I was pretty devastated, in that minor way that you feel for people who have only touched you through words, to learn about the death of one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace.
The thing about David was that reading his work — notably, his opus-so-magnum Infinite Jest — was that it marked a significant transition in my place as a reader. My first big transition with reading came in high school, where we had a requirement to read some number of pages of any kind of fiction (or, almost; I’m sure there were limits, but they weren’t explicit) as a part of our English class. This framework of just plain consuming pages made me a better reader — I could absorb more, faster, and I began reading more and more and enjoying it greatly.
I found DFW in college. I remember checking out the tome of Infinite Jest from the UCSC library, with a brown hardcover and only the words INFINITE JEST DAVID FOSTER WALLACE in embossed white text on the spine, and having to periodically check it out again as I worked my way through it. By the end of it, I think I really hit a second phase of being a reader: not only could I consume a great number of pages, but I felt like I knew this universe from every written word about it, that I had inhabited the skulls of those involved. This book introduced me to consuming experiences, like it lit up my internal world when reading with such a vividness that I kept reading, and kept gaining more out of it. This was the book that made me desperately want to be a writer, and even though it’s unlikely that I’ll ever do it, that voice — that style of thought — is constantly in the back of my mind someplace.
I’m baffled and shocked by this. We all lose everything, but some things sting a lot more than others.