David Foster Wallace

I’m not overly familiar with the work of David Foster Wallace, although I did appreciate the piece he wrote for the Atlantic on the American Idea. With his suicide, though, have come a number of appreciations on the Internet, and one of these led me to the following commencement speech by Wallace. It’s well worth reading.

Here’s an excerpt dealing with what I like to call “the bookkeeping”:

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.