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A Word about David Foster Wallace…

I was away over the weekend, so I wasn’t going to write anything today, but as one of my kids was up in the middle of the night Sunday I checked the news and saw that the writer David Foster Wallace had killed himself.  If you’re familiar with him, you’ve likely already read any number of memorials about him.

But if you haven’t read anything by him, I don’t think there was a writer in the 1990s and 2000s who defined self-referential, post-modernist 30something writing like Wallace (I don’t mean that in a bad way…)  I won’t blather on here, but if you care at all about travel writing, you would be doing yourself a favor by checking out his long piece about a Caribbean Cruise he took called “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”   It’s funny and sad and like nearly everything he wrote, as much a meditation on what we notice about our surroundings as much as it is a travelogue.  The essay is available in a collection of stories by the same name.

His piece about the Illinois State Fair called “Getting Away From Pretty Much Being Away From It All” shows that even when you travel, you can still go home again.  He walks an amazing line between mockery and complete understanding of the visitors to the fair.  Again, sounds silly, but it’s a wonderful piece of writing.

And while it borders just on the right side of an animal rights treatise, his piece “Consider the Lobster” about traveling to a lobster festival in Maine makes you think about lobsters, and morality and thinking.

(And for fun, his piece about the Adult Video News Awards, available in the collection also called “Consider the Lobster” is hilarious and ridiculous.)  And his piece about talk radio in LA called Host (viewable here), which was as much about the footnotes to the article, as it was about talk radio.  And on an on…

I don’t know why I was so moved by reading about his death, but I know that nearly everything I read by him made me think about each topic in a different way.  As a reader, you can’t ask for much more.

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  1. Thank you for your thoughts about David Foster Wallace. I discovered Wallace’s works 3 years ago when I was at the Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. I have read a couple of his books and will be tackling Infinite Jest in the near future.

    His suicide moved me as well. He was 46, I just turned 46. It just seems so tragic and senseless. Yet, I doubt we will ever know why he took that way out. Anyway, for what it’s worth, thanks for mentioning him here.

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