RIP David Foster Wallace

The writer David Foster Wallace was found dead at his home in Claremont, California on Friday evening. His wife told authorities that he hung himself.

There have always been two fairly well-populated camps of opinion about Wallace and his work.

There are those who consider him brilliant and perhaps the most important literary figure of his generation. And there are those who find him unreadable.

Cases can be made for both schools of thought.

But whatever you think, it’s hard to deny that Wallace’s was a unique voice in a literature that has grown somewhat homogeneous in the past decade. Whatever you might think about his opus, Infinite Jest, Wallace’s work within shorter forms, in stories and essays, more often then not succeeded in blending absurdest observation with insightful comments on our culture and the way we live now.

And since this is a travel blog, I’ll mention my favorite piece of Wallace writing, his hysterical lampooning of cruises and those who take them in the essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” It’s a masterwork of reporting and as a piece of travel writing — which it most certainly is — it’s an example of just what the genre is capable of if given an imaginative writer bent on breaking new ground.

I just took his essay collection of the same name off the bookshelf and want to re-read the piece this afternoon as a sort of quiet tribute. For this essay alone I’ll miss Wallace.