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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

At McSweeney's, they're eulogizing David Foster Wallace. Here's Zadie Smith:

He was my favourite. I didn't feel he had an equal amongst living writers. We corresponded and met a few times but I stuttered and my hands shook. The books meant too much to me: I was just another howling fantod. In person, he had a great purity. I had a sense of shame in his presence, though he was meticulous about putting people at their ease. It was the exact same purity one finds in the books: If we must say something, let's at least only say true things.1 The principle of his fiction, as I understand it. It's what made his books so beautiful to me, and so essential. The only exception was the math one, which I was too stupid to understand. One day, soon after it was published, David phoned up, sincerely apologetic, and said: "No, look ... you don't need anything more than high school math, that's all I really have." He was very funny. He was an actual genius, which is as rare in literature as being kind—and he was that, too. He was my favourite, my literary hero, I loved him and I'll always miss him.

1 And let's say them grammatically.

—Zadie Smith