I was perusing the bookshelf for something to read. There was a hefty novel by David Foster Wallace. He was one of those writers you’re supposed to read so I picked it up. My Love Interest saw me reading it and mentioned that she never got through it, but she also had a commencement speech by Wallace that was published as a short book called This Is Water. You can read it by clicking here.
The gist of it is that life is shallow and empty if you don’t have empathy for other people. Solid advice, but the part that got me were the following two passages…
” It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.”
”Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head.”
He was speaking about how life can be tedious and routine if you don’t respect what’s important, not the rat race, but other people. Those words have a different context when you become aware that a few years after giving this speech David Foster Wallace killed himself.
I considered that the book was published before his suicide, but in the author bio they write that David Foster Wallace died in 2008. But they don’t mention the cause of death.
To sell a book as a piece of inspiration only to learn that these inspirational words were not believed by the speaker is awfully depressing. But even worse is the fact that Wallace nonchalantly mentions suicide not once, but twice without the editors informing readers that he