An appreciation for David Foster Wallace

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Readers around the world are grieving today at the news that David Foster Wallace has died at the age of 46 in an apparent suicide.

Wallace, who also taught English at Pomona College in southern California was a writer of enormous exuberance. He was perhaps best known for his 1996 novel, "Infinite Jest." In a review in the New York Times when the book first came out, Jay McInerney, wrote of feeling "admiration alloyed with impatience veering toward strained credulity" as he read. The novel, set in the near future in the "Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment" deals with everything from Qubcois separatists to the assassination of President Limbaugh.

"If Mr. Wallace were less talented, you would be inclined to shoot him – or possibly yourself – somewhere right around page 480 of 'Infinite Jest.' " wrote McInerney. "In fact, you might anyway."

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In the end, however, McInerney concluded, "What makes all this almost plausible, and often pleasurable, is Mr. Wallace's talent – as a stylist, a satirist and a mimic – as well as his erudition, which ranges from the world of street crime to higher mathematics."

Wallace's other works included the nonfiction work "Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity." This was, exactly what its subtitle states: a history of infinity. Reviewing the book in 2003 for the Monitor, Darren Abrecht praised its "humor, genuine enthusiasm, and technical depth."

In 2006, Wallace published a collection of essays called "Consider the Lobster." Here Wallace wrote on everything from "exformation" to pornography to the 2000 presidential campaign of John McCain. Monitor reviewer Peter Grier called the book "oddly fascinating," adding that, "There's a lot here, most of it serious, much of it interesting, some of it strange."

Wallace was said to have suffered from depression for many years. Speaking to The New York Times yesterday, the novelist Jonathan Franzen, who was also a friend of Wallace's, said, “He was a huge talent, our strongest rhetorical writer. He was also as sweet a person as I’ve ever known and as tormented a person as I’ve ever known.”

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