Three years ago to this day, American novelist, journalist, and professor extraordinaire David Foster Wallace took his own life. If the present is walking in the shadows of our ancestors, then these are dark times indeed. DFW’s excitement at ideas, wild imagination, uncanny wit, and penetrating analysis resulted in fantastic sports writing on tennis and also several great novels, including his magnum opus, Infinite Jest. The world is a worse place for having lost him, but a better place for having had him.
Thematically, the concerns in his writing were two-fold: (1) The conflict between globalization and local identities, and (2) Technology and consumerism’s hand in turning solipsism into fashionable profiteering. He trembled at the prospect of the internet diluting the exchange of ideas into an instant gratification button equivalent to Pavlov’s dogs. He also shared Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s discontent with liberal democracy’s inability to get anything done, aside from repeating mistakes.
Stylistically, his prose has been criticized as dense, but his writing often imitated unpopular and oppressed vernaculars, in the style of American fiction pioneers like Mark Twain and William Faulkner. And the Hemingway/Strunk & White “concision is objectively the best” school of thought often conflates superficial ease of comprehension with insight. Yes, he assumed his readers knew what the fuck he was talking about. But don’t we all?
In honor of David Foster Wallace, I took a stab at a slightly long-form piece on Lionel Messi at the Run of Play. I don’t pretend to have DFW’s talent, but did my best to wed my love of soccer with the themes of technology, solitude, consumer culture, and solipsism. Check it out here. If you dare. Special thanks to Brian for hosting this piece and helping edit it into a slightly more palatable form. But not, like, Happy Meal palatable form.