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David Foster Wallace
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message 1: by Fishface (last edited Oct 09, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Fishface | 1642 comments Does it seem to others here that some people somehow become famous simply because they died? A few months ago I started hearing about some writer named David Foster Wallace on NPR. They talk about him as if he were better known and more influential than Bill Shakespeare, Ernest Lemmingway, and Lord Alfred Tennisball combined. When I look at his name here on GR I find a stack of books by the guy, all totally new to me; an even bigger stack of books about him, also unknown to me; obviously he had some serious writing success, and he parlayed that into a teaching career, but can you name a single book he's written that you've read?

And here's the thing: the Internet informs me that he died all the way back in 2008. But it's only now that National Public Radio announcers are speaking in hushed, reverent tones about him, bringing him up constantly and saying things like this: "Today we're interviewing Joe Blow, who's started his own chain of nondairy fudge parlors stretching from Hohocus, New Jersey to Pontiac, Michigan...and he's going to tell us about the day he met David Foster Wallace!" The guy's name is everywhere for no apparent reason. I even caught myself talking back to the radio one day, saying "OK, OK, who is he? Is someone going to tell me who he is?" I realized then I needed to stop wondering and look him up. And I'm still mystified as to why I keep hearing about him.

I consider this a totally separate phenomenon from the notoriety that surrounded the death of someone like Marilyn Monroe, because she was already famous and because there was a hard-to-let-go-of mystery surrounding her death. This guy killed himself 8 years ago after a couple of solid decades of depression, and now there's been some sort of upheaval about it, nearly 10 years after the fact.

I don't get it.


message 2: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2330 comments someone on NPR is a big fan of this guy?
I don't know.
Sometimes national radio doesn't really represent the nation but just the people on the radio station's preferences.


message 3: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1642 comments True, but Michigan Radio -- the tentacle of the radio octopus I listen to -- is pieced together from shows all over the country. Announcers from one end of the country to the other all started doing it at approximately the same time. They don't explain what makes him so worth mentioning and the shows themselves give no clue.

I suspect something similar happened to other people who died young and untimely, but not with the long time gap. I can listen to a song by Buddy Holly and know why people are upset that he died. This guy, though?


message 4: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2330 comments its a conspiracy.
I have no clue who he is.


message 5: by Leah (new)

Leah K (uberbutter) | 1 comments David Foster Wallace, as in the author of Infinite Jest? I know it's been a top seller, was quite popular, and has been listed in many "best of" topics. I personally haven't read it but certainly know of it and know many people who have read it (with mixed reviews there). But I knew he had died several years ago from suicide. No idea why he is being brought up again however?


message 6: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1642 comments I agree Selina! And I -- a well-read person who hangs out with others of that ilk -- have no idea who he is, and I know nobody who has read anything he's written.


message 7: by Julie (last edited Oct 11, 2016 12:57PM) (new)

Julie (julielill) | 1281 comments David Foster Wallace was the topic of the film -The End of the Tour
www.imdb.com/title/tt3416744/
It is the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace.


message 8: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1642 comments So there's a clue to who this guy was. I looked him up and couldn't believe he was taking Nardil! Nobody prescribes that noxious drug anymore!


message 9: by Jlsimon (new)

Jlsimon | 6 comments Absolutely amazing. I know, I'm late to the discussion, but I just stumbled into this thread. I've never even heard of this guy. It's never been on my local news or radio. I've never heard the name before that I can recall. LOL Now I'm curious though, so I'll have to dig around.


message 10: by Selina (last edited Nov 28, 2016 09:36AM) (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2330 comments Well, just coming back to the thread and original question, it does seem a lot of suicides people keep coming back to because maybe its all a mystery why it happened.

I mean poet and writer Sylvia plath, 50 years after she suicided, there were still books being written about her attempting to answer the question (she was depressed and angry).

I suppose some things don't surface till much later. People that knew these often brilliant people might say well I never knew they were depressed, they always seemed sunny and cheerful. Last month I went to a funeral with a friend who's second cousin took his life, he was only 25. We had no idea WHY but found out later, he struggled with depression and was a poet (again?!) trying to express himself.

I guess this person's work is being revisited and a lot of the time what they have written has become like their suicide note. When I read the Bell Jar for example, I didn't know that after it had been published the author killed herself. But looking at it this way you can see why she wrote it, because she kept attempting it all the time and had to explain on her terms WHY.

At other times I do feel there's an element of narcissim in a suicidal person, wanting the attention in a morbid fashion. But thats because they are incredibly needy or shall I say hungry people. Just dying for love and affection. Maybe they had never been shown what love really is. And that's sad.


message 11: by Jerry-Book (new)

Jerry-Book | 52 comments He died by hanging himself at age 46 due to depression. Wiki says he tried to unsuccessfully wean himself from anti-depressant drugs. I had read about him before but had forgotten it. It appears some of his books were nominated for awards. However, I have not read any of his books.


message 12: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1642 comments There are a lot of other reasons people kill themselves, too. I've known a number of "screw you" suicides, when the person (usually a young adult) kills himself, often very publicly, to prove that his family doesn't control him. (Those are usually males.)

Then there's the I-don't-know-what-else-to-do suicide. They feel cornered in some way and figure it's the only solution. Often it's a money problem.

Then there are the depressed ones who wouldn't be depressed at all if they weren't substance abusers -- alcohol and opiates being the usual culprits. They can't function without the substance but the substance makes them want to end it all. Or gets them into a position, usually legally, that makes suicide look like the best option.


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