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Match Point

By Nick Twemlow

David Foster Wallace by Nick Maniatis
Fiction doesn’t come up much here on Harriet, but I’m guessing most Harriet readers look at it now and then. That’s a bad segue to the sad news that David Foster Wallace killed himself on Friday. His wife discovered his hanged body. Ugh. Wallace didn’t write poems, as far as I know, but he wrote some great essays on tennis, the film industry, and cruise ships, and also wrote a pretty amazing novel about pot and tennis. I’ve been playing tennis off an on since I was seven, sometimes in the same club circuit Wallace played in, and have yet to read anyone write on the game play of elite players—in any sport—with anywhere near the intensity, abandon, and precision he did (you should read his essay in the New York Times magazine on Roger Federer)[1]. Plus, Infinite Jest pissed people off, and was beautifully written. How many writers can say they did one of those things with their work, let alone both? RIP, DFW.
[1] You may read the piece here. Bear in mind that after the piece was published, Federer went on a cold streak, for him, before participating in what some[2] have called the greatest tennis match ever played, and then, just last week, he won the U.S. Open, handily, with a display of baseline and net work that Wallace thinks about in his article in a way that, reading the piece post-U.S. Open, opens Federer’s game up in ways I hadn’t thought possible (hyperbole noted by the author).
[2] John McEnroe goes on at length about Federer and the match in question here. I wish Wallace had the chance to sit down with Johnny Mac, thus bringing the best tennis writer together with the the most articulate tennis player of his generation, and probably ever.

Comments (3)

  • On September 14, 2008 at 9:41 am Forrest Gander wrote:

    He was a terrific, hilarious writer who could switch from an offhand kind of slacker mandarin (his expression) to hyper-exact precision. I remember writing to Bradford Morrow at Conjunctions the first time I saw a piece of DFW’s work– from The Broom of the System– in print, wondering Who is this guy? He’s got it!

  • On September 14, 2008 at 10:49 am Nick wrote:

    Someone posted a link to what they called a Wallace prose poem, but didn’t sign the post. I’m providing the link and thanks to the anonymous commenter.
    A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life

  • On September 14, 2008 at 10:53 am Michael Robbins wrote:

    It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy.
    Infinite Jest

Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, September 14th, 2008 by Nick Twemlow.