(15 Sep 2008 at 18:39)
|DAMMIT. I was just today thinking about how much of a genius this dude is/was.|
David Foster Wallace eats it in apparent suicide
|this was a real shock. i have read very little by him, but tried to get into him because i liked pynchon and nabokov and heard him linked to them. i liked him from npr and charlie rose interviews. it seemed like he did 'i want to really, really understand' better than anyone.
it's bothersome he couldn't use his smarts to survive and be happy--i don't mean to say this in a judgmental way, simply as an observation that sometimes smart people have trouble their smarts seem unable to deal with. with intelligence like his, i suppose i thought naively, any problem would crumble. i find it deeply bothersome this might not always be the case.
|Did you finish Infinite Jest? If you haven't, perhaps that can be a final tribute to him?|
|I guess he wasn't a genius.|
If you haven't read his essays, I recommend them highly. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is awesome; Consider the Lobster is pretty good too.
|I'd never heard of him. Why do I only find out about cool people once they die?
Maybe someone could give me a list of novelists, comedians, and musicians to hurry and familiarize myself with before they die. I'd appreciate that.
|Scott: I feel that way too. Most recently happened to me with Mitch Hedberg. No idea such a funny guy existed until he didn't.|
|Richard Wright today too! At least that dude was old.|
|"...Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
"This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."
--david foster wallace at his speech at kenyon college--the link: http://www.marginalia.org/dfw_kenyon_commencement.html
death by being too cerebral? the tool of intelligence that seems a powerful tool ends up in some cases to cause some kind of terrible pain? the phrase "infinite jest" came from hamlet apparently, which is apropos.
|Yes, from the "Alas poor Yorick" line. I actually don't like the title of that book, though I will admit to feeling a little bit better about it with time. I am basically just not a Shakespeare fan. (Except that one of my all-time favorites is his, also from Hamlet: "Brevity is the soul of wit.")
I'd say the thing that's most disturbing to me (I mean suicide is almost always sad and it's sad to lose a great writer) is to see how frequently people that I consider much smarter than me, like people that I imagine really get it, end up depressed and sometimes suicidal. I am not close to that kind of bleak worldview, but I hate to think that if I were only able to understand something that I don't, that I would feel that way too?
|When I was around 12 and being evaluated for possible depression, a counselor told me research had shown depressed people had more realistic worldviews than the rest of us. (Which of course led me to believe: Then I'm fine. Everyone else is an idiot.)
Nowadays, I don't believe that statement. I mean, there is stuff in life that's both bad and unavoidable, and it may take some smarts to realize that, but why make a big deal out of it?
Keeping things in perspective requires a different kind of intelligence that I guess even geniuses can struggle with.
|Given that drug treatment for depression often involves getting certain neurotransmitter levels up, or changing receptor efficiency, maybe there's some kind of brain chemistry connection between those that seem smart and developing depression? |
|Yeah, I've heard that too Scott, the thing about 'depressive realism'. I'm inclined to believe it. I guess we humans tend to have a bias towards overconfidence in our judgments, and depression seems a natural tincture for that.
I guess my attitude is our minds are instrumental and if a certain way of thinking makes you miserable, it makes sense to try to stop it unless there's some compensating benefit. Thinking positive does actually really make you feel better. Thank you cognitive psychology!
It sounds like DFW had depression that was really intractable, given he was using electroshock therapy, which I guess is usually only used when two antidepressants don't work. DFW seemed smart enough to understand depression inside and out, so I'm inclined to think he was just up against a tough disease that got him and what can you do?