One of my favorite Wallace essays is “A Supposedly Fun Thing…..” (also the title of a collection).  I’ve always wanted to read it with students, but never could find quite the right spot or occasion, and it is quite long.  For fans of DFW, Jonathan Frantzen has an equally compelling if different essay in the New Yorker which is a genre-bender combination of travel narrative, elegy and litcrit on the novel.  The light he casts on Wallace’s death is a unique one, I think, and it’s a masterful elegiac piece as well.  Just one paragraph is compelling, and maybe you will read the whole article.  Something for your literary life, and maybe or maybe not for your students.

On the eve of my departure for Santiago, I visited my friend Karen, the widow of the writer David Foster Wallace. As I was getting ready to leave her house, she asked me, out of the blue, whether I might like to take along some of David’s cremation ashes and scatter them on Masafuera. I said I would, and she found an antique wooden matchbox, a tiny book with a sliding drawer, and put some ashes in it, saying that she liked the thought of part of David coming to rest on a remote and uninhabited island. It was only later, after I’d driven away from her house, that I realized that she’d given me the ashes as much for my sake as for hers or David’s. She knew, because I had told her, that my current state of flight from myself had begun soon after David’s death, two years earlier. At the time, I’d made a decision not to deal with the hideous suicide of someone I’d loved so much but instead to take refuge in anger and work. Now that the work was done, though, it was harder to ignore the circumstance that, arguably, in one interpretation of his suicide, David had died of boredom and in despair about his future novels. The desperate edge to my own recent boredom: might this be related to my having broken a promise to myself? The promise that, after I’d finished my book project, I would allow myself to feel more than fleeting grief and enduring anger at David’s death?
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