According to reports, writer David Foster Wallace—a MacArthur Foundation "genius" best known for 1996’s epic Infinite Jest—was found hanged in his California home late Friday night. His wife, Karen Green, discovered the body, but few other details have been released at this time, causing many of us to scratch our heads as to why the young, prolific (not too many novels, but a great body of nonfiction and humor) and successful writer would do such a thing.
46-year-old author, who was an English professor at nearby Pomona
College, was an Ithaca, N.Y. native, published his first novel, The Broom of the System, in 1987, and most recently released McCain’s Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express With John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope, a report from the Presidential candidate’s 2000 campaign.
David Gates has already begun searching for text that reveals a dark, suicidal impulse in Wallace in an "appreciation" posted at Newsweek. He goes on to say:
"I suspect that Wallace was a genius who happened to be a writer, rather
than a writer who happened to be a genius—Hemingway, for instance. You
can’t imagine Hemingway writing, as Wallace did, a treatise called ‘Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity’ (2004), or winning
an undergraduate prize at Amherst College for a thesis on ‘modal
logic,’ whatever that may be, or going on to Harvard for graduate study
in philosophy after his well-reviewed first novel, The Broom of the
System (1987), was published-this after getting an MFA in fiction at
the University of Arizona."
While we won’t go so far as to ponder Wallace’s particular genius, we will go on record as stating that his essay "Consider the Lobster" was a brilliantly subversive piece of journalism and his particular talent will be sorely missed. While some artists gain greater notoriety and cred after a sexy suicide (think Cobain), this is one of those disturbing and ultimately baffling cultural moments that will most likely pass without much hype.