Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

We are immersed in the daily news here at Day to Day. You know, our name really says it all. It's hard sometimes to take a breath and to step back from the barrage of news, of opinion, blogging, advertising, the noise of it all. Someone who did was the writer David Foster Wallace. He died of an apparent suicide on Friday.

David Foster Wallace was one of the most brilliant observers of the noise in our culture. He imagined us overdosing on pleasure. He imagined, in our commercially saturated culture, corporations sponsoring years. David Foster Wallace once told University of California television how his path turned from studying hard science to the world of creative writing.

Mr. DAVID FOSTER WALLACE (Writer): One thing that happened is, I got to go to a really good college, and I found out that I was kind of smart. For most of my college career, I was supposed to go on and to do like math or philosophy, which were the things I was really a good little nerd at.

It's odd. I don't really think of myself that much as a writer. I think of this as kind of an experiment that's going OK right now, and we're going to have to see what happens. I decided to go to a graduate writing program. And while I'm there, this novel that I did in college gets bought. And I think, once you've had something big get bought, then technically, you're a writer.

BRAND: As a writer, David Foster Wallace won the MacArthur Genius Grant in 1997. Five years later, he took a tenured job as a professor at Pomona College here in Southern California. Kathleen Fitzpatrick worked with him and saw how he interacted with his students.

Dr. KATHLEEN FITZPATRICK (Associate Professor of English and Media Studies, Pomona College): In the last few years, his primary commitment was less as a writer than it was as a teacher. He was generous and rigorous and determined to help each and every individual student become the best writer that they could conceivably be.

BRAND: We have lost one of those rare voices who cut through the noise to tell us something about ourselves. David Foster Wallace's last novel, "Infinite Jest," tried to do that. It was long, some say too long and unwieldy. But it was also filled with brilliant passages. And here is the last line.

(Reading) And when he came to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand. And it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out.

David Foster Wallace. He died on Friday of an apparent suicide. He was 46 years old.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: