The Seriously Gifted Person

In the most recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Colin Harrison says, “The one thing that really should be said about David Foster Wallace is that this was a once-in-a-century talent.” Harrison was Wallace’s friend and editor; the quote appears in an incredibly moving feature by David Lipsky. (You can read an excerpt here.)

Mr. Lipsky has done a remarkable job bringing to life the depths of this creative person, who struggled with depression unsuccessfully until his death, by suicide, last month. I wasn’t aware of the writer’s complexity, as a person or as a writer before reading the RS article. Leave it to Rolling Stone to have some of the best writing anywhere.

Mr. Wallace was “very fragile,” in his own words, but so full of original thoughts that sometimes he feared his head might explode, and for that reason, usually wore a bandana on his head. He was the author of Infinite Jest, a magnum opus, as well as nonfiction and fiction, notable for its detail and thoughts that race, as his own mind often did, through all the possibilities.

Unfortunately, he experienced clinical, medical depression to a degree few of will ever know. It’s not just sadness; rather, it’s the unbearable weight of days, of existence, of breath that comes over some people like a disease.

Of course the other side of this disease is often striking clarity — the ability to see the world with sparkling precision — and that was certainly true for Mr. Wallace.

The excerpt linked above is just the surface and while it’s still on the stands, it’s worth buying this issue of RS just for Mr. Lipsky’s feature. Or go ahead and subscribe; you may not always agree with the articles or reviews, but you’re hard pressed to find better writing these days.

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