Today marks the one-year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's death. It may seem that an appropriate response would be to post a meaningful quote, but as been discussed on wallace-l it is very difficult, if not inappropriate, to 'quotify' Wallace. Thus I would like to pay short tribute with a bit of narrative.
The only thing I had read of Wallace's up until Sept. 12 was the online version of the Kenyon Commencent Speech, eventually published as This is Water. Shortly after his death I purchased a used copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I've read it several times. In the past year Infinite Jest, Consider the Lobster, The Broom of the System, Oblivion and This is Water have passed through my head/hands to join A Supposedly Fun Thing on my shelf cheek by jowl with Issue 55/56 of the Sonoma Review, various Harper articles, the Amherst Review and other early works that others have been kind enough to share. Many of the new books that were added to the library where I work were catalogued to the accompaniment of Wallace's voice either in conversational interview, a public reading and Q/A, selections from Consider the Lobster or the rememberance from Amherst and the Kelly's Writer House as well as the audio performance of BIWHM. I've stumped around the web trying to find other things on DFW only to be continually amazed by what I have not found as various members of wallace-l continue to post and share their thinkings, findings and writings. I had the excellent experience of participating in the group read of Oblivion and have learned much about reading/criticism and textual interaction from that read.
It's possible that this seems like simple authorial obssession-cultish, blinded and obssessed. However exploring an artist in this fashion opens up whole different worlds. I've also encountered DeLilleo, McCarthy, Ozick, Vollman and Powers. These are amazing writers that I had to this point missed/was ignorant of. The point of reading/listening is not simply to ape that writer's thinking/philosophy/style, though this is a distinct temptation, but to absorb their methods of thinking about the world, as much as is possible, in order to examine those methods and connect those methods with the reader's previous thoughts/readings/contexts. It helps in this that the writer be genuis-level, as I think DFW was. He was in no ways perfect but he wrote fiction, and essays, that continue to think and explore the world differently while maintaining well-crafted historical connections that encourage scholarship and criticism.
I never had the privelege of meeting DFW. I would have sincerely loved to have heard him read, gotten a book signed or sat in his class, even once. But the perserverance and connection of text allows me to continue to encouter DFW as often as I am wliling to open the pages.