Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

In memory of David Foster Wallace...

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I've been reading David Foster Wallace's book Infinite Jest again lately and thought I'd write another little memorial about him, expand on the one I wrote a while ago - which seemed kind of thin.
He took his own life in September of 2008. The guy was sharp as a tack. Brilliant mind, a virtuoso with the language, and a kind of savant tennis player to boot but he spent most of his 46 years in emotional anguish. How can someone be so funny, so insightful and so full of empathy yet be in so much pain? He said his main issue was not being able to see himself as a writer but eventually couldn't even see himself as a human being. He went through several breakdowns, various therapies, took a wide variety of drugs, legal and otherwise, underwent shock treatments, but in the end, everything had stopped working.
If you've never read his stuff, it really is worth the time. He is so profoundly human and humane. Of course there's always a shortage of these kind of people. His writing made me realize the most complex, most brilliant minds are the ones that choose to do the right thing, choose to do the good thing, choose not to trample what and who lays willingly before them. Any old bi-ped can be nasty, self-obsessed and grasping. It's no great feat, regardless of the type of artistry and window-dressing it's clothed in. To me, that's part of what came through in Wallace's work, that humanity. But it was the work itself that seemed to finally do him in. Maybe he was just brilliant beyond the measure of being able to live day to day.
I mean, writing is such a weird thing to do to oneself, putting your brains and heart and soul on the line, shooting your mouth off in a permanent sort of way - being held to it forever, as in: Hey, ten years ago you said... Maybe it's better to just ignore all that soul-searing self-imolation and do like Philip Carlo; write 'as told to' blockbusters about celebrated psychopaths.
Well, let's not despair, we've got to believe the best is yet to come. Perhaps it was writing that killed Wallace. But until we are overwhelmed by the same lonely torture, we've got to try to stay alive, lucid and relatively healthy. As somebody very clever once said, "If you want the last word, outlive the bastards!"

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Basil Papademos

Basil Papademos is the author of MOUNT ROYAL: There's Nothing Harder Than Love, published in the spring of 2012 by Tightrope Books, also available as an ebook in all formats from all digital retailers. His earlier novel, The Hook of it is, was published by Emergency Press. His upcoming novel, How To **** Your Psychiatrist, will be published in the fall of 2013.

Go to Basil Papademos’s Author Page