David Foster Wallace–Hero

Some time ago I took a little online test to see which other writer’s style mine might resemble. Wallace’s. At the moment I had no idea who he was, so that tiny item got pushed to the back of my mind. Now I wish I had paid attention. I’ve just finished reading most of his biography, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max. I confess to reader fatigue about 80% through, but what I read impressed me. One, Max writes well and seems to be thoroughly familiar with Wallace’s meteoric rise to literary fame and his interior life. Two, Wallace wrote despite a long and painful history of depression and addiction. Writing kept him alive, though not long enough. He committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46. Now I have on order his mammoth novel Infinite Jest and have just checked out his final fiction, unfinished, The Pale King. And unfinished it tops out at over 500 pages. I’ll not be indulging in cosy mysteries for some time while I wade, glide, fall through these massive tomes.

Wallace’s life has given me not just a new supply of fiction and many of his non-fiction pieces yet to read. He has given me courage, not from the bottle where he often sought solace, but by example. I don’t suffer from either of his illnesses, so why the hell am I ignoring the opportunity to write? January is a time for resolve and I resolve to behave more like a writer and less like a dithering old lady. 

I’ve refreshed my desk and gotten better about not frittering hours at meaningless entertainment. And guess what? It feels good. I’m hugging tight to things that I had been pushing away as hard or challenging. I’ve often asked myself in the past if I want to be remembered as an avid computer solitaire player and of course I don’t. I wouldn’t mind being remembered as a skilled and devoted writer who often tried to say something worth hearing. So, almost half way into January, I have my resolution: Grow up. Work hard and love what I do.

5 responses to “David Foster Wallace–Hero”

  1. You are never a dithering old lady. I agree, though – why is it that we spend time doing things that neither develop our potential nor express our gifts? If we can just limit our distraction time to a manageable dabbling – say, 20 minutes, so our brains can be relaxed and ready to plunge back into the challenge of our work.


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