August 23, 2009

David Foster Wallace

Just heard a great To the Best of Our Knowledge on Dallas's KERA 90.1 FM on David Foster Wallace, including his Kenyon College commencement address here. The rest of the program was just as good; you can hear additional segments here.

Wallace is perhaps best-known for his 700-page Infinite Jest, which Time included in its "All-Time 100 Greatest Novels" (1923–2006) (and which of course refers to Hamlet's description of a beloved fool whose skull is unearthed in Shakepeare's play).

Wallace committed suicide a year ago Sept., leaving behind an unfinished novel, The Pale King, which is currently being edited for publication. D.T. Max writes in The New Yorker,

The novel continues Wallace’s preoccupation with mindfulness. . . . A typed note that Wallace left in his papers laid out the novel’s idea: “Bliss — a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.

Guess he found it easier said than done. (I speculate that "Pale King" again refers to Hamlet; search for "pale" at the latter link.)

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