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Clicking with David Foster Wallace

I first heard of David Foster Wallace last week when it was reported that he had killed himself. An American writer in his late forties he was immediately proclaimed by those on the Guardian's talk boards as being the best American writer of a generation. I immediately thought, 'why is it whenever someone dies they automatically become the 'greatest of their generation' type thing'. I thought it though - I didn't go on the GU boards and announce my contrary view, simply because, as I say, I didn't know him or his writings.

But I do understand those suicidal tendencies. Don't most people live lives of quiet desperation? So this morning I read one of his talks, featured in today's Guardian, given to kids graduating at some school in Ohio. And what he said to them is what a lot more kids should hear at that age. That life can often mean getting to thirty, or forty, or fifty without shooting yourself in the head. Or hanging. Or overdosing. It reminds me of a one-line quote I recently read from an interview with the ever-surly looking Hanif Kureishi who said that when he gets up he usually wonders whether to kill himself, but has so far chosen to sit at his desk and try and get some work done first. I really recommend a reading of the speech here. And in the meantime, because I have now connected with Foster Wallace on some emotional/desperation level I am now moved to get to know his works further and hope that I get as much out of them as I did this speech.

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