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David Foster Wallace an Apparent Suicide 232

snydeq passes along the news that David Foster Wallace was found dead Friday at his home in Claremont, California. Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home at 9:30 PM Friday. The novelist, essayist, and humorist, best known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest, was 46. Wallace had been awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 1997.
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David Foster Wallace an Apparent Suicide

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I just heard some sad news on talk radio - David Foster Wallace was found dead in his Claremont home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the American community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to Society and true American patriotism. Truly an American icon.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For those modding up, this is a copy of a Stephen King troll.

  • NAFTA (Score:3, Funny)

    by gyrogeerloose ( 849181 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @06:29PM (#25002279) Journal

    I've referred to NAFTA as "The Sin of O.N.A.N." ever since reading Infinite Jest.

    I'm sorry to hear of his passing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @06:33PM (#25002313)

    I had the opportunity to meet David at a book signing. He was an incredibly gracious and friendly individual who will be missed by many in the literary field as well as everywhere else.

  • by Goobergunch ( 876745 ) <> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @06:41PM (#25002383) Homepage Journal
    Professor David Foster Wallace of Pomona College's English Department died tragically on Friday. Professor Wallace was a well-known writer and gifted creative writing instructor. Pomona College has planned two events to remember Professor Wallace's life. The first will be tomorrow (Monday) evening at 6:45 - a candlelight memorial in the Peter Stanley academic quad. The second - an informal opportunity to share thoughts - will be Wednesday, September 17 at 4pm in Smith Campus Center 201.
  • by CandideEC ( 953336 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @06:43PM (#25002399)

    Infinite Jest was an amazing book. Foster Wallace was an incredible writer. Very interesting and depressing. Time to read the jest again - ..

  • The death of deconstruction and semiotics. Which is either terribly arch or exactly what it itself would have predicted.

  • by yourpusher ( 161612 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @06:54PM (#25002529) Homepage Journal

    (crossposted from [])

    Sad [].1 David Foster Wallace2, along with perhaps only William Gibson, had a reader in me for everything he wrote. So dedicated was I to his Infinite Jest that I carried it in planes, trains, and autobuses over three continents.3 If you've never read any of his work, maybe you could start with this brilliant 2005 essay on political talk radio [].4

    1And I say sad in some weirdly personal sense that comes from both finding his writing deeply compelling in itself, and identifying his work with a period of time in my life which is not missed, but stands out as significant in recollection.

    2David Foster Wallace (or DFW, as he is popularly known among fans) also provided (albeit completely unknowingly) some of the reason that exists today. The blog that inspired me to start my own was written by an alumnus of the law school I had just started in. He, in turn, had been motivated to write online (in a format once known as an "online journal") while he read Infinite Jest (nb. This same author once had an essay published in the same collection [] as DFW). An early autobiography of this online journal community is available here [] (it is amusing to consider how much energy was expended on the subject of diary v. journal, only to have blog become the accepted appellation).

    3 A massive tome of a book with 1200 pages of writing to be relished and consumed (in addition to being read) I took two years to complete it, taking it to Panama [], Venezuela [], and Britain []. I've since reread it (in sections, while it wasn't lent out).

    4Even though it isn't entirely representative [].

    (Ah, for want of a superscript tag . . .)

  • This sucks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think it sucks(1) that he(2) died.(3)(4) We (5) need more (6) like him.(7)(8)

    (1)Here, literally, I'm, of course, speaking metaphorically. I don't mean it literally sucked (like, say, the 500 dollar an hour prostitute sucked the republican hypocrites shriveled cock), but rather figuratively sucked (like, say, the republican hypocrites bill to put you in jail for the same prostitution related behavior). Incidentally, by "it", I can't tell if I mean the whole universe or his dying or if those might not be

  • by rhizome ( 115711 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @07:05PM (#25002649) Homepage Journal


    If you don't want to leap into "Infinite Jest," start with "Girl With Curious Hair."

  • it's strange,
    i was feeling a bit blue just a couple days ago, and was considering rereading IJ to cheer me up: it's a book which always puts things in perspective and makes me laugh, and i especially appreciate that it makes *me* feel smart and witty, as if DFW were loaning me a portion of his verve and charm for a while.

    IJ is in my opinion the best novel in the english language,
    and DFW's suicide at such a young age is a huge loss to literature.

    my thoughts go out to his family, friends, students, and fans.

  • The description of footnotes in Infinite Jest reminds me of Wilson by David Mamet. Would Wilson be considered "in the style" of Infinite Jest?

  • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @07:28PM (#25002907) Journal

    No slashdot discussion of DFW is completely without mentioning Everything and More. In addition to his fiction, he wrote an excellent non-fiction book about the history of mathematical infinity. Unlike most popular math books, it was interesting and not condescending. He clearly taught himself a good amount of Analysis in order to write so well on the subject. If any slashdotter wants to see what made this guy great, you'd do well to start there. Not only is it excellent writing, it's technically coherent and you'll likely learn something.

    Appropriate here may be what he had to say about the popular story of Georg Cantor going insane trying to understand infinity (specifically the distinction between the infinity of integers, and the "larger" infinity of the real line):

    "To lament Cantor's failure to describe infinity, is like feeling sorry that St. George lost to the Dragon. It is both wrong and insulting." (paraphrased)

    Of course no one is lamenting DFW's failures per se, but I can't imagine many accomplished postmodern writers caring to get the grip on modern mathematics that DFW did. He didn't go for the low-hanging fruit, this guy.

