Saturday, May. 16, 2009

David Foster Wallace, Kenyon, 2005

Read a version of it here

Words of Wisdom:
"'Learning how to think' really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."

This address at Kenyon was vintage Wallace: a smart, occasionally meandering discussion of the issues that consumed him, from the banality of life to the meaning of consciousness. "I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy and grandly inspirational," he concluded. "What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth ... The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head." All the reasons Wallace didn't make it to 50 are apparent here; in hindsight, the speech reads like the first draft of a suicide note for an author who took his own life last year at age 46. While it's a macabre read, there's tons that's worthwhile here: the speech crackles with wit and intelligence — and offers tricks for escaping the depression to which Wallace ultimately succumbed.