David Foster Wallace Dead

I’ve received terrible news from an anonymous source. David Foster Wallace, the talented writer of Infinite Jest, is dead of an apparent suicide. I have confirmed with multiple sources that this is indeed the case. The Claremont Police Department informed me that they answered a suicide call at Mr. Wallace’s residential address, in which someone had discovered a deceased individual. The name of the deceased has been withheld.

I have also contacted the Los Angeles County Coroner and I received partial confirmation from them too. At the time, I called, they were in the process of informing the family.

I have also left a message for Wallace’s agent, Bonnie Nadell, to find out if she knows anything.

But the facts indicate that David Foster Wallace is dead of suicide at the age of 46. This is a terrible blow for American letters. And I hope to have more later.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times‘s Joel Rubin has also confirmed Wallace’s suicide. According to Rubin:

Jackie Morales, a records clerk at the Claremont Police Department, said Wallace’s wife called police at 9:30 p.m. Friday saying she had returned home to find her husband had hanged himself.

UPDATE 2: Gawker has also confirmed with the police. And here’s the Metafilter thread.]


  1. This better not be some kind of joke. Not funny if it is, and if it is, I hope you are totally and completely blackballed from the literary community forever. I, for one, will never visit this site ever again, and I will make sure to tell EVERYONE I know to treat you as a pariah.

  2. Good God, I hope not. Now I’m going to be refreshing Google News until… well, I don’t want a confirmation. If so, this is horrible.

  3. i’m a student at the claremont colleges. we received an email this evening about DWF’s passing. so sad, we lost a brilliant professor as well as one of the nation’s beacons of modern literature.

  4. “But it does have a knob, the door can open. But not in the way you think. But what if it could? Think for a second—what if all the infinitely dense and shifting worlds of stuff inside you every moment of your life turned out now to be somehow fully open and expressible afterward, after what you think of you has died, because what if afterward now each moment itself is an infinite sea or span or passage of time in which to convey it, and you don’t even need any organized English, you can as they say open the door and be in anyone else’s room in all your own multiform forms and ideas and facets? Because listen—we don’t have much time, here’s where Lily Cache slopes slightly down and the banks start getting deep, and you can just make out the outlines of the unlit sign for the farmstand that’s never open anymore, the last sign before the bridge—so listen: What exactly do you think you are? The millions and trillions of thoughts, memories, juxtapositions—even crazy ones like this, you’re thinking—that flash through your head and disappear? Some sum or remainder of these? Your history? Do you know how long it’s been since I told you I was a fraud? Do you remember you were looking at the RESPICEM watch hanging from the rearview and seeing the time, 9:17? What are you looking at right now? Coincidence? What if no time has passed at all? The truth is you’ve already heard this. That this is what it’s like. That it’s what makes room for the universes inside you, all the endless inbent fractals of connection and symphonies of different voices, the infinities you can never show another soul. And you think it makes you a fraud, the tiny fraction anyone else ever sees? Of course you’re a fraud, of course what people see is never you. And of course you know this, and of course you try to manage what part they see if you know it’s only a part. Who wouldn’t? It’s called free will, Sherlock. But at the same time, it’s why it feels so good to break down and cry in front of others, or to laugh, or speak in tongues, or chant in Bengali—it’s not English anymore, it’s not getting squeezed through any hole. So cry all you want, I won’t tell anybody. But it wouldn’t have made you a fraud to change your mind. It would be sad to do it because you think you somehow have to. It won’t hurt, though. It will be loud, and you’ll feel things, but they’ll go through you so fast that you won’t even realize you’re feeling them (which is sort of like the paradox I used to bounce off Gustafson—is it possible to be a fraud if you aren’t aware that you’re a fraud?). And the very brief moment of fire you’ll feel will be almost good, like when your hands are cold and there’s a fire and you hold your hands out toward it.”

  5. “Dostoevsky wrote fiction about identity, moral value, death, will, sexual vs. spiritual love, greed, freedom, obsession, reason, faith, suicide. And he did it without ever reducing his characters to mouthpieces or his books to tracts. His concern was always what it is to be a human being—that is, how to be an actual *person*, someone whose life is informed by values and principles, instead of just an especially shrewd kind of self-preserving animal.” –D.F.W.

  6. The man was prolific in Illinois. Wrote his best works. Was well-loved at Illinois State, where I spent seven years. He moved away in 2002-3. Nothing seemed the same. I have to wonder if the money and the pressure and the change in time zones had something to do with this. He was a gracious and funny and kind man. I met him a few times and found him charming. But he noticed and spoke of things that most of us need to ignore to keep going.

    “American experience seems to suggest that people are virtually unlimited in their need to give themselves away, on various levels. Some just prefer to do it in secret.”

    Shit, man, what was the point of this?

