David Foster Wallace, Fine Fellow Moviegoer


Infinite Jest (1996), the second novel by David Foster Wallace—the author who on Friday killed himself at age 46—is about, among other things, a filmmaker who takes his own life. Wallace hanged himself in his Pomona, California home—his wife found him—while his novel’s “après-garde” director James O. Incandenza, a/k/a The Stork, opts to jerry-rig a microwave oven so that he can stick his head into it while it is turned on (Incandenza’s son, Hal, the hard-to-miss alter ego for Wallace himself, is the one who stumbles onto him).

Incandenza’s filmmography—little-seen and ridiculed at the time of his death, and thus presumably one source of his unhappiness—includes Infinite Jests (I) through (V), the fifth being a movie so compelling that its viewers are said to be literally unable to look away from it. Which was kind of how I felt about Infinite Jest the novel when I finally got around to reading it this summer. Wallace’s enthusiasm for tennis was matched only by his love for movies (his report for Premiere magazine from the set of Lost Highway is still the best thing that’s ever been written about David Lynch) and we’ve lost not just one of our most capable novelists, but a fine fellow moviegoer. —Benjamin Strong