David Foster Wallace could write. And not just write, he could really write extraordinarily well. In related news: water is wet.
Wallace’s writing struck me as an epiphany, a beacon of light, a clear and unmistakable differentiator between merely good writing and exceptional writing.
I have known about DFW for some time now, and I have seen his famous commencement speech several times. It strongly resonates with me. As some other interviews do. But his writing? It seemed intimidating.
Infinite Jest, his magnum opus, is this famous thousand page multi-layered beast of a book. So I thought I start with something lighter. ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing…’ is a collection of essays and so it seemed like a good starting place.
It is a collection of 7 stories and essays on tennis, state fairs, TV, irony, David Lynch and a very entertaining cruise among other things. (Each story could validate a blogpost by itself — there is just so much there). Wallace demonstrates with academic skill his philosophical insights on modern life with the essays about other writers, TV and irony. But he is, just as easily, able to make you scream with laughter when he describes a highly anticipated and ultimately disappointing experience with the dessert tasting booth at the state fair. This man could seemingly do anything with a pen.
The words, and sentences (and footnotes!) all just seem to ooze effortlessly out of him. His voice is radically clear and distinct and his vocabulary and attention to detail are unmatched. It is very obvious Wallace operated on a different level, intellectually and talent wise. And I often stopped reading and wondered about how his depression got the best of him in the end, and whether this much talent and severe depression are somehow two sides of the same coin. Because judging by his writing, I don’t think he experienced the world the same way most people do (whatever that is).
The first thing I did after finishing this book, was head to a bookshop where I bought Infinite Jest. It still looks intimidating, but I can now only assume it must be a definitely fun thing to read.