David Foster Wallace: 1962-2008

I never met David Foster Wallace. My first contact with him was by a postcard from out of the Pomona desert, when he wrote to confess he had attended a reading I gave at the Hammer Museum and then had not introduced himself — all of which seems sadder now, since no such opportunity can present itself again.  There are no statistics to prove it, but the anecdotal evidence is that he may have influenced the upcoming generation of writers more than almost anyone else; six or seven years ago, every other piece of fiction that floated through the workshop I taught was distinguished by an ecstasy of footnotes,homages to Wallace’s revolutionary form even if they missed Wallace’s point, which was a larger ecstasy: the cosmos broken down into particles of words that each constituted tiny cosmos unto themselves.  In Wallace’s fiction, every shard of existence seemed to be a thing of wonder; but that wonder clearly could not sustain an existence wracked by whatever it was that wracked his.  It is the psychosis of writers to be most alive when they’re at work on something that matters to them.  Not at work, writers are beset by the lethality of their own lostness; no time is more dangerous for a novelist than that between novels.  In the brief correspondence that he and I had, Wallace conveyed the quiet kindness attributed to him by those who knew him much better, and his contribution to this magazine in its very first issue was only one small gesture of a larger generosity that, in the end, he extended to everyone but himself.

by Steve Erickson
Editor of Black Clock


  1. Travis Neal Todd says:

    This is a nice small tribute to Mr. Wallace that doesn’t pretend to a greater familiarity than exists. I finished “The Pale King” today in a chain coffeeshop and fidgeted and stretched and yawned and ticced my way through its last pages like I normally do, so I’m obviously far from the transcendence a couple of the characters seemed to achieve in the book. The book itself was a fragmentary and occasionally mind-numbing work in progress, but still contained passages full of the trademark compassion and insight and microscopic attention to detail. I’m incredibly saddened that no more work will flow from that pen.

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