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13 September 2008

I'm at the Claremont Colleges, and some of my friends have taken classes with him. This is strange and devastating.
posted by unsurprising 13 September | 21:05
He's one of those authors I've long heard about and always meant to check out... I have a friend who's been trying to get me to read "Infinite Jest" for ages. I'm very sad to hear about this.
posted by BoringPostcards 13 September | 21:07
A suicide. Just about the worst legacy to leave your fans and your loved ones possible.
posted by Miko 13 September | 21:10
What a terrible way to do it.
posted by amro 13 September | 21:14
I met him once and he left a hilarious signature on my famous autograph jacket (thus inaugurating my tradition). his work was a big inspiration to me.

posted by jonmc 13 September | 21:15
Without him i would have given up in so many ways.
i found his work by random accident in a bookstore and it restored me in a way i needed more than i knew.
i'm looking through info on him, to see if there is what passes for some flimsy gauze of an explanation.
posted by ethylene 13 September | 21:21
How sad. I read Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity last year, and though much of the math went right over my pointy little head it was still a mind-bending book. I really was envious of the man's intellect. It takes a special kind of talent to make a description of Cantor's work on transfinite numbers both intelligible and entertaining.

This sucks.
posted by BitterOldPunk 13 September | 21:45
RIP. Yes, this totally sucks.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed 13 September | 21:51
When I found out, I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. We read "My Appearance" in graduate school, which was a great intro to his work. While I didn't love everything he ever wrote, he was an inspiring and brilliant writer. I find myself still amused by the moment in "Little Expressionless Animals" in which Alex Trebek confesses to having recurrent nightmares about millions of munching bunnies looking at him.

This year is just lousy with great people dying. I wish they would cut it out already.

posted by miss-lapin 13 September | 21:52
This is sad. I love Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
posted by Claudia_SF 13 September | 22:26
No way!!!! What a shock! omg. Why did he suicide?
posted by nickyskye 13 September | 22:27
Wow. Fuck. I loved his writing, well, most of it. I thought he was hilarious, the real deal, brilliant.
posted by Claudia_SF 13 September | 22:41
From Salon 12 years ago on the next page entitled The best time ever to be alive:
What do you think is uniquely magical about fiction?

Oh, Lordy, that could take a whole day! Well, the first line of attack for that question is that there is this existential loneliness in the real world. I don't know what you're thinking or what it's like inside you and you don't know what it's like inside me. In fiction I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way. But that's just the first level, because the idea of mental or emotional intimacy with a character is a delusion or a contrivance that's set up through art by the writer. There's another level that a piece of fiction is a conversation. There's a relationship set up between the reader and the writer that's very strange and very complicated and hard to talk about. A really great piece of fiction for me may or may not take me away and make me forget that I'm sitting in a chair. There's real commercial stuff can do that, and a riveting plot can do that, but it doesn't make me feel less lonely.

There's a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn't happen all the time. It's these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone -- intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I'm in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don't with other art.

Also, something i haven't read yet: Good People, fiction.
posted by ethylene 13 September | 22:43
I'm a huge fan. Rest in peace.
posted by box 13 September | 22:46
Something I will read again and again: "Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise."
posted by box 13 September | 22:54
Oh no!....and I just found out the other day that a classmate from Iowa has died of cancer. Reginald and I weren't close, but he had been a great success with several books to his credit.
posted by brujita 13 September | 22:56
I really can't believe this, such a loss. Infinite Jest was such a great book and he had so many great short stories and essays. He seemed to, to be interested in so many things, it seemed like a had a real lust for life. Alas.

requiescat in pace good sir.
posted by kodama 13 September | 23:24
I've been meaning to read Infinite Jest for years now and never yet gotten around to it. What a shame, a young man.

That said, it's a fucking miserable and inconsiderate and utterly cruel way to die. I'm sorry - a long ago friend of mine got to be the wife who came home to the husband hanging in the hallway and you know, she never got over it. It isn't something you recover from. I have every sympathy for suicide - just believe me on this one - but I have none for the suicide who leaves something that blank and harsh and cruel for his family to clean up. There's no excuse for that. None. Sorry.
posted by mygothlaundry 13 September | 23:49
This is probably the worst way to find new authors, when they die and everyone tells you how good they were...

I will probably be checking out his work tomorrow, any suggestions on where to start?
posted by hellojed 14 September | 00:02
Start with what you can find.
He varies quite a bit, from describing a curvy highway that gives you an aerial view portrait of Jayne Mansfield to accessible explanations of jargon and what makes a tennis player beautiful.
Maybe Brief Interviews with Hideous Men before the movie comes out, or skip around Girl with Curious Hair.
Read just the first chapter of Infinite Jest. Then put the book down. Later on, take in a non fiction essay.
Skim the net (or the mefi thread) for links and leads. i remember hearing an audio recording of him reading "VIDEOPHONY" a long, long time ago.

