David Foster Wallace remembered.

September 14, 2008

Writer David Foster Wallace hanged himself at his home in California on Friday, Sept. 12, 2008. He was 46.

Wallace had been scheduled to speak at Butler University in Indianapolis in February of next year. I was looking forward to his visit very much.

Wallace is probably best known for having written “Infinite Jest,” a sprawling novel primarily about drug and alcohol addiction. That book as well as his other works of fiction hinted at the author’s extremely self-conscious, hyperactive and sensitive mind. But “Infinite Jest” also had a number of laugh-out-loud moments, like this passage in which the narrator describes “a green-card Irishman in a skallycap and a Sinn Fein sweatshirt” addressing an AA meeting.

“[He] is sharing his hope’s experience by listing the gifts that have followed his decision to Come In and put the plug in the jug and the cap on the phentermine-hydrochloride bottle and stop driving long-haul truck routes in unbroken 96-hour metal-pedalled states of chemical psychosis. The rewards of his abstinence, he stresses, have been more than just spiritual. Only in Boston AA can you hear a fifty-year-old immigrant wax lyrical about his first solid bowel movement in adult life.

‘ ‘d been a confarmed bowl-splatterer for yars b’yond contin’. ‘d been barred from t’facilitites at o’t’ trook stops twixt hair’n Nork for yars. T’wallpaper in de loo a t’ome hoong in t’ese carled sheets froom t’wall, ay till yo. But now woon dey … ay’ll remaember’t’always. T’were a wake to t’day ofter ay stewed oop for me ninety-day chip. Ay were tray moents sober. Ay were thar on t’throne a’t’home, yo new. No’t’put too fain a point’on it, ay prodooced as er uzhal and … and ay war soo amazed as to no’t’belaven me yairs. ‘Twas a sone so wonefamiliar at t’first ay tought ay’d droped me wallet in t’loo, do yo new. Ay tought ay’d droped me wallet in t’loo as Good is me wetness. So doan ay bend twixt m’knays and’ad a luke in t’dim o’t’loo, and codn’t belave me’yize. So gud paple ay do then ay drope to m’knays by t’loo an’t’ad a rail luke. A loaver’s luke, d’yo new. And friends t’were loavely past me pur powers t’say. T’were a tard in t’loo. A rail tard. T’were farm an’ teppered an’ aiver so jaintly aitched. T’luked … constroocted instaid’ve sprayed. T’luked as ay fel’t’in me ‘eart Good ‘imsailf maint a tard t’luke. Me friends, this tard’o’mine practically had a poolse. Ay sted doan own m’knays an tanked me Har Par, which ay choose t’call me Har Par Good, an’ ay been tankin me Har Par own m’knays aiver sin, marnin and natetime an in t’loo’s’well, aiver sin.'”

You’ll be missed DFW.

Read Gawker commenters react to his passing here. Watch an interview with him on Charlie Rose here.


The Mr. T Experience: From punk to published.

August 14, 2008

I bought my first Mr. T Experience CD in the used bin of a long-defunct music store called One Music in Muncie, Indiana. The place was run and owned by an incredibly nice hippie dude with Allman Brothers hair and a soothingly soft voice, which at the time I chalked up to what I assumed was his access to high-quality mellowing dope. I ran into the fellow — his name was Jim, I think — when I was a college student at Ball State University student working as a “waiter” at the Sirloin Stockade steakhouse in Muncie. He told me he was going into the ministry, and I was forced to re-examine why he had such an admirably kind disposition.

Anyway, his record store was incredible, and Muncie hasn’t seen the likes of it since One Music closed it doors well over a decade ago. And it was thanks to him that I was introduced to the surprisingly agile mind of Dr. Frank, the lead singer of the Mr. T Experience, whose CD I bought solely on the strength of the band’s funny-as-hell (to my 19-year-old brain) name. That started the beginning of a love affair that would continue for a good five years, until I outgrew snotty Berkeley slacker-punk.

The Mr. T Experience were contemporaries of Green Day, and in my mind, better than them. But Dr. Frank lacked the vocals for a hit single, and his band — clever, rollicking, often hilarious — floundered in obscurity until, I assume, they broke up. To be honest, I stopped thinking about them years ago until recently a wild hair drove me to do a Google search on “Dr. Frank.”

To my surprise, although it’s really not that surprising at all, Dr. Frank — Frank Portman, it turns out — has become a pretty-good-selling author of juvenile literature. I haven’t read “King Dork” yet, but I plan to. And if you have a teenage kid battling awkward self-consciousness and insecurity, you should probably buy it, too.