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So… David Foster Wallace hanged himself this weekend.

In 1997, I moved back to my parents’ house in my small hometown from Boulder, Colorado after escaping a relationship to which I will show unearned kindness and describe as merely disastrous. Somehow, after short stints as a temporary high school office receptionist and a telemarketer at a memorial park, I wound up working first at the pizza restaurant where I waited tables in high school and then at the record store where I worked during the summers when I was in undergrad. I had regained all the weight I so victoriously lost my senior year in high school and kept off throughout college by rigorously courting an eating disorder. Within a week of returning home, I totaled my grandparents’ car. I was unbearably lonely. I was depressed, although unable to recognize that at the time.

And that’s when I first read Infinite Jest. My mother was a member of Quality Paperback Book Club, and could never remember to stop the book of the month shipment and so IJ arrived in our home and sat on a bookshelf in what had once been my bedroom but had been immediately transformed into an office when I left for college. The last minute addition of a day bed on my prodigal return made the tiny quarters fairly uses as either bedroom or office, but that’s where I slept. I remember that the book was in my line of sight in the morning, and I looked at it a lot as I laid in that day bed until the promise of a long, reality-suspending read and the resonance of the name’s clear applicability to my life prodded me to pull it off the shelf one meandering Saturday morning and see what the giant book with the cloudy cover was all about. I stayed in bed and read most of that day, and carried that heavy fucking thing around with me everywhere I went until I finished it two weeks later. Then I took a couple of weeks off and read it again. It would be a bit too dramatic for my tastes to say that Infinite Jest saved my life, but it certainly served as the closest thing to a friend that I had during one of the stupider periods of my adult life. And it would not be an overstatement to say that for the next year or two, I was deeply in love with David Foster Wallace.

I’ve re-read IJ three or so more times since then. To be honest, I don’t love the book as much as I used to, in part because it evokes those unpleasant feelings of intense loneliness that I felt when I first read the book. But it’s still a good read, and funny, and eerie, and prescient. It still paints a starkly accurate picture of addiction and depression. It still features a tennis academy with the motto, “They Can Kill You, but the Legalities of Eating You Are Quite a Bit Dicier.” For me, I would classify the rest of DFW’s books from exceptionally brilliant to nearly unreadable. And I’m not in love with him any more, although I will always think of him fondly.

But still.

I walked into the living room on Saturday and my husband said, “Did you see this?” and pointed to the computer screen. There was the AP headline “Novelist David Foster Wallace found dead.” It would not be an overstatement to say that my knees buckled a little, and I backed up half a step to sit down abruptly on our coffee table while I read the rest of the short article. Getting up, I noticed a white blobby smear of some substance on the table where I had been sitting. I craned my neck to inspect the back of my pants to discover that I had sat on a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, a forgotten snack that my husband neglected to return to the fridge.

It is meaningless that in my gentle grief at the lost of a dear old friend I sat on a wedge of processed Swiss cheese, but I found some solace in the absurdity anyway.


IMPORTANT EDIT: A savvy commenter politely reminded me that the MFA program at University of North Carolina Greensboro has produced some excellent authors of note, including NC poet laureate Kathryn Byer, Kelly Link, Steve Almond, Julianna Baggot, former NC poet laureate Fred Chappell, and Randall Jarrell. This commenter also made a point that bears repeated: “OSC certainly doesn’t represent the views of most GSO writers!”

I used to live in Greensboro, North Carolina, not far from the man himself, so although I appreciate the coverage at Feministe and The Slog, it is not news to me that Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe.

I used to occasionally read his “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything” column in ridiculous, bigoted Greensboro weekly The Rhino Times (I generally picked it up to read “The Beep” which served as a good reminder of political views of most of my neighbors, lest I get complacent and let down my guard). I read Ender’s Game because aside from O. Henry, Greensboro isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of literary accomplishment so I thought I should probably familiarize myself with the region’s more famous authors. And you know, whatever, it was alright. Not the best book I’d ever read, although it is where I learned the word “hegemony,” which really came in handy when writing about various forms of institutionalized discrimination for law school papers, so I guess I should be grateful for that.

So but anyway, I knew Orson Scott Card was a hateful homophobe because of Donna Minkowitz’s kind of heartbreaking Salon interview with Card from 2000:

“I find the comparison between civil rights based on race and supposed new rights being granted for what amounts to deviant behavior to be really kind of ridiculous. There is no comparison. A black as a person does not by being black harm anyone. Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted. And the idea of ‘gay marriage’ — it’s hard to find a ridiculous enough comparison. By the way, I’d really hate it if your piece wound up focusing on the old charge that I’m a homophobe.”

“What old charge?” I’ve never heard of it.

“It’s been raised before. It’s been circulating on the Internet for a long time. It’s really just one of those annoying things that happens. It’s really ugly!”

As the rest of Minkowitz’s article (and this recent piece in which Card basically accuses J.K. Rowling of stealing from Ender’s Game to create her Harry Potter series then goes on to pat himself on the back for not suing her, thus proving that she is a greedy bitch, or this one in which he whinges about his neighbors being mean to him because of a computer glitch that left his sprinklers set to water his lawn daily during a terrible drought while he was out of town) shows, not only is Orson Scott Card a hateful homophobe, he’s also a complete jackass.

So, in summary, if you really want to read Ender’s Game, get it from the library or buy it second hand, because otherwise, you will be serving to enrich Orson Scott Card, who is a hateful homophobe.

Another meme! This one is about books, from a blog that may turn into a book club, just you wait. You bold what you’ve read, italicize what you’ve started but can’t finish, and strike through what you couldn’t stand. (And I guess italicize and strike through what you started and dropped because you couldn’t stand it?)

The Aeneid

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
American Gods
Anansi Boys
Angela’s Ashes : A Memoir
Angels & Demons
Anna Karenina
Atlas Shrugged
The Blind Assassin
Brave New World
The Brothers Karamazov
The Canterbury Tales
The Catcher in the Rye
A Clockwork Orange

Cloud Atlas
Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Confusion
The Corrections
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crime and Punishment
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

David Copperfield
Don Quixote
Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Foucault’s Pendulum
The Fountainhead
Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
The God of Small Things
The Grapes of Wrath
Gravity’s Rainbow
Great Expectations
Gulliver’s Travels
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
The Historian : A Novel
The Hobbit
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Iliad
In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences

The Inferno
Jane Eyre
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
The Kite Runner

Les Misérables
Life of Pi : A Novel
Love in the Time of Cholera
Madame Bovary
Mansfield Park
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Mists of Avalon
Moby Dick
Mrs. Dalloway
The Name of the Rose

Northanger Abbey
The Odyssey
Oliver Twist
On the Road
The Once and Future King
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One Hundred Years of Solitude

Oryx and Crake : A Novel
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Poisonwood Bible : A Novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Pride and Prejudice
The Prince
Reading Lolita in Tehran : A Memoir in Books
The Satanic Verses
The Scarlet Letter
Sense and Sensibility
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Silmarillion
The Sound and the Fury

The Tale of Two Cities
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
The Three Musketeers
The Time Traveler’s Wife
To the Lighthouse
Treasure Island
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Vanity Fair
War and Peace
Watership Down
White Teeth
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Wuthering Heights
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry Into Values

Huh. Weird. There are a lot of books on this list that I’ve read, and not many I didn’t like.

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