"We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia."
David Foster Wallace hung himself Friday night.
Many folks chimed in on a long-ish Metafilter thread to say how much they thought of him -- and for the most part, the knee-jerk Wallace/Eggers Haterz Brigade stayed away.
Meanwhile, Dave Eggers left three or four screenfulls of blank space on the McSweeneys home page. On the MeFi thread, I'd suggested someone should get Eggers to write an obit. Then it struck me that would be a bit like asking Paul to eulogize John: You're not likely to get his best work when he's still trying to get his breath back from a kick in the gut.
I've read several of Wallace's essays over the past several years, and I've always been impressed by his obvious, earnest passion. I reckon that I've had Infinite Jest recommended to me more times than any other book. I reckon I ought to get around to reading it, now.
I attended the first session of a class in travel writing last night. As I got home, I started poring over my shelves to find examples of the genre. Some leapt out at me. So here's a random-walk, dartboard-at-the-page first quick pass. I sort them here from the most unequivocal examples, to examples I have to justify.
I read all of these years ago; I remember that I picked up the book somewhere unexpected, like a Salvation Army or at some church book sale, and read nothing in it for a long time, carrying it from place to place. As I remember it, I then picked it up one day to read "Shooting an Elephant" on someone's recommendation, and then devoured the whole thing. He's an engaging essayist with a penetrating, if jaundiced view. Viz the opening to his essay on Kipling, when he observes that in definding Kipling against the charge of being a fascist, he writes that:
... [T. S. Eliot] falls into the opposite error of defending that which is indefensible. .... Kipling is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting. It is better to start by admitting that, and then to try to find out why it is that he survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him seem to wear so badly.
Which is to say, Eric Blair was a tough-minded "T", like me; an INTP, to be specific, or at least, that would be my guess. If he was going to understand the situation, it was important not to mystify it. This is perhaps why he got on so poorly with other socialists....
That will do for now, I suppose.