06 November 2008

David Foster Wallace: A Tribute

After reading my blog post on David Foster Wallace, a friend sent me this article from Rolling Stone, The Lost Years and Last Days of David Foster Wallace.

And I couldn't even bear to read it for a couple of weeks. I've been so caught up in the presidential campaign, probably moreso than if I'd been living in the US. I've been eating, drinking, and breathing the 2008 campaign right up until the day of the election. I'd practically been holding my breath, and in the end I stayed up until 5am local time to watch Barack Obama* give his acceptance speech.

And the next day (I was home from work with a lousy cold) I remembered this article, and I read it, because as silly as it sounds, I felt that now that I knew that Obama* would be our next president, I could face it.

I had this -- in retrospect pretty lame -- theory that the ugliness of the American election, and the thought that perhaps his Rolling Stone article about John McCain in 2000 had contributed to McCain's becoming his party's nominee and being poised to win the election (Foster Wallace killed himself during the brief ascendant-Palin period) had added to his depression and he had killed himself at least in part because of it, much as Hunter S. Thompson had killed himself (or so some theories go) because of his hopelessness over the outcome of the 2004 election.

And of course, who knows if that contributed; I sure don't. It's possible that even his mother, father, best friend, sister, and wife don't know. Because who ever really knows what's in someone else's mind?

Anyway, I finally read it, and I cried. (It made me want to erase my original post, although I won't for a variety of reasons.) I'm still angry at him for leaving. I'm angry with him for leaving his wife, and for leaving her like that. I think I'm angry because I can so easily imagine being his wife, or the wife of someone like him, and I can so easily imagine how betrayed I would feel, how bereft, to find that someone who loved me so much could still leave me like that.

And I'm angry with him for leaving the world, for leaving before he could see what might happen under an Obama* administration, and for leaving without taking the time to comment on it for our benefit.

And I'm angry with him for leaving all those untaught students, who surely would have benefited from his fine mind and keen sense of humor.

But mostly I'm mad at him for leaving his wife. And his dogs. That still feels almost unforgivable to me.

But at the same time, I do get that being depressed isn't a choice, and that not being able to get un-depressed doesn't mean you're lazy, or not trying hard enough. And I realize he didn't kill himself with the intention of hurting anyone, but still. But still.

Anyway, if you haven't yet, please read about how hard David Foster Wallace tried to live. And how he wasn't really an asshole at all.

Consider this post my apology.

*And no, I don't think Barack Obama is the second (or first) coming of the Messiah. I don't even think he's the second coming of Bill Clinton, although he might be, and he might even turn out to be better than Clinton. But that all remains to be seen. All I know for sure is that he's not Bush, and in fact might just be the anti-Bush, and that's enough for me.

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