Once upon a time, i was in a hospital waiting room in Chicago, one of the four they used for shots in "ER". My friend's hand had swollen up like a puffer fish from jumping a turnstile funny. Another man there also had a hand injury, a bad slice across the palm that he left unattended to meet up and teach an ESL student before waiting with this crowd we had become, occupying huddled resin chairs around an odd corner before swinging doors. The paper napkins clutched to his hand made me think he had badly damaged the fascia or worse, but he was being optimistic and positive about having done his duty first, before i mentioned that might have been a bad idea. Someone ordered pizza, and as the injured clutched their injured parts, i read aloud from my library copy of The Broom of the System to entertain my friend.
In the fluorescent lighting that kept us a few feet from that dark night, injured hand man turned to black guy with pizza square and said, "Doesn't this all seem kind of surreal?"

It turned out for all the pain and swelling, my friend's hand wasn't broken after all. Crap. i wished i hadn't insisted she acquire a bill for nothing. As we were leaving, i saw injured hand man looking disturbed as he reached a pay phone. i don't think he turned out as lucky.

The sliding doors hissed open as we took to the odd shiny black of a narrow city street, to my rental car and back to her place so i could drop her off and set out for the heart of the great black desert that is the Midwest.
posted by ethylene 14 September | 07:01
i have to say, i was never aware of the hype.
Cult and acclaim, rumors and scandal-- it was just a big fat book, and books were getting pricier, and this looked like bang for my buck, with such a title:
"a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now?"
Humor, recollection, revulsion and loss, already mourning what had past as a result of humanity at its most basic and convoluted in pursuit of that which composes human impulses.
Like so many things, i was completely removed from the world's perceptions at large, and just so grateful to have bridged that gap, recognizing i was not alone, and later, one of many.

i'm almost dead positive that not a single derisive noise or remark was ever made to me by someone who had read him more than they had heard about him, or truly loved words and ideas and their potential.
i think he was looking for something genuine and i want back story. i want to know what preceded this event, what happened this year, but a shy, private man who gave few interviews doesn't give me much hope in finding out.
He wasn't perfect, his work had flaws, but it gave me such unique hope. He not only existed but was acclaimed. These things he was doing could not only be done, but accepted.

And now he's gone.
But he did exist.
And i will always be grateful for that.
posted by ethylene 14 September | 07:56
I found myself talking to him when I woke up this morning. I was thinking of the election, of all things. "Didn't you want to see how it all turns out?" I asked. "Weren't you curious?"

I wish he'd asked for help. Just walk into an emergency room if you have to and ask for help.

posted by Pips 14 September | 09:14
DFW is someone who came on the scene after we left the U.S., and of course I've never seen his books here - so I've never read his work, I'm sorry to say.

I had some feeling that it was basically personality-driven essay-style stuff, and sort of grouped him with Dave Eggars in that way... especially since I was basically hearing those two names from the same (online) people, groups, etc., and I got the feeling that it was a "when-I-was-at-university" kind of thing that isn't my preference, but hearing what some of you have to say, I will need to read this man.

It's so terrible that he felt he had to do this... I can't imagine.
posted by taz 14 September | 10:08
I'm surprised no one has posted this on MeFi yet.

Also, what mygothlaundry said. When I read the obit, I wondered how angry he must have been at his wife to do that to her.
posted by amro 14 September | 11:35
Oh, nevermind, I had just missed the Mefi post.
posted by amro 14 September | 11:37
I'm not familiar with this dude. I would like to say hi to mgl though. Hi mgl.
posted by chewatadistance 14 September | 12:37
I have a copy of Consider The Lobster on my lap. It's great reading, I knew I had to have it after reading just one page. Reading it gives me this great joy, but whenever I put it down I realize the mortality of the author. It's a bittersweet read.
posted by hellojed 14 September | 16:32
It's it great? Filling the discount bins of chain stores everywhere, i've only gone two essays in as i was trying to make it last.
posted by ethylene 14 September | 18:35
That said, it's a fucking miserable and inconsiderate and utterly cruel way to die. I'm sorry - a long ago friend of mine got to be the wife who came home to the husband hanging in the hallway and you know, she never got over it. It isn't something you recover from. I have every sympathy for suicide - just believe me on this one - but I have none for the suicide who leaves something that blank and harsh and cruel for his family to clean up. There's no excuse for that. None. Sorry.

i have to say i whole-heartedly agree with this. there are so many evils in this world that suicide is just... hard to muster up sympathy for the one who takes the action - caveat: i actually understand suicide in the case of terminal and painful disease. my emotion goes to the loved ones, how horrible for them.
posted by eatdonuts 15 September | 17:45
The only hanging suicide i know of was done as a malicious act against who would find the body, so i wonder.
i expect lots of people will write about him but i wonder if anyone will explain if there was a reason why now.
posted by ethylene 15 September | 21:35
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