When Fiction Failed David Foster Wallace

The news of David Fos­ter Wal­lace’s sui­cide came as a shock. 46, supreme­ly tal­ent­ed, and gone. We’re not left with much. His books, his essays, and the under­stand­able desire to find some link between his writ­ing and his end. Here’s a line that caught my atten­tion from David Stre­it­feld’s blog. (He’s a for­mer books edi­tor at The Boston Globe, and now a reporter for The New York Times.)

Fic­tion, [DFW once said], is “one of the few expe­ri­ences where lone­li­ness can be both con­front­ed and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud par­ties — all these chase away lone­li­ness by mak­ing me for­get my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no oth­er par­ty can pen­e­trate or know. Fic­tion, poet­ry, music, real­ly deep seri­ous sex, and, in var­i­ous ways, reli­gion — these are the places (for me) where lone­li­ness is coun­te­nanced, stared down, trans­fig­ured, treat­ed.” Maybe he asked too much of fic­tion. Maybe it failed him in the end, and there was noth­ing left.

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