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in Filmmaking
on Sep 14, 2008

I started to write more about David Foster Wallace but scrapped it. For all of its celebrated intellectual brilliance, Wallace’s writing always resolved itself on the simplest, most human terms while still vigilantly guarding itself against the ever present threats of lazy thinking, sentimentality and, as he discusses in the Kenyon address linked to below, our “default thinking.” I can’t summon up anything profound or summarizing about him or the news that he killed himself. I simply direct you to his own writings.

There is much on the web today about Wallace, including this round-up of links from GreenCine, that includes a remembrance from Glenn Kenny about working with Wallace on three pieces for Premiere. (One was his famous piece on the making of David Lynch’s Lost Highway.) The Howling Fantods is notating all of the tributes. And James Ponsoldt sent me this link this morning to a transcript of Wallace’s commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. It’s brilliant and beautiful and that Wallace could write this — could know this — and still not make it is crushing.

Here’s how he opens; please read the rest.

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

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