A Treatise on David Foster Wallace (12 of 90)

I am staring at David Foster Wallace tonight, surrounded by my newly filed writing projects for this semester.

I am staring at him because tomorrow I will be once again teaching his writing in my magazine class, wondering if the students really feel the warmth of his words as they spill across the page. Manic. Frenzied. Beautifully constructed in the way that a mind that can’t stop or can’t compress or can’t simply associate or can’t breathe is constructs beautiful-ness on the page.

I wonder if tomorrow they will understand that writing isn’t something that you do but something that you are. The words are not simply tools to convey some Universal Truth that you have that we are awaiting to hear, for the betterment of all Mankind. Thank goodness you finally arrived to tell us this one thing that we did not know before your accidental cosmic existence occurred because your parents, or the parents of the person sitting next to you, forgot to UnPlan you.

I wonder if tomorrow they will begin their journey into the un-forgiven world of metaphorical discussions, the un-relatedness of ideas that are crashed together and the simply solitude of the trying to both understand the fabrics of the cosmos without forgetting the minutia that makes us human.

I am staring at David Foster Wallace tonight, wondering if my students will find greatness in their words or simply paychecks.


Years before he killed himself, Wallace gave an interview to Charlie Rose where he discussed teaching college. It was, he said, fun in the beginning. Until he realized that the students had the desire (sometimes) but not the tools (always). That means teaching because teaching.

A long, slow, repetitive walk through the basic structures of writing. Fighting with a new group of eager (sometimes) but unprepared (always) students who show both their love and their hate in exactly the same ways.

Writing in that environment, he said, started to lose its meaning. Discussions of metaphorical allusions gave way to discussions of What Is A Metaphor in Week 5.

I have written about this phenomenon before. I am constantly reminded of that talk on the Eve of my Wallace class.


I spoke with two writers today, both of whom help me place myself back in the world where I belong. I teach, but I am a writer. I need to keep those writer friends of mine around me. I am not entirely sure why they need me, or if they need me, or why they need me. I don’t contemplate such things as often as I should.

Or maybe I shouldn’t. I simply know that when I see them – and I see them on Skype – my world feels more normal than it does when I don’t. They ground me in very simple ways that have nothing to do with Discussions On Metaphors in Week 5.

They ground me.


I have not had a more joyous day by myself in years. The world is a big place, and sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we don’t make it back. That is not me today.

I am sitting here with David Foster Wallace, remembering my last trip into the wilderness while I read about his. His trip that pushed my fragile, slighted mind – freshly sober and dry – into a months-long hallucinatory spiral, one that still raises the hair on my neck when I think of it.

I am not there anymore. Not now. Maybe I will return some day. I don’t anticipate the future any more than I regret my past. I am here now. I am joyous, happy and free. I am focused.

I am Myself.

I know this because I am sitting here with David Foster Wallace. Metaphorically.


Previously on blogs I have referenced David Foster Wallace: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (all Very Special Episodes)

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