The sad news of David Foster Wallace's death came as a particular shock to me, as I'm currently about 600 pages into Infinite Jest and have been planning a kind of retrospective-review for several weeks now. I can't add much to the reams of generous, thoughtful tributes that have surfaced in recent days, but I will say this: I came upon his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College only a few months ago, and I've come to value it very highly as a plea for kindness, understanding and awareness not just of self, but of the larger world. When I first read it, I was spending a good deal of time sitting at a desk in an office, walking the aisles of grocery stores, and driving alone in my car, and it was tempting to retreat into my own private obsessions and thoughts. How refreshing it was to read a message that was essentially moral without being high-and-mighty and to be reminded of the largeness of the sea in which we all swim.
My heart goes out to his wife and family, his former students, and to all those at Pomona College and elsewhere who are now deprived of a chance to share in his wisdom.