    • by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Monday September 15, 2008 @12:32AM (#25005331)

      Appropriate here may be what he had to say about the popular story of Georg Cantor going insane trying to understand infinity (specifically the distinction between the infinity of integers, and the "larger" infinity of the real line)

      Actually, the problem wasn't the distinction between these two infinities (he successfully and famously proved that with his diagonal argument) but rather whether there are any infinities in-between the infinity of the integers (aleph-0) and the infinity of the real line (the continuum, c). Specifically, he tried unsuccessfully to prove that the next higher infinity after aleph-0, called aleph-1, was equal to c.

      As it turns out, this problem is unsolvable unless we assume it as an additional axiom of ZFC (Zermelo-Fraenkel with Choice) set theory, called the continuum hypothesis (CH), which states aleph-1=c. Goedel showed that is was OK to add CH to set theory without causing a contradiction (i.e. CH is consistent with the rest of ZFC set theory). That CH is independent, i.e. unprovable from the other axioms, was finally shown by Paul Cohen in 1963. He did this with a brilliant new technique he invented called "forcing", which became a stepping stone for a whole slew of amazing new discoveries about the "universe" of mind-bogglingly huge infinities that we mere mortals can barely even begin to grasp.

  • Depression ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @07:39PM (#25003037)
    Depression is a horrible thing and it hits many without notice and can be a horrible experience. Many of you will look at this death as weakness but the reality is some of the greatest and strongest people alive (and dead) have suffered with the demon that is depression for years often with no help and in complete ignorance by those around the sufferer.
  • Suicidal Hanging? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:08PM (#25003383)

    If you want to kill yourself, fine, go right ahead. Your life, end it if you wish.

    But why in the world would anyone commit suicide by hanging? There are plenty of other options to choose from. Especially when most suicidal hangings are done WRONG and end up taking loads more time to die than they had intended.

    Don't do it. It's stupid. Pick something else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Slip knot suspension is a little better than hanging, but both are better than suffocation, cutting, drowning in the tub, or overdosing because, with a strong rope and enough height, suspension or hanging better protect you from unconscious survival reflexes (whether it's tearing the bag open, not being able to cut under the veins, climbing out, or vomiting--all while unconscious). Carbon monoxide poising is on par with hanging because it is easy to not go far enough with both of those methods. The only bet

  • Consider the Lobster (Score:4, Informative)

    by bogjobber ( 880402 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:14PM (#25003441)

    If you like David Foster Wallace or would like to get a good idea of his style without diving headfirst into a novel, check out Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. It has the full range of his work, from literary criticism to a hilarious essay describing his trip to a porn convention and various rambling thoughts on pornography's relationship with "regular" society and art. There's some really great stuff in that.

    RIP DFW.

  • "No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun--for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax--This won't hurt" -- Hunter S. Thompson, suicide note.

    • It's not a question of the act but rather the motivation. I agree with Hunter's motive. I don't know jack about DFW.
  • the rules are simple:

    1. sound of mind, unsound of body: suicide is ok. euthanasia is morally sound for the terminally ill

    2. unsound of mind, sound of body: suicide is not ok. if you are mentally ill, that casts a question mark over your decision making abilities. as such, a decision to end your life when you are not mentally sound is not a decision anyone else should respect, simply because it is not free will which is guiding the decision

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      What if you have an incurable mental affliction, are rarely happy, and feel consistently over a sustained period that you would rather die.
          Should that not then be respected as much as for "unsound of body" reasons?

      • the idea is to respect free will

        but if your decision making process is under the effect of a disease OF your decision making organ, then you aren't making decisions based on your free will

        therefore, the decision to commit suicide by someone mentally ill cannot be respected, if you respect free will

        in fact, all suicides who have been stopped or unsuccessful have reached a point later in their life where they were glad they didn't succeed

        its amazing what modern psychopharmacology is capable of. its not a perm

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          in fact, all suicides who have been stopped or unsuccessful have reached a point later in their life where they were glad they didn't succeed

          What a ridiculous over-gerneralisation. If their reasons were sound, then either they get it right the second time, or it's too late an they have to die naturally and horribly. Maybe like this poor lady [] - too weak to take the Nembutal, and vomiting up excrement.

      • is a valid conceptual demarcation

    • Have you read Catch 22? I like how you've taken what some would consider a symptom of insanity -- the desire to commit suicide -- and turned it into a proof of insanity: the idea that all who commit suicide are obviously, by the very act, insane. My free will ends where your sympathy and imagination end? Hell no.

      We are more than logical thinking machines; all of our decisions, even the ones we think most obvious and logical, are filtered through a squishy chemical mess of a thing we call a brain. When we se

  • RIP DFW (Score:2, Insightful)

    They can kill you, but the legalities of eating you are quite a bit dicier.

    This is a great loss. Just the other day, I finished reading 'Consider the Lobster', and I thought every one of those essays was interesting, funny, informative and insightful.

    I hope it's not selfish to say that I'm sad that now there will never be a new 'Infinite Jest'.

  • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Monday September 15, 2008 @01:26AM (#25005653)
    ...a supposedly fun thing he'll never do again.

3500 Calories = 1 Food Pound