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And but so: Last thoughts on DFW (for now)

September 24, 2008

For the past week and a half, since I learned of David Foster Wallace’s suicide, I’ve been reading the papers, the magazines, online, saving the clippings, putting my favorites in the folder I have on top of my bookshelf where I keep all of my favorite magazine pieces. I’ve cursed at some of the obituaries and teared up at others. I’ve read the growing tribute McSweeney’s thoughtfully has made a place for (and among which my stab at memorializing the man, previously posted here, is included). People I haven’t heard from in a long time got in touch, whether via email, phone, text, or blog comments to express their condolences. People knew what he meant to me. People seemed to like what I’d written about him, after. And but so I sat on Sunday morning, after a good visit from my dad and my brother for most of last week (with a special guest appearance by my sister on Saturday), and flipped through my books of his, including my three copies of Infinite Jest (it’s the only book of which I own multiples). I saw the highlighting, the underlining, the notes, the bits of in-class comminques preserved within, the weather, the wear, the tear. All of which I’ve got, too. And so sitting there in the half-light of my room, Sunday morning, brother just departed—and feeling that sense of disconnection, that sense of one’s plug being pulled out from the wall socket that I’ve begun to see is a pattern for me—I sat there and it got to be more OK. The notes from people throughout the week, the appraisals I’d been reading in the papers, his books on my shelf, my and others’ deep feeling for the man and his work—

I got to thinking about Bob Dylan’s “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” a poem from Bob for his idol, which ends thusly:

And where do you look for this hope that you’re seekin’
Where do you look for this lamp that’s a-burnin’
Where do you look for this oil well gushin’
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowin’
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you go to Brooklyn State Hospital

You find God in the church of your choice
You find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital
And though it’s only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You’ll find them both
In Grand Canyon

I like that. I also started to think just now about how people used to graffiti “Frodo Lives!” on things back in the ’60s and ’70s, after the hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (which was the first Big Important Book for me). So I hereby propose another graffiti: DFW Lives! And he does.

And but so for now that’s where I’ll leave my memories of the man. Now, onward and upward. Dave would want it that way. Soon we’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

* Last (foot)note: Thank you—sincerely, deep down—to everyone who wrote, called, texted, or posted on this blog or Facebook to say hey, and that they were sorry to hear, and hope I’m OK. I really truly appreciate it.

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