David Foster Wallace, postmodern moralist, dead at 46
By John Murphy
Posted 9/15/08 at 9:37 PM
The apparent suicide of David Foster Wallace, the prodigiously talented author of the novel Infinite Jest, is a sad, stunning end for a writer whose best work burst with unflagging energy and propulsive imagination. Though often lumped with postmodernists like Thomas Pynchon, Wallace's fiction had a deeply-felt humanity and breadth-of-scope that could recall Dickens at his wild-and-wooliest. Though Infinite Jest, a roughly thousand-page doorstopper, will no-doubt prove Wallace's literary legacy, some of his best writing was bite-sized: a review of John Updike's Towards the End of Time was a trenchant (and very funny) analysis of Updike's self-absorption, while a New York Times essay on tennis great, Roger Federer, expressed with warmth and wit the aesthetic beauty of athletes operating at the level of physical genius. A NYT review of his essay collection, Consider the Lobster, dubbed Wallace "The Postmodern Moralist" because he believed in the moral efficacy of fiction and decried the school of "Great White Narcissists" -- Updike, Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer -- that made expression of "Self" the highest good, the ultimate goal, of writing. What other current novelist was willing to admit that "so many of the novelists of our own place and time look so thematically shallow and lightweight, so morally impoverished, in comparison to Gogol or Dostoevsky"?
Sadly, Wallace's premature death discounts the possibility—and it was a very real possibility—that Wallace would be the man to write his generation's Brothers Karamazov. Prayers and thoughts go out to his friends and family.
Charlies Rose's 1997 Interview with David Foster Wallace
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