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Brief Lives of Hideous Men

by Rob Friesel

David Foster Wallace — whose memory I trust will live on as one of prodigious talent and unique wit— was found dead in his home by his wife.  He was 46.

DFW was a hero to me, a young author who moved fluidly with words through our ill landscape of postmodernity.  For every grammatical or lexical rule he seemed eager to enforce as “the rules”, there were ten others he felt free to break through style and substance.  His words could seem detached and aloof, running on for pages and pages of what felt like utter pretentiousness, only to annihilate that perception with some incisive, epigrammatic witticism that would make anyone smile.

I first came across his work in 2000 while working on a draft of a novel for my SMP at St. Mary’s.  While researching “voice” and “tone”, I had Infinite Jest recommended to me by a not-entirely-un-sadistic professor.  My first read of Infinite Jest took me the better part of those two semesters.  It was brutal and grueling1 and utterly rewarding — though maddeningly recursive.  The 1,000+ page novel2 was sprawling and ambitious and all-inclusive and inventive.  I was immediately smitten with his work and have since then devoured as much of it as I can.

Hell — every WordPress theme I’ve ever created has been named after Wallace’s characters from Infinite Jest, including the “Ortho” theme I have in place today.

Though I have wanted to be a novelist all my life3, it was not until I started reading Wallace’s werk that I found the inspiration for which I had been searching.  It was not his style or his tone.  Those things belonged to him.  It was his Devil May Care approach that kept rules around simply to mock them; his inventiveness on the page was peerless.

Now I suppose he was more Himself than Hal than we will ever know.

  1. Especially when piled on top of the readings for my more “standard” coursework. []
  2. Give or take some pages for the footnotes endnotes. []
  3. Well, since at least 5 years old. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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