Sunday, September 14, 2008

Consider the Lobster

Today is a sad day. I read in the news this morning that writer and thinker David Foster Wallace committed suicide Friday, September 12th. This marks the first time since Benazir Bhutto was assassinated that I have actually cried while reading/hearing the news. I almost cried when I read about Palin's nomination, and have almost cried every day since details about her platform and her history have emerged. But those were almost-tears of political frustration, disappointment and fear future-tense. This is different. My feelings about Wallace's suicide are those of grief and loss.

A few of the reasons this loss resonates so deeply:
  1. Wallace was young. 46.
  2. I loved his writing, in particular his essays. His writing entertained, challenged and opened my mind in a way few contemporary essayists have done.
  3. The world of American letters cannot afford to lose such a mind right now. Ever. But especially so young.
Part of me is angry. I'm angry because Wallace's nonfiction writing gave me hope, and I want more. I'm angry because it gave me comfort, and I think it gave comfort to other American writers/thinkers who are bewildered and aghast with the state of our country, both culturally and politically. Perhaps part of this comfort was the sign that live, creative intellects are hard at work, interrogating not only the "high" culture of literature, but also the culture that produced said intellect. He was not only writing avant garde literature--he was an American writer thinking seriously about facets of his/our culture.

Suicide is the ultimate incomprehensibility, for myself at least. It is a negation whose profundity has no edges in the dark night of possible negations. It is the ink well, that once spilled, is spilt, irrevocably.

Yesterday S. and I watched Wings of Desire. It was the first time I had watched the whole film at once, without falling alseep, in spite of my dear friend C.A.'s attempts to the contrary in college. I can't believe I ever fell asleep watching this film. I may need to watch it again, if only to take comfort in Damiel and Cassiel's sorrow before human suffering's mundanities and extremes.

I am full of the echo of Cassiel's cry, "Nein!," when the young man with headphones jumps to his death off the roof. In the background, two people urgently rattle the gate separating them from the young man, their mouths contorted as they yell at him--ostensibly trying to dissuade him from his alluded act. Neither Cassiel nor the man can hear them, as Cassiel hears only the man's thoughts, and the man hear's only his thoughts and his music.

No part of me wonders what D.F.W. was thinking when he hanged himself Friday. That is a romanticization (in the purest sense) that I feel would be a betrayal of the greater calamity of the act. All I can see in my mind's eye is the emptiness of the room around him, how the vitality and energy must have been sucked out of it. How his wife's stomach must have fallen even before she entered the room, sensing the here-not-hereness that is being in the presence of the dead. But I cannot continue even this train of thought. Read not the romantic here: read only horror, confusion and sadness.

Today there is everything that there was yesterday, less at least one. Less more than one, but less one that lends me, particularly, the sense of what can be lost between sunrise and sunset.

If you, too, need comforting, there are many people voicing their feelings along the same lines on blogs around the Internet. Here's just one link to a line of comments where I found sorrowful community.

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