The news about David Foster Wallace made me incredibly sad, and ashamed that I never seem to have time to finish “Infinite Jest.” I suppose it’s not unusual to, when hearing someone has passed, wish you’d known them better when they were alive. I wish I’d known him better when he was alive.
All weekend I’ve been unable to shake a conversation I had nearly 10 years ago during my Chautauqua summer. I had a friend that summer who, at 18, had spent almost half of his life struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. On first glance he looked and sounded like the kind of person who attracted trouble, the kind of guy who would kick the stool out from under you at a bar just to pick a fight. In truth, he was brilliant. Painfully brilliant and artistic and sensitive, and he’d created a persona for himself that would ensure that no one would find out.
When I met him, he was in the process of getting his life back in order. One day he’d gone to see a therapist that said something to him that seems completely unethical but shook him so much that he never looked back. She said to him that because he was so brilliant, he would spend the rest of his life feeling lonely and misunderstood. She said that most people who have these amazing minds feel disconnected from everything and everyone around them and often end up killing themselves because of it.
What makes me the most sad about the loss of David Foster Wallace is how disconnected he had to feel to take his own life, yet how much his work made others feel connected to him.