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Home News by Category DFW Remembrance It All Turns Him Into a Celebrity Writer Dude, Which I Think Would Have Made Him Wince

It All Turns Him Into a Celebrity Writer Dude, Which I Think Would Have Made Him Wince

A moving, respectful, and difficult piece can be found in today's Observer about Karen Green, her art (check out her website here), and the passing of David Foster Wallace, Karen Green: 'David Foster Wallace's suicide turned him into a "celebrity writer dude", which would have made him wince':
The very public appropriation of the ultimate private act made it less possible for her to cope with it. He was everywhere she looked. She still avoids Google: "What do you do when your husband's autopsy report is on the internet and is deemed a subject worthy of fucking literary criticism?"
The only other time she has talked to a newspaper was at the opening of her last art show when she spoke to a journalist from the New York Times. "I did it on the basis that her story would not include the words "hanging" or "discovered body," she says now. "I'm an idiot, of course they did all that. I know journalism is journalism and maybe people want to read that I discovered the body over and over again, but that doesn't define David or his work. It all turns him into a celebrity writer dude, which I think would have made him wince, the good part of him. It has defined me too, and I'm really struggling with that."


I'm part of all this aren't I? I've been running this website since way back in 1997, inspired by my discovery of Infinite Jest in 1996. It wasn't until he died that I started posting more material about his life, and, I guess, his death. I'd always avoided the stuff about David Foster Wallace, the person. I was more interested in his writing, and as The Fantods became more popular I became aware that online discussions about his work, and about him, made Wallace feel... uncomfortable. Avoiding that stuff felt like the right thing to do.

It's also why I never wrote to him. There was always that voice in my head, "Do it. Write to him. Thank him. You'll never meet him living in Australia. Let him know how much his work means to you." And based on all reports I know he would have likely replied. When people write and thank you personally, you return the favour. I've lost count of the number of times people have said that David Foster Wallace was, "a good person."

But I didn't write. That felt like crossing the line I'd drawn for myself in the sand. And then he was gone...

From that point on I linked to more articles about his life, and death, than I'd done before. I linked to some pieces because I knew that some of you out there would follow the link and put the writers in their place in the comments. Sometimes I did it because even though there was something tasteless, or hurtful, there was something concrete or thoughtful or meaningful alongside. And then there are the things I haven't linked to because they were just plain mean, or idiotic, or both.

There were other personal reasons too... David Foster Wallace's passing gave me a reason to promote awareness about depression. Check out (I'm not affiliated in any way, they're just an amazing Australian non-profit organisation aiming to increase awareness and improve the treatment of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and related mental disorders).  

I hope that because The Fantods was here long before David Foster Wallace's death readers don't see my efforts here as opportunistic or self serving. To be honest I know most of you don't think that... but I do worry sometimes. We're all people who read David Foster Wallace and have found within his work a way to look at the world anew. To listen, to accept, and to learn from people who have completely different opinions, ideas, and views to our own.

I love David Foster Wallace's writing. It has made me a better person in many ways. But I think I have to accept that some of what I've done here has contributed to, " [turning] him into a celebrity writer dude."


To Karen, to Sally, to James and to Amy. I'm sorry for the times I've made things harder for all of you.




Last Updated on Sunday, 10 April 2011 07:34  


#1 JoshW 2011-04-10 10:58
Not that you were needing any reassurance from this quarter, but Howling Fantods is one of my favorite sites because it's enthusiastic and comprehensive while remaining consistently respectful. I don't think anything you've posted has been salacious or sensationalisti c. You've also been diligent about noting when something you link to may be negative.

I do feel deep sympathy for Karen Green and David's family and recognize they're in a really unusual and painful situation; I can't imagine dealing with his death and having to deal with the media storm on top of that.

That said, I can't imagine lumping you in with the people Karen's describing. Your site is more of a friendly portal, a resource among friends who would very naturally discuss something that comes as a great loss and sadness to us all, the same way we celebrate all that was great about David and his writing.

While David wanted to avoid being (or being seen as) That Celebrity Writer Dude because it would mess with his head and his writing, I think what you do here would be seen as an exception to the rule. He was very clear about wanting to reach readers in a deeply personal way and this site shows he did just that. There's nothing opportunistic or bandwagon-ish about Fantods. I'm personally quite grateful for what you do here and have never felt your intentions were anything but good.
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