By Ezra Klein
I have a confession to make. I don’t even like David Foster Wallace. And I don’t mean that I found Infinite Jest too lengthy on the first run-through. I mean his accessible stuff. His tales from cruise ships and lobster festivals and tennis matches and radio studios. I’m not saying it’s not brilliant. It is! His discussion of the role of preference in eating animals is, in particular, masterful. But I’m a blogger. I like to get to the point. Wallace doesn’t. His pieces are rambling and indulgent and, if this could actually be understood as a writing style, neurotic. The endnotes are clever, but in the aggregate, they’re hedges. They’re the product of a writer who’s never sure if he’s said enough.
So why am I here?
The short answer is that David Foster Wallace died. The slightly longer answer is that David Foster Wallace died and I cared. That was, to me, a surprise. Lots of people die. Just the other day, Ed McMahon died. It hardly registered. But Wallace was different. I read everything I could about his final days. I posted a memoriam on my site. I watched readings on YouTube. It affected me. I don’t know if it’s because he was a young writer who was felled by the violent bubble and froth of his own mind and that a small part of me relates to that. I don’t know if it’s because he was, in some way, unique to my generation, and as such, one of my own. I don’t know if it’s just because I want to somehow explain away his fate, to pinpoint the reason why success and charm and brilliance and companionship weren’t enough to rescue him from despair. But whatever it is, it was enough to make me purchase that book and join this project. So here I am.