Notes From A Complete Stranger, Part 1

Sometimes it does take a village.
Sometimes it does take a village.

David Foster Wallace, suicide, Gordon Lish, NYC, poetry, Perchville, Barack Obama, Louisville architecture, 2009 ice storm, Joaquin Phoenix, fish, The Wrestler

Wednesday 1 Oct 2008
6:21 AM
David Foster Wallace has done for cruise ship essays what Cormac McCarthy did for the novel. Really, every essay written by Wallace rings true and frighteningly real. Though still a novice Wallace reader, I have tackled in no particular order "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" (the unbelievably good essay on cruising); "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" (a trip to the Illinois State Fair); "Big Red Son" (a brilliant porn essay); "David Lynch Keeps His Head" (somewhat of a review of Lynch's film Lost Highway but veering off in so many directions it seemed Lynchian itself); "Certainly the End of Something or Other, One Would Sort of Have to Think"; "Some Remarks on Kafka's Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed"; "The View from Mrs. Thompson's" (about 9/11 and how he and his neighbors dealt with it); "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart"; "Consider the Lobster" (an amazing feat of fine writing on dining, America, and society's ills); "Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky" (which I am reading now); and "Up, Simba" (which I couldn't quite get all the way through because I was so sick of the campaigns of John McCain and Sarah Palin that I thought I'd puke.)

I have found nothing in which to disagree with him, Wallace that is. What I do have a problem with is the continuation of his thinking, not that I wanted him to stop thinking, however. Entertaining as his thinking is, or was, I am puzzled by why he wanted to pursue this thinking into his own personal death. The fact he committed suicide troubles me. It is also a little freaky that I am reading his essays now and he is barely cold and in the ground or as ashes, whichever his memorial wish was, which cannot be found anywhere on, as George Bush calls it, "the internets". But I did find his autopsy which I cut the actual pages out of because I didn't think it necessary to go on about it. The details below have enough of them to satisfy most of us.

From THE SMOKING GUN:
David Foster Wallace Autopsy
Depressed author bound wrists with duct tape prior to hanging self

OCTOBER 27--Author David Foster Wallace bound his wrists with duct tape before hanging himself from a patio roof rafter in the backyard of his southern California home, according to an autopsy report released today. The 46-year-old writer was discovered September 12 by his wife, who cut the black belt from which Wallace was hanging. The autopsy report notes that Wallace had nailed the belt to a wooden patio support and that "there was a lawn chair that was knocked over on its side next to the decedent." ... Wallace, who left behind a suicide note, had a "history of depression with two prior suicide attempts," his wife told a coroner's investigator. Wallace, best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," had last seen his psychiatrist two weeks before his death, and been prescribed several drugs. The report also notes that Wallace had previously undergone 12 electroshock therapy treatments.


You see, I see the same things Wallace did. I am dismayed by them, but in no way wish to do bodily harm on myself to rid myself of these things in my life. I see them, and then I go on. I ignore them after I have acknowledged their existence. I rarely dwell for extended periods of time perhaps because I know it won’t make it better for me. It would make my feelings much worse. I would want them to go away. Which they do by some form of denial operative I have internalized. Maybe Wallace did not have the self-protective function that I believe most people have. According to the following article it is clear he did not, or not enough of it, and had suffered with depression for over twenty years.

From the NY Times, September 14, 2008:
James Wallace said that last year his son had begun suffering side effects from the drugs and, at a doctor’s suggestion, had gone off the medication in June 2007. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. The elder Wallaces had seen their son in August, he said.

“He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.”


It's a wonder to me now why we don't have suicides on a more regular basis than we do, given the state of this thought. Not that a lot of people think about the same things David Foster Wallace did. Actually, I think, they don’t. I do think most people rather like these things about each other because it makes them feel more a part of the herd. The people who may consider these awful things about the human race do have that built-in protector, the same one that Wallace lost or was never issued at birth.

To be continued...

David Foster Wallace - Death Is Not The End

Comments 2 comments

ralwus 6 years ago

That is always so sad, suicide. This one is even sadder. What a tragedy. the truth is the medicine is what did it probably, well, him getting off of it like that. One goes through a withdrawal so I have discovered and it is really some bad shit. thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed the video about him. I need to read the rest of this series now. Thanks Mike


mewlhouse profile image

mewlhouse 6 years ago from Louisville Author

Thanks for reading. DFW comes up a lot for me.

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