Wednesday, December 17, 2008

in memoriam: David Foster Wallace

In the most recent issue of Harpers, the editors had a set of four moving remarks from the funeral of David Foster Wallace.

When Wallace died this Fall, I thought for a few moments that it was David James Duncan-- another relatively young author who I've enjoyed immensely twice through his novels The River Why and The Brothers K.

I'm not familiar with Wallace's novels, but have read a few of his essays. The outpouring of praise I had read previously-- and now, this set of comments on Wallace's work, wonderment at language, and his worldview-- will get me to read at least one of his books. (From the comments, I think I'll start with Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.)

If you've read Wallace, please share your thoughts.

Now to the eulogies...

From Zadie Smith: "Dave was clever about gifts: our inability to give freely or to accept what is freely given."

Of course, gifts and grace-- both accepting and granting-- are at the heart of Christianity, and I would concur with Wallace that this is a difficult concept for people to accept and live out. It keeps many people out of the Kingdom and prevents others from more fully enjoying Life in the Kingdom and blessing others and God.

And from George Saunders:

Grief is, in a sense, the bill that comes due for love. The sadness in this room amounts to a kind of proof: proof of the power of Dave's work; proof of the softening effect his tenderness of spirit had on us; proof, in a larger sense, of the power of the Word itself....His was a spacious, loving heart, and when someone this precious leaves us, especially so early, love converts on the spot to a deep, almost nauseating sadness, and there's no way around it.

But in closing, a pledge, or maybe a prayer: Every one of us in this room has, at some point, had our consciousness altered by Dave. Dave has left seeds in our minds. It is up to us to nurture those seeds and bring them out, in positive form-- into the living world-- through our work, in our actions, by our engagement with others and our engagement with our own minds. So the pledge and the prayer is this: We'll continue to love him, we'll never forget him, and we'll honor him, by keeping alive the principal lesson of his work: Mostly we're asleep, but we can wake up.

I don't know Wallace from Adam, but what an awesome thing to be said about another person. In some sense, some of the same things could be said about Christ. In a more specific sense, one could hope that these sorts of things would be said about us in eulogy.


At December 18, 2008 at 11:51 AM , Blogger tom said...

You might be interested to know that The River Why is coming to the silver screen. See:

At December 19, 2008 at 9:36 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I didn't know that. Thanks very much!

I remember them both as great books and can recommend them heartily-- the Brothers K especially (but not exclusively) for baseball fans.


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