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Home News by Category DFW Remembrance A DFW Tribute Thing

A DFW Tribute Thing

Reggie Lutz wrote to the fantods a while ago with, in her words (so terribly sorry, Reggie!), a DFW tribute thing. I've been sitting on it waiting for the right time, and now seems like that time. Thank you so much, Reggie. Over to you.

Back in September I wrote this odd piece in response to the news of David Foster Wallace's death, and then sent it via email to my friend James Morrow (author of The Last Witchfinder, Philosopher's Apprentice, etc...) who responded with some interesting comments. I saved the emails, hid them for a while, and was reminded of the exchange after hearing the announcement of the posthumous book.

After looking at it again it struck me that the exchange may be an echo of conversations that a lot of those who loved Mr. Wallace's work may have had. I've never met him, never wrote a fan letter or anything like that, but like so many of his readers have already expressed, reading David Foster Wallace made one feel a sense of personal connection. Because his writing was so brave and honest and created that sense of connectedness, I felt that maybe I should also be brave and offer the following for the tribute page, with Jim's permission of course.

I am uncertain as to what to do with it, exactly, and thought of The Howling Fantods.

Thanks for your time,

Reggie Lutz
(Click read more below for the rest after the jump)
On Thursday, September 25, 2008, at 04:13  PM, Reggie Lutz wrote:
Hey Jim,

So I wrote this really bizarre and twisted stream of consciousness thing in response to David Foster Wallace's suicide. It really got under my skin - and it resulted in this kind of word vomit that I'm not sure what I think of - I don't even know what it means, other than it bugs the hell out of me. I thought maybe you'd understand it and could tell me if I should do something with this or bury it. It's brief, like a page and a half...

Hugs and stuff!

DFW's Dead

A plague of angels - a random phrase which bursts in my brain - but does that mean that the angels are disease ridden or that there is a movement clogging proliferation of angels crowding the spiritual realm like the biblical plague of frogs? - and in the interests of following this flow of consciousness, I am reminded that frogs, in most nature religions, represent cleansing and this is no accident, rather a borrowed thing from the pagans and would seem to be somewhat true, backed by science; as the world gets filthier the frogs die off. And if filth is metaphorical than for a frog to be in the presence of one of the great unwashed, it means suicide. Would that it were so easy to commit suicide for us less permeable mammals, less pollutant affected creatures who must first suffer the long dire road of cancer, black lung. And this leads me to wonder, how is it that we monsters of so called higher intelligence and opposable thumbs are the only ones capable of entertaining tho!
 ughts of suicide, who are capable of finding such a deed both romantic and repellant as the ultimate act of subversion? We can’t blame media (the forms of which are as prolific as those plagueing angels) - history is full of stories about the voluntarily dead. Of course, we all sign up to be dead the moment of birth, if you believe in reincarnation then it is the choice of the soul before it is bound in flesh, making all creatures with souls inherently self-destructive. And if you consider death in this way, then it can lead you to the cold supposition that aborted fetuses are mere punctuation, lost or truncated sentences which are not belabored or forced to endure the land of the living - but I digress. A digression within a digression that goes to dark and twisted places - my favorite thing on a page, though not in life. Of course, one could make the argument that the mess of this paragraph is one completely related thought. Conversely, you could argue that it is simply a!
  hash of words, arbitrarily strung together with no end in sight and no effect but confusion, but that couldn’t be totally true either, could it? And what is truth, anyway? Whose truth? Does it really matter after post-modernism has torn everything down and we are all standing on shakier ground than we are willing to admit? Gen X fatalism - tears the world down and the Reign of Glorified tears begins - or does it? All of this has been in the ether of human thinking long before the generation marked x began, but on a cultural level it seems the X-marks the-spotters were a little louder about their personal torment and existential angst, and we are tormented by the inescapable consensus reality surrounding money when we all want life to be about more while we watch gen y become more and more self-important, self-entitled, who are not bothered by the meaninglessness of most human interaction, although, the meaninglessness itself means something by the mere fact that it can be observed, analyzed, wondered over and looked upon with dismay. And in t!
 he discussion of meaninglessness here we are back to Neitzsche, Beauvoir, Sartre and “hell is other people,” but nobody has the will to power to change it because where would one begin? It is bottomless... There are patterns here, somewhere - perhaps in the cycle of despair and forgetfulness, neither going quite deep enough to end itself, at least in my case, and so we must endure it, me the ink-stained writer and you, the reader. Does that make sense? Does it have to in an age that shuns wisdom and celebrates inanity? And if the pearls can’t be identified then what of the swine? Oink, oink, all us piggies. We can read the Te of Piglet and the Tao of Pooh and forget to make our own time here matter - which we often can’t do, make our own time matter - because we know deep down that it doesn’t, and in that certainty comes the horror, sing the ink-stained who make their own Rorshach blots to record it, as David Foster Wallace swings from the ceiling in my mind.....

Where is that plague of angels when you need it?

On Friday, September 26, 2008, Jim Morrow wrote:

Hi Reggie:
A remarkable piece.  I've read it thrice now, noticing different phrases each time.  I was most touched by "we all sign up to be dead" and the frogs as avatars of cleansing -- as opposed to the bad press they get in the Book of Exodus.
My understanding of suicidal despair is that it includes a major physiological component bearing almost no relation to the zeitgeist. Poor David Foster Wallace ended up with those bad chemicals, and so did William Styron, John Kennedy Toole, and Ross Lockridge -- to cite a cavalcade of brilliant suicidal novelists.  (Styron did not ultimately succeed in killing himself, but he never fully recovered from his madness either, and spent his final years as a zombie.)  When I first heard that we'd lost Wallace, I was reading a biography of Toole, and it was all a bit too much.
It's true that our postmodern brethren revel in a kind of romantic nihilism, but I would argue that they're the ones standing on what you call shaky ground.  When Camus made his famous assertion -- the only genuine philosophical problem is, why not suicide? -- I don't think he meant the question can't be answered, merely that there is no binding or transcendent response, nor should there be.
I appreciate the existential worldview for its bedrock Nietzschean honesty, its brave willingness to entertain the possibility that, as you put it, "deep down ... it doesn't (matter)."  But Nietzsche ultimately found his convoluted way to something he called joy, and Camus was canceled only by a car crash, and we still have -- despite postmodernism's many sorties against meaning -- love and art and friends and nature and the mystery of it all.  (I'm drawn to science -- an enterprise many postmodernists seem not to understand very well -- because its approach to the mystery of it all, while by no means exhaustive, is for me utterly fascinating and often exhilarating.)  There is no logical or philosophical reason on Earth to privilege nothing over something.  When the postmodernists run screaming from any notion of universal humanistic meaning, the burden of proof remains with them.  Shakespeare got it right, methinks, and Derrida got it wrong.
I've always taken heart from Walker Percy's observation that it's oddly reassuring to be very sad, because this means you are not deranged.  So why did David Foster Wallace leave us?  Didn't he have everything to live for -- his wife, his work, his students -- and nothing to gain from making an exit?  (Somewhere near the beginning of that magnificent mess, Infinite Jest, the protagonist notes that an ancient Roman would read an exit sign as a complete sentence.)  I am only left with my supposition that he was cursed with chemicals, and that dreadful wild card carried him from sane sadness to mad despondency, and there was ultimately nothing that he or his poor father or his doctors or God or anybody could do about it.
As Garrison Keillor says...
Be well, do good work, and stay in touch...
Last Updated on Sunday, 13 September 2009 20:02  

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