Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

Sad day today:

Writer David Foster Wallace Was Found Dead Last Night At His Home In Claremont, California. He Was 46. His Wife Told Claremont Police That The Novelist And Humorist Who Wrote 'Infinite Jest' Hanged Himself Friday Night

If you read this blog, you might be familiar with David Foster Wallace by my post, David Foster Wallace Considers The Lobster ... where I included a few excerpts from his unsettling and almost-unpublished essay that appeared in Gourmet magazine in 2003.

As a tribute, here's another excerpt. It's from another of his essays, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", from his book (a collection of essays) of the same name.

The fun thing he'd never do again was take a cruise. He did it on assignment from Harper's, who paid him to "go, plow the Caribbean in style, come back, say what you've seen."

Here, he describes an exchange between two of his tablemates ("On a 7-Night Caribbean Cruise you eat at the same designated table with the same companions all seven nights."):
"Nothing escaped the attention of Trudy and Ester - the symmetry of the parsley sprigs atop the boiled baby carrots, the consistency of the bread, the flavor and mastication-friendliness of various cuts of meat, the celerity and flambé technique of the various pastry guys in tall white hats who appeared tableside when items had to be set on fire (a major percentage of the desserts in the Five-Star Caravelle Restaurant had to be set on fire), and so on. The waiter and busboy kept circling the table, going "Finish? Finish?" while Ester and Trudy had exchanges like:

"Honey, you don't look happy with the conch, what's the problem."
"I'm fine. It's fine. Everything's fine."
"Don't lie. Honey with that face who could lie. Frank am I right? This is a person with a face incapable of lying. Is it the potatoes or the conch? Is it the conch?"
"There's nothing wrong Ester darling I swear it."
"You're not happy with the conch."
"All right. I've got a problem with the conch."
"Did I tell you? Frank, did I tell her?"
[Frank silently probes own ear with pinkie.]
"Was I right? I could tell just by looking you weren't happy."
"I'm fine with the potatoes. It's the conch."
"Did I tell you about seasonal fish on ships? What did I tell you?"
"The potatoes are good."
Photo of David Foster Wallace during a book reading in 2006, from Steve Rhode's Flicker photostream. More there.

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