David Foster Wallace, author of innumerable wise, hilarious, occasionally esoteric essays and the incredible novel Infinite Jest (among other works), was found dead Friday in his California home. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is soliciting remembrances. Over on Flickr, Steve Rhodes, from whom I’m borrowing the photo below under Creative Commons licensing, has a long list of links to DFW’s work and other resources.
Photo by Steve Rhodes.
Wallace was uniquely able to capture everything that is beautiful and foul in millennial American culture – one of my favorite examples is this snippet from Infinite Jest, in which a satirical representation of a U.S. cabinet member refers to people fleeing a (possibly government-created) environmental catastrophe:
Absolutely not, Mart. No way a downer-association-rife term like refugee is going to be applicable here. I cannot overstress this too assertively. Eminent nondomain: yes. Renewal-grade brand of sacrifice: you bet. Heroes, new era’s breed of new pioneers, striking in bravely for already-settled good old settled but unfoul American territory: bien sûr.
This, of course, was written something like a decade before the Hurricane Katrina-created controversy over the application of the term refugee to Americans. Which, to my mind, makes DFW a prophet in both the popular (if incorrect) sense of actually foreseeing the future as well as the correct sense of speaking truth that the world needs to hear. The world is a darker place without him.