I’ve told dozens of people over the last ten years that the preeminent artist working today isn’t a painter or a musician or a game-designer or even a filmmaker, but a writer. This comes as a shock to some of the smart people I know who haven’t read a book in years. David Foster Wallace is (can’t quite bring myself to say, “was” yet) the brightest, sharpest, and most inspiring talent out there working, now, in our lifetimes. I’ve compared him to Michelangelo and Mozart, Picasso, Orwell, Kubrick, Kant, and Bertrand Russell. To open my browser last night and read that he had hung himself, in his Claremont home, was almost too much to be believed. I remember being proud and happy to hear that he took a chair at my alma mater, Pomona College, a couple years ago. He’s remembered by colleagues and students this morning as the most impactful instructor they had ever encountered. I’m still stunned this morning. Immeasurably, profoundly, to-the-bones sad.
(Jessey mentions Trent below, and I’d agree TR is a prodigious talent — JWC: imagine if you had heard Trent had hung himself. That’s how I feel today).
It’s been a very strange last few weeks for me, with one friend dying unexpected in early August, the train next to the one I ride in everyday getting demolished on Friday, and last night, hearing that my favorite living working artist has so unceremoniously snuffed himself out. I mean goddammit, WTF.
If you aren’t already familiar with DFW’s work, then it’s very sad that you’ve lost the opportunity to experience it without the shadow of his suicide looming over it. Tragic, because central to his work is an incredible, irrepressible humor and a palpable joy at his own virtuosity, his own ability to see so complexly and thoroughly both the profound and the mundane. If you don’t know his work go buy some now. At the very least it’s a way to help out a family suddenly left alone.
It’s been almost 30 years since I saw the Germs at the Starwood, and then heard that Darby Crash had killed himself in the days following. I had tickets to see Joy Division in America, only to hear that Ian Curtis had hung himself in Manchester. Why do the darkly, insightfully creative feel they have to shut it down so early? I know it’s tough out there, but can’t we fight to find some small joys out there to keep us going to tomorrow?
It’s time to cut this shit out. Stay alive people.