David Foster Wallace hanged himself last night. He was 46. As I write this the news is the most popular item on Twitter. And I can’t help but think that beyond the absolute loss of a great talent far, far too young, there’s tremendous symbolism at work. Wallace’s INFINITE JEST could not have been written at any other time than the mid-1990s. It was a different, more optimistic time, one that produced a work of ambition and scope and voice like this. Twelve years on, it’s a much darker place. A much more fearful one. And Wallace never wrote another novel and decided to check out.
It feels like when Kurt Cobain died. I suspect those who were alive at the time could make comparisons with the deaths of Elvis or Jim Morrison, or perhaps, for those in Europe, Vladimir Vysotsky. It’s not just a man committing suicide or even a loss to the literary world – it’s a seismic shift in American culture.