David Foster Wallace


September 14, 2008
Postmodern Writer Is Found Dead at Home

David Foster Wallace, whose darkly ironic novels, essays and short stories garnered him a large following and made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, was found dead in his California home on Friday, after apparently committing suicide, the authorities said.

Mr. Wallace, 46, best known for his sprawling 1,079-page novel “Infinite Jest,” was discovered by his wife, Karen Green, who returned home to find that he had hanged himself, a spokesman for the Claremont, Calif., police said Saturday evening.

Mr. Wallace was a professor in the English department at Pomona College in Claremont.

“I know a great novelist has left the scene, but we knew him as a great teacher who cared deeply about his students, who treasured him. That’s what we’re going to miss,” said Gary Kates, the dean of Pomona College.

Mr. Wallace had taught at the small liberal arts college since 2002 and held the school’s Roy Edward Disney Chair in Creative Writing. He taught one or two classes each semester of about 12 students each, Mr. Kates said.

Mr. Wallace burst onto the literary scene in the 1990s with a style variously described as “pyrotechnic” and incomprehensible, and it was compared to those of writers including Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo.

His opus, “Infinite Jest,” published by Little, Brown & Company in 1996, is set in the near future, in a time called the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment and is, roughly, about addiction and how the need for pleasure and entertainment can interfere with human connection.

In a New York Times review of the book, Jay McInerney wrote that the novel’s “skeleton of satire is fleshed out with several domestically scaled narratives and masses of hyperrealistic quotidian detail.”

“The overall effect.” Mr. McInerney continued, “is something like a sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola.”

The novel was filled with references to high and low culture alike, and at the end had more than 100 pages of footnotes, which were trademarks of Mr. Wallace’s work.

The blurbs are by contemporary novelists like Jonathan Franzen and Rick Moody, each of whom was a friend of Mr. Wallace.

Michael Pietsch, who edited “Infinite Jest,” said Saturday night that the literary world had lost one of its great talents.

“He had a mind that was constantly working on more cylinders than most people, but he was amazingly gentle and kind,” Mr. Pietsch said. “He was a writer who other writers looked to with awe.”

Mr. Wallace was born in Ithaca, N.Y. His father, James Donald Wallace, was a philosophy professor at the University of Illinois, and his mother taught English at a community college in Champaign, Ill.

Mr. Wallace majored in philosophy at Amherst College and had planned on embarking on a career in mathematics or philosophy. But after graduation in 1987, he enrolled in the creative writing program at the University of Arizona, where he wrote his first novel, “The Broom of the System,” which was praised by critics.

He followed a year later with a collection of short stories, “Girl with Curious Hair,” which cemented his reputation as a master of the postmodern. Eight years later returned with “Infinite Jest,” which became a literary sensation.

“It was ironic, but at the same time it was attempting to take emotional risk,” said Kathleen Fitzpatrick, chair of the media studies department at Pomona College, who knew Mr. Wallace. “A lot of contemporary literature uses irony as a self-protective gesture, but he never did that. He was like a lot of postmodern novelists, but braver.”

Mr. Pietsch said although Mr. Wallace’s work was complex and layered, it was his sense of humor that kept people reading.

“He wrote showstoppers,” Mr. Pietsch said. “He was brilliantly funny. People stayed with these long, complicated novels because they made them laugh."

Among his other works are “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” a short story collection, and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” a collection of essays.

”Postmodern Writer Is Found Dead at Home”とあったので、最初誰かなと思った。実際のところ、David Foster Wallaceって知らないのだ。しかし、比較されているのはボルヘスにピンチョン*1、デリリオではないか。これは是非読んでみたいと思った。自殺報道がきっかけで読みたいという欲望が喚起されるとは皮肉なことだ。
なお、MICHIKO KAKUTANIさんによる追悼記事も掲載されている;

“Writer Mapped the Mythic and the Mundane” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/books/15kaku.html