstone and asinine advertisements wallpaper our lives. He could make the reader see state fair pigs that are so fat they resemble small Volkswagens; communicate the weirdness of growing up in Tornado Alley, in the mathematically flat Midwest; capture the mood aboard John McCain’s old Straight Talk Express back in 2000.
I’ll miss him.