JONATHAN FRANZEN on DAVID FOSTER WALLACE in an essay titled FARTHER AWAY (2011).
"He was sick, yes, and in a sense the story of my friendship with him is simply that I loved a person who was mentally ill. The depressed person then killed himself, in a way calculated to inflict maximum pain on those he loved most, and we who loved him were left feeling angry and betrayed. Betrayed not merely by the failure of our investment of love but by the way in which his suicide took him away from us and made the person into a very public legend. People who had never read his fiction, or had never even heard of him, read his Kenyon College commencement address in The Wall Street Journal and mourned the loss of a great and gentle soul. A literary establishment that had never so much as short-listed one of his books for a national prize now united to declare him a lost national treasure. Of course, he was a national treasure, and, being a writer, he didn’t “belong” to his readers any less than to me. But if you happened to know that his actual character was more complex and dubious than he was getting credit for, and if you also knew that he was more lovable—funnier, sillier, needier, more poignantly at war with his demons, more lost, more childishly transparent in his lies and inconsistencies—than the benignant and morally clairvoyant artist/saint that had been made of him, it was still hard not to feel wounded by the part of him that had chosen the adulation of strangers over the love of the people closest to him.
"The people who knew David least well are most likely to speak of him in saintly terms. What makes this especially strange is the near-perfect absence, in his fiction, of ordinary love. Close loving relationships, which for most of us are a foundational source of meaning, have no standing in the Wallace fictional universe. What we get, instead, are characters keeping their heartless compulsions secret from those who love them; characters scheming to appear loving or to prove to themselves that what feels like love is really just disguised self-interest; or, at most, characters directing an abstract or spiritual love toward somebody profoundly repellent—the cranial-fluid-dripping wife in Infinite Jest, the psychopath in the last of the interviews with hideous men. David’s fiction is populated with dissemblers and manipulators and emotional isolates, and yet the people who had only glancing or formal contact with him took his rather laborious hyperconsiderateness and moral wisdom at face value.
"The curious thing about David’s fiction, though, is how recognized and comforted, how loved, his most devoted readers feel when reading it. To the extent that each of us is stranded on his or her own existential island—and I think it’s approximately correct to say that his most susceptible readers are ones familiar with the socially and spiritually isolating effects of addiction or compulsion or depression—we gratefully seized on each new dispatch from that farthest-away island which was David. At the level of content, he gave us the worst of himself: he laid out, with an intensity of self-scrutiny worthy of comparison to Kafka and Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky, the extremes of his own narcissism, misogyny, compulsiveness, self-deception, dehumanizing moralism and theologizing, doubt in the possibility of love, and entrapment in footnotes-within-footnotes self-consciousness. At the level of form and intention, however, this very cataloguing of despair about his own authentic goodness is received by the reader as a gift of authentic goodness: we feel the love in the fact of his art, and we love him for it.
"David and I had a friendship of compare and contrast and (in a brotherly way) compete. A few years before he died, he signed my hardcover copies of his two most recent books. On the title page of one of them I found the traced outline of his hand; on the title page of the other was an outline of an erection so huge that it ran off the page, annotated with a little arrow and the remark “scale 100%.” I once heard him enthusiastically describe, in the presence of a girl he was dating, someone else’s girlfriend as his “paragon of womanhood.” David’s girl did a wonderfully slow double take and said, “What?” Whereupon David, whose vocabulary was as large as anybody’s in the Western Hemisphere, took a deep breath and, letting it out, said, “I’m suddenly realizing that I’ve never actually known what the word paragon means.”
GAME OF THRONES & COSMOS ON ONE NIGHT OH DAMN I HAVE THAT SAME FEELING YOU GET AFTER YOU SCORE FROM A DEALER WHO ALWAYS HAS THE BEST SHIT