Ah, screw it. You can have the official David Foster Wallace mourn thread.
His writing seemed so playful and fun, it didn't feel like the kind of writing you'd get from a person depressed enough to hang themselves. Weird.
I'm sort of reading Oblivion right now, which is a bunch of short stories. I have been sort of reading it for about the past year or so, actually. It's kind of my go-to, book-between-books, backup subway read.
I hated the way Infinite Jest ended, but what a wild ride it was. I was blown away by that book.
Here is an excerpt from, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," which is an essay about his experiences on a cruise.
"... advertisement that pretends to be art is, at absolute best, like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what's sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill's real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair. ...
...This is related to the phenomenon of the Professional Smile, a national pandemic in the service industry; and no place in my experience have I been on the receiving end of as many Professional Smiles as I am on the [cruise ship] Nadir: maitre d's, Chief Stewards, Hotel Managers' minions, Cruise Director -- their PS's all come on like switches at my approach. But also back at land at banks, restaurants, airline ticket counters, on and on. You know this smile: the strenuous contraction of circumoral fascia with incomplete zygomatic involvement, the smile that doesn't quite reach the smiler's eyes and that signifies nothing more than a calculated attempt to advance the smiler's own interests by pretending to like the smilee. Why do employers and supervisors force professional service people to broadcast the Professional Smile? Am I the only consumer in whom high doses of such a smile produce despair?
And yet the Professional Smile's absence now also causes despair. Anybody who has ever bought a pack of gum at a Manhattan cigar store or asked for something to be stamped FRAGILE at a Chicago post office or tried to obtain a glass of water from a South Boston waitress knows well the soul-crushing effect of a service workers scowl, ie. the humiliation and resentment of being denied the Professional Smile. And the Professional Smile has by now skewed even my resentment at the dreaded Professional Scowl: I walk away from the Manhattan tobacconist resenting not the counterman's character or absence of good will but his lack of professionalism in denying me the Smile. ..."