[LISTENED TO: October 19, 2010] David Foster Wallace Eulogies
There are some really nice eulogies done for when DFW died. The official (written) memorial service eulogies (from Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, George Saunders and others) are available here (from an outstanding online journal called Five Dials). They’re all beautiful (I was amused that the second longest one comes from DFW’s editor!).
The audio eulogies are available at The David Foster Wallace Audio Project. They include two very long full length ceremonies and several news (NPR mostly) reports. And there’s a lengthy interview with David’s sister, Amy, which is by far the most moving one.
The first of the lengthy pieces is the ceremony from Amherst. It consists of colleagues, friends and students all telling stories about DFW. And their collective memories join together to create a great portrait of the man; things that you’d never know about him (except you kind of would) from reading his work. The thing that really struck me from this memorial was just how many friends he had. This seems like an insult but it isn’t meant to be; rather, the impression I had was that he was quite a solitary man, holing up with his dogs and his pens. But the stories and love from his friends during his college years especially are really quite nice to hear, and showcase a side of him that he left out of his work (except, of course, really he didn’t).
The second long piece is from the Kelly Writers House Program. I don’t know much about the program, and I don’t know if DFW had any direct connection to it. But as the moderator explains, this was a group of students who wanted to acknowledge DFW. They read bits of his stories amidst much (deserved) laughter. Although the affair is solemn, the tone is not, and it’s a very nice chance to hear excerpts of works you may not get to hear elsewhere (it’s also interesting to hear students reading the stories–in so many varied styles).
The remainder of the short pieces on the list include memories of individuals who are attending one of the memorials (not sure which one or who the people are, but they have very heartfelt observations) and radio shows.
The TTBOOK Remembrance compiles excerpts from all of the shows that he did with them into an hour-long tribute. The others are short pieces (usually about 2 minutes) from NPR: All Things Considered, Fresh Air (which runs a bit longer and is from an interview that I hadn’t heard elsewhere) and a bit with D.T. Max (based on his New Yorker piece).
Listening to them wasn’t as depressing as one might think. Although the Amy Wallace Havens interview is pretty moving (and almost seems like it was too soon to talk to her). But it includes amazing insights and wonderful stories about his relationship with her (the car ride is particularly wonderful).
Coming away from these, you really appreciate that his suicide wasn’t a cowardly act, that he had suffered with this depression for a long time. The fact that he was able to produce such amazing work was remarkable. While it is undoubtedly sad for us as readers that we’ll not be getting all of the wondrous things he would have written, we should also consider us lucky that he was able to write as much as he did. (Obviously, it goes without saying that his friends and family suffered far more than we as readers did).
And, as an added bonus, a lot of the speakers mentioned books and authors and even music that meant something to DFW. It was useful as a short list of interesting works that are worth checking out.
[UPDATE: October 28, 2010] I had intended to write a bit more about the Amy Wallace-Havens interview. The unedited version online is really a wonderful thing to hear. True it is sad, but it is also funny. And it reveals a lot of little details about DFW that no one else would ever know (that he was an incredible mimic is a wondrous piece of information). But I think for me the most fun detail is that she reveals some of his favorite bands: Pearl Jam, Madness (!), The Flaming Lips and this wonderful nugget: he listened to Fun Boy Three’s cover of “Our Lips Are Sealed” over and over again one summer. Cool.