On Wednesday night Rick and I went to the Lannan Foundation’s moving tribute to David Foster Wallace, a writer of verve and passion and genius. The passages read aloud by Rick Moody, David Lipsky, and Joanna Scott from his new book, his old work, and from his interviews were exuberantly intelligent, achingly sensitive, and, from a craft perspective, brilliant, innovative, and for lack of a better word, new. Even the interview responses had craft; the man was an epic stylist even when he was casually riffing about war, art, writing, or American Psycho. After the readings (“spellbound” doesn’t begin to capture it) Michael Silverblatt, long-time host of the radio program Book Worm, asked each of the readers to recount personal anecdotes about Wallace, who hung himself in 2008. Wallace, we learned, was someone others had the urge to call when things went wrong, a guy who saw the world intimately, in almost painful detail, and who tried to bring everything into the experiences rendered in his essays and novels, all that was absurd and profound, all that made us human and horrible, without aligning himself with a particular ideological position that excluded some and exalted others. (As he said in the interview, “I’m not going to line up behind Tolstoy and Gardner.”) He could describe the sky and the weather in ways you’d never think possible (David Lipsky’s chosen excerpts were especially powerful in the ways in which they showed the magic Wallace could make with words). His penetrating insights into all that was weird and wonderful, his obvious genius, his status as a true original with no literary heir — all were celebrated. That there exists a big fat hole in the literary world where his voice once spoke so eloquently and honestly and outrageously was acknowledged.
Let's hope, like many of the Lannan Foundation events, that the audio and/or video is eventually posted over at their podcast page