I am so shocked and saddened by this, I can't believe it. I just read that a great writer, David Foster Wallace, was found dead in his home. He was only 46.
I have been a huge fan of Wallace's for a few years now. His keynote address at Kenyon College is a must read. As is his story about the McCain campaign in 2000, which can be found in his book of short stories "Consider the Lobster." And of course, he wrote Infinite Jest, a fantastic book. He apparently committed suicide.
Some quotes from the Kenyon College commencement speech:
As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.
The man wrote and spoke truths. If you are a fan, please post your thoughts here. I am just really really sad. From the NY Times:
Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department, says Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday.
This is surely an enormous loss for his family, his students and the world of literature. A sad sad day.
Update I: some obituary links: