Why I'm Angry at David Foster Wallace

I just learned that David Foster Wallace committed suicide yesterday by hanging himself and I'm pissed off about it. I find this so depressing, especially considering how ambitious--and impossible--Infinite Jest is as a novel and a novelistic performance. I won't even claim to have an opinion on that book because I've started and stopped at least three times. But a writer of Wallace's talent, audacity and intelligence needed to fight the good fight along with the rest of us. It's not fair that he becomes an existential hero now, a writer with his own mythology. He gave up on us, on this mundane world, on the deeper meaning of language by betraying everything for a gesture. Yes, his fame as a rebel and a prodigy will germinate the lectures halls of contemporary literature seminars all across the world and his name will forever be consecrated for the brutality of his death. But meanwhile, the rest of us have to go on. We will struggle to make it as aspiring writers in a world that no longer cares about the things we write compared to the cheap semiotic porn of a classic suicide. Look, it's simple: suicide cheapens language, it devalues it. It says: I wrote all these beautiful things and yet none of them were important enough, meaningful enough, for me to stay here and understand my own germination as a writer with a box full of dangerous toys. Of course there's something grandiose and tragic about a novelist taking his own life. Mishima, Hemingway, London seemed to do just fine putting their symbolism on ice. But this is heavy-handed, especially for such a post-modern giant like Wallace. Men kill themselves because they have lost control of whatever it is that made the life worth living, because they have become powerless or hopeless. Suicide is ironically based on paralysis, always done for the person, never for the audience. But the rest of us still have to wake up every morning and make fresh committments to old vows.

It's too easy to kill yourself once you're famous. You know your death will mean something because you're already famous and killing yourself will simply enhance your mythology. It's so much harder to wake up each and every day and continue writing simply because it's what you have to do, living almost-famous and hoping that someday you writing actually matters to someone, hoping someday that your writing makes its way past the boundaries of your own mind to connect to another part of this world. DFW: how could you write such brilliant prose and not understand how important it was to every fiction writer fighting in this industry that you fight alongside us, where economic formulas, sale stats and sell-throughs become more important than creating worlds out characters and ideas out of language. You are supposed to be here donating your incredible energy to the sputtering literary engine. How dare you deny us that brilliant flame of yours simply because your arms are wobbly, your thoughts dreary than last year. What you've done is forfeit this sacred battle of words when you were on the front line. You did what so few literary writers have done: you changed literature. And now you leave us in this arena, stuck in a fixed fight.

I'm angry at you David Foster Wallace. I feel betrayed by you. How can words truly matter if the last thing you leave us is not a final novel, but a goddamn gesture that will be used to reduce everything you have ever written? You have belittled your mission and ignored your responsibility in this world. Your writing wasn't just for you, or for pomos, it was for all of us that are still here fighting a fight you won and then conceded. Your writing gave us permission to defy the corporatization of literary fiction. It gave us a place to wipe off the tailor markings of realist fiction. But now you're gone. Your books will double, possibly even triple in sale, but you are not here to punch back at cost-benefit analysis. You have given up on the only fight you could win, and you did it because you couldn't live with your own pain. You couldn't stick around, just to understand the things we saw with that radiant mind of yours.