The Common Review
has published a great article by Rebekah Frumkin about David Foster Wallace titled Our Psychic Living Room
. It's a great read. The first section, Why It's Particularly Important to Read David Foster Wallace
Two years have now passed since the death of David Foster Wallace in the fall of 2008. His legacy as a writer has been the subject of nonstop debate since the day of his suicide. I’ll cut to the chase: I believe he was, in his own way, a literary genius. Let me explain why. You may have opened Harper’s or Rolling Stone back around the turn of the century and read a really funny essay by a chatty, neurotic writer who had Rain Man–like abilities to recall and describe experiences as diverse as attending the Illinois State Fair, playing tennis during a tornado, and following John McCain’s presidential campaign. You may have found the essays hilarious, or quite brilliant. You may have gone so far as to say, as the critic Michiko Kakutani did in the New York Times, that they described modern life with “humor and fervor and verve,” and you may have wanted to read more of them. Regardless of how you felt, you probably dealt with the situation in a normal, adult way. That is, you looked up the essayist’s name online and maybe bought some of his collections, like Consider the Lobster or A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I’ll go ahead and assume you didn’t form an obsessive attachment to the author and delve perilously deep into his essays and fiction and then have to purge all your David Foster Wallace emotional attachment errata onto a blank page and call it an “essay.” Because that’s what I did—and let me tell you, gentle reader: it hasn’t been fun. But it has given me something to do with my time, and it’s also given me this sort of quixotic sense of purpose, this mission to Tell the People about David Foster Wallace—because the people, being a well-educated and discerning people, deserve to know. But this is an embarrassing mission, to be sure, because what if the people already know about David Foster Wallace? The majority of readers of this magazine will probably test out of David Foster Wallace 101, having already read some of his essays and maybe some of his fiction or, failing that, the numerous adoring profiles. But what do these readers actually think about David Foster Wallace? Isn’t all the postmortem hype confusing and disorienting? Isn’t he the kind of dense novelist who gets touted by stoner twenty- and thirty-somethings? Is liking Wallace just a grad school affectation, like watching Danish art films? Is liking Wallace a fun and cool thing to do because he had a history of substance abuse and underwent electroconvulsive therapy? Or does liking Wallace have nothing to do with grad school or stories of Genius in Its Byronic Youth and everything to do with patience and an earnest desire to be a better human being? I think so. I think it’ll become quite obvious if you grit your teeth and hack away at all the melodramatic bullshit.
Continue reading Rebekah Frumkin's Our Psychic Living Room.