A year ago I remember sitting down and trying to specify how I would celebrate this day, it being the birthday of W.H. Auden, David Foster Wallace, Anaiis Nin, and Chuck Palahniuk. Now, this being the first year to celebrate Wallace after his death, I find it difficult to pay any attention to the others, not that I’d have much to say for Nin or Palahniuk. The first–Auden–I’d like to at least toss a nod toward, for the shared Letters to Iceland Wystan completed with the rather unknown yet remarkable Louis MacNeice served me sane and stationary existence somewhere on the blocks of Trinity College Dublin years ago.
I do feel more comfortable celebrating the birth of Wallace, whose returnable-to texts have me tonsured every time I sit before them. Broom of the System remains one of the most inspirational novels I have ever read. Before his death, I can safely say I had read everything of Wallace’s aside from the book he co-wrote on rap music, which I have since gutted. I also can’t help but constantly reread the Illinois State Fair article he first published in Harper’s years ago. And Dare I begin to mention the gallimaufry of shapely absurdity that Infinite Jest is. I am currently taking a break from rereading it, as I promised myself I would celebrate his birthday today and after having just read the first hundred pages I am feeling quite dusty and bleakly spun by invisible pang. It does not help that the swift and cold winds of Chicago seem to be wanting the city’s death today.
Despite the grit and guffaw leaking from the collections of essays and stories, I eagerly await a posthumous novel, yet will always be content if no more writing arrives. Infinite Jest is a seminal portraiture of addiction and the girders of individual complexities in line of pursuit, success, existence, and all their bittles via America’s undertow. We must be grateful for Wallace’s attention to a reader’s needs, for never doubting that we want a challenge, and for naturally spinning a perfected sentence for our gasps to pass.
I was well prepared to write a fortune of grim thoughts and emotional soliloquies here today, yet a close friend just sent me a link to a marvelous essay written by Tim Jacobs in Rain Taxi, so go here if you’d like to hear very important things, as I couldn’t have come close to elucidating it as well as Jacobs does (http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2008winter/wallace.shtml)