September 17, 2008

R.I.P - David Foster Wallace

david_foster_wallace David Foster Wallace - novelist, philosopher, journalist, humorist and one of the best wordsmiths to put pen to paper died on September 12, apparently having committed suicide by hanging himself.

In his fiction, Wallace was considered the heir of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo and in his essays and observational pieces, he could be a combination of Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman. He could write with equal felicity about tennis, porn or food. He was published in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker and in Playboy. His breakthrough novel, Infinite Jest was named one of Time magazine's 100 Best English Language Novels.

I first learnt of Wallace from a 2004 Gourmet magazine article about the ethical complexities of boiling alive lobsters for food. I remember thinking at the time, 'this is an odd article for a food magazine.' But that was the subversive genius of Wallace - he could write a philosophical screed on the "whole animal cruelty and eating issue" in a food magazine. I'm sure that when Gourmet commissioned him to write the article, they were expecting a standard issue travelogue , not a footnoted, annotated essay, which as Slate writer Troy Patterson puts it, "ranks as a must-read for anyone even thinking of having dinner."

Since we all think of having dinner at some point, here is the article. Hopefully, it will make us think also of David Foster Wallace.

Godspeed, and farewell.