  7. David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008…

    Reported by Edward Champion, confirmed by the LA Times: David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 tome “Infinite Jest,” was found dead last night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Depa…

  8. God, he was so beautiful and amazing. I tried to read every word he ever put out there as soon as I could get my hands on it… he was my absolute favorite, no one comes close. This is awful.

  9. I would apprecite hearing more about what DFW had to say through his novels, (in a condensed form. The lengthy quote above, is interesting, but not terribly moving. So self-analytical. Interesting, but was it a rallying cry to many to change their lives? The Dostoevsky reference is more insightful on what DFW wanted/tried to be as a writer. I can’t see that when I go back and read the first mentioned quote.
    Regards from Japan

  10. […] God damn it. Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: 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. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. […]

  11. I think that the Charlie Rose interview from a few years back is really something that could be viewed as a deep insight into sort of an ethos of this man’s work.

  12. I’m just shocked. The man really brought me into fiction and after writing my senior thesis on IJ there’s no author whose head I’ve spent more time in.

    Especially after David finally succeeded in what he hoped for over a decade earlier with “Good People,” it’s a tragedy not to read what he had left in him.

  13. Wallace’s death came as an enormous shock – without going into (too much) detail, I read Infinite Jest at a time in my life where, like some sadly fucked up Ennet House resident, I was addicted to heroin and suicidal – and it may sound corny, but Wallace’s novel helped me identify with the pain of others, and, in no small way, eased me through an emotional minefield that ultimately led to sobriety. By his own admission, (and as evidenced by the themes explored in many of his writings) at an earlier time in his life, Wallace found himself in a similar situation, and, for a while, he led a successful campaign to silence his inner demons, but, as all too often occurs, it now appears as though it was a short-lived victory – and the world feels poorer for it.

    Simply put – he was my hero and this hurts like ever-loving hell – I hope this horrible act helped you find that which you so desperately desired – peace.

  14. I have been reflecting over the past few hours on this awful thing. DFW was and will be my favorite writer. Of course, one can’t avoid the “why” question. And, I hate to soil this with a reference to contemporary politics. However, DFW penned “Up, Simba,” a fairly generous portrait of John McCain, based on his assignment by Rolling Stone to cover the McCain campaign between his 2000 primary victory in NH and his ultimate defeat in SC. I am wondering if, on top of DFW’s own obvious depression, the absolute defenestration of McCain’s putative integrity over the past month or so, DFW saw himself as one of the many writers or thinkers that planted the seed of McCain’s integrity which has persisted as teflon to sustain his egregious presidential campain. Maybe Palin was the straw that broke the mental back of DFW. I don’t know. An initial response, a way to begin to understand. These are terrible times.


  15. “dasd,” you’re a dick. disrespectful, pointless, and inappropriate.

    if there’s one thing I loved most about DFW, beyond the doubling-me-over humor and brilliant verbal pyrotechnics, it was the deep humanity of his work. no matter how dark or dystopian or flashy or biting, his writing always had great heart.

  16. What can you say about DFW? He inspired me to become a writer, changed the way I think about and perceived the world in many subtle but profound ways…and I know I’m not the only one. Poor bastard.

  17. Many bright lights are being snuffed out these days, sensitive and brilliant people who should have been shining stars in heaven, but who I fear were predicted in the Bible when it talks about those who are “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” I remember in my 20s being very, very close to falling prey to Wallace’s youthful kind of existentialist philosophy. I wish I could have talked to him since I’m one of the few who made it out of convoluted Hegelian mental peregrinations back to the simplicity of Christ’s death on the cross.

  18. Thomas: The quote I posted is from “Good Old Neon,” from his short story collection “Oblivion.” The passage must lose something out of context, as I find it incredibly moving. Please read the whole story!

  19. that his quote ferocious powers of observation failed to find a hope that he could grasp…horrifying. fuck, DFW, why did you have to turn out to be human after all? your mind cleaved into mine and left it messy and bloody with beautiful visions and…you might say some dense bits of Truth that not even my concocted images of gruesome rope can corrode. rest in peace, brother. thanks to all for inspiring words. i’ve been a fucking mess all day. what a senseless and terrible loss.

  20. Perhaps you should have had the respect to make sure the family had been notified. Are there no manners at all on the internet?

  21. Patrick: I’m unfamiliar with DFW’s work, and I’ve read a few passages now that have been posted here and there, but the one you posted above is the first that really took my breath away, and gave me an inkling of what we’ve lost. Thanks.

  22. […] Writer/novelist David Foster Wallace has reportedly been found dead of an apparent suicide. In 1996, Wallace wrote this Premiere Magazine story about David Lynch, which is widely considered (at least, by me and my friends) to be the greatest set visit story of all time. Wallace’s collection of short stories Brief Interviews With Hideous Men is the basis of the forthcoming feature directorial debut from actor John Krasinski. Wallce was 46. More details here and here. […]

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