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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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The London Review of Books has just published a blog post entitled Wallace v. the Terrible Master. You can read the full article here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2010/03/16/alex-abramovich/wallace-v-the-terrible-master/ My concern is that, in every recent web publication on the author, the only aspect of his life in which people are interested, is his death. I have to admit that I was particularly incensed by this article which, having provided a citation from Wallace on postmodernism and the cliche therein, moves to state that "[i]n the event, Wallace chose another cliché for himself; nailed his belt to a patio rafter, stood on a lawn chair, and kicked." At what point did the deeply personal and troubled act of killing oneself become a cliche? Sarah Kane is another writer who springs to mind on this topic, her plays have, once more, been overshadowed by her death. Indeed, if there is one piece of academic writing on this author which I believe everyone should read it is: (2002) "The Mythology of Sarah Kane: How to avoid reading 4.48 Psychosis as a Suicide Note", Anglo Files: Journal of English Teaching (The Danish Association of Teachers of English), December, 35-42. This is not to say that Wallace's death is unimportant, unconnected to his work, or unworthy of discussion. It is, however, not the only facet worth noting. Addiction, pain, love and suicide are as much a part of Infinite Jest as Wallace's personal life. His books also provide a disconnected environment in which it is appropriate to discuss these themes. Talking about a fictional suicide as cliched is unproblematic and may well be extrapolated into the wider context. Talking about a man's ultimate act as though it were a literary device, is insensitive, crass and seems to imply -- in this age of analysis -- that the pain of personal experience should be reduced to words on a page. So, in a haze of ironic awareness that I have just written a post entirely about Wallace's death, I would ask for "The Mythology of David Foster Wallace: Infinite Jest is Not a Suicide Note."