I just got this news – about David Foster Wallace’s death. Remember this class, Mum – creative writing at Pomona? You sat in on one of the classes with me. I had to submit some writing to get into the class. It was a small workshop-style seminar. My, the world needs hope more now than ever. I just finished “The Bell Jar” a story of mental breakdown by Sylvia Plath who also took her only life. Please lift up David Foster Wallace’s family and friends and students. And all those who think so much that they are overwhelmed by the sometimes seeming meaninglessness of life. I have come to a place where life must be its own purpose. I have seen too many people work too hard to simply survive and keep life to think that it needs to be anything more.
I’m deely saddened by this news. What do I remember? A brilliant man with an unkempt pony tail, almost always in cutoff jeans, a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off and a bandanna. A teacher who wanted and expected the best from his students. A man who put himself into his writing, took risks and expected his students to do the same. His death is certainly a terrible loss for the Pomona college community as well as the wider community of writers and artists and readers.
Below is an article from the Pomona College website in September 2008
In Memoriam: David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008
The world knew David Foster Wallace as the postmodern literary icon whose Infinite Jest recently landed on Time’slist of the 100 best English-language novels published since the magazine’s inception. Here on campus, though, the creative writing professor was a low-key presence except where it mattered: in the classroom or during his well-attended office hours.Wallace’s suicide death on September 12 was followed by an international outpouring of tributes to his work and, at Pomona, intensely personal remembrances of a writing professor who balanced humble compassion with an insistence that students do their best work. “He was an amazing teacher—tough but inspiring, infinitely knowledgeable and infinitely patient,” writes Peter Cook ’03. “But the core of David Wallace’s import to me was in his valiant battle against solipsism. Writing, he told us, is communication, and it is no more about the writer than the reader.”Wallace joined Pomona’s faculty as the first Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing in the fall of 2002 upon completion of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” He had grown up in academia—his parents were professors—and Wallace went on to attend Amherst, graduating summa cum laude with degrees in English and philosophy. He entered the literary spotlight with 1987’s The Broom of the System, a novel he wrote while still in the M.F.A. program at the University of Arizona.Along with his famous, 1,079-page Jest (1996), Wallace’s body of work includes several collections of short stories: Girl With Curious Hair (1989), Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999), and Oblivion (2004). His non-fiction work included A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (2003), Consider the Lobster (2005) and articles for such varied publications asThe Atlantic, Rolling Stone and Gourmet. The New Yorker, Harper’sand Esquirepublished his short fiction.As Robert Potts wrote for the U.K. paper The Guardian: “He was still young, and still brilliant … He set the bar so dizzyingly high with each new piece of writing that I cannot imagine where he might next have taken his art; and it hurts that I will never know.”
Wallace is survived by his wife, Karen Green, his parents and a sister.