David Foster Wallace is a writer that was previously unknown to me, until I heard of him on bookninja.com last year. He killed himself last September.
At times like this, I feel like I'm incredibly unaware of what is going on in the world of literature. Time magazine included his book, Infinite Jest, in the list of 100 most influential books. (1923 - 2006) How could i not know who this man is? Was.
It’s not a surprise to me that he committed suicide. During the past 20 years of working in the business of psychiatry, I’ve come to know an incredible number of creative and talented people, who are plagued by depression. I’ve got a few theories on the subject, and I’m sure there has been research done about this subject. I don’t think it can be boiled down to statistics and numbers.
(Side note: I’ve just finished reading his review of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner. (ADMAU) It’s causing me to be overly aware of all the mistakes I make. I’m trying to correct the ones I know about, and trying not to be paranoid about all the ones I know I’ve missed. )
Mr. Wallace was a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, and shortly after his death, they released all of their content that was written by him. I, being the nerd (or SNOOT) that I am, of course printed it all up. Then, being the procrastinator that I am, I put it away to ‘read later’. I just found it back last week, and I’ve spent the intervening time reading his works.
Of course, reading his work posthumously puts a whole different spin on things, doesn’t it? Reading “The Depressed Person”, a short story about a woman’s experience with depression, the loss of a therapist to apparent suicide, and being a burden to her “Support System”, you have to wonder how much of this was autobiographical. The review of ADMAU gives glimpses into his life, how his parents were highly educated, and their attention to proper language usage made things difficult for him when he was growing up. (you know, nerdifying him as well) His name for people who pay way too much attention to proper language usage is SNOOT, and he calls the children of those people “SNOOTlets” So, when I read about how the “SNOOTlets tend to have a very hard social time of it in school… When his peers are giving the SNOOTlet monstrous quadruple Wedgies or holding him down and taking turns spitting on him…” I had to wonder if this was his experience.
During the writing of this post, a friend made the choice to take her life... This is no longer an intellectual discussion with myself...
Although i have respect for personal decisions, including the one to take one's own life, it is something I will never understand. It reinforces my belief that there are some people who think too much, who feel too much, and that sometimes that burden is too much to take. I know that people will make decisions like this, and I don't believe that there's anything we can really do to change their minds, no matter how hard we try. When people are truly suicidal, when they've made that decision, they don't give any outward indication of how they feel. They're past the point of talking about, of being talked out of it. They've made their decision.