Infinity minus one (RIP DFW)

My brain won't stop telling me that David Foster Wallace wasn't supposed to die like this. I've always had something against David Foster Wallace. I think it's because I think of him as having everything I've ever found lacking in myself. Or if not lacking, just not superabundant. I think of him as being me, only moreso. Which I imagine is the way a lot of people feel about him. Us, only moreso; the logical conclusion of a type, an extremity, a limit-case, a Representative Man. Me as me as I could be isn't as me as David Foster Wallace managed to be, only moreso. And being moreso is supposed to be a good thing. But I guess sometimes it's not. Or maybe it is, I don't know. Who am I to say?

Hey you.

You'd be better if you were a better athlete. A prodigy. A virtuoso. Not just with your body. With your brain, too. You'd be better if you were better at math, and philosophy, and where they coincide. You'd be better if you had a head for the witty rejoinder. You'd be better if you would just write a book. You'd be better if you wrote a great book. You'd be better if you wrote a bunch of great books. You'd be better if you had the respect of your peers, and the disdain of those who envied you, just because they envied you. You'd be better if you had all the potential in the world. You'd be better if you'd fulfilled your potential, and still managed to come up with more potential, still gave Them the sense that They had something to wait for from you.

You'd be better if you were constantly under the pressure of following your own headlining act. An anointed genius, baptized with praise, with nothing left to prove, and only life to live. On leave for the semester. And feeling pretty alone.

I'm sorry I didn't like you, David Foster Wallace. I'm especially sorry I didn't like you because you were too much like I wanted to be or wished I were, thought I could be under different circumstances. Now it couldn't seem more absurd. I'm sure it wouldn't have helped just to be liked more unequivocally, less ambivalently by me. I'm sure it would have changed nothing if, whenever your name came up in conversation, I hadn't scoffed a little and compared your writing to a clever riff on a terrible joke, or a pretty good cover of a pretty bad song. I always said that like it was a bad thing, when it was really all I've ever wanted to do, and all I've really ever admired. So why did I say it, about you, like it was a bad thing? Home improvement, self-improvement, taking a chainsaw and painting it pink.

Everything about life is so scary and hard, and a velvet hammer can still break your heart. I guess I feel guilty, but I don't know what I did. I think back and wonder, did I actually try not to like your books when I was reading them? Why would I do that? And then I think, why can't I like more things better, why can't I give up want and ambition and just love? Why can't I be me, only moreso? And then I feel ashamed. Because I'm right back where I started, wanting to be what I thought you were. And you were just like I thought you were, only moreso. God damn it. Maybe I just didn't want to be one of your characters. Maybe you didn't want to be, either. Maybe I have no idea who you were: you were different from anything I can possibly imagine.

We are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different. But it doesn't make any sense when the person you most want to be in the world can't take it anymore. It doesn't make any sense.


Anonymous said...

Haven't talked to you in years Doug.
Is it a nice complement or an embarrassing admission to say I often thought of you when discussing DFW, if only to know what you thought of him? Thanks for the post, we all feel this way most of the time.

Sarah Wambold

D said...

It has been a long time.

And thank you. It is a lovely thing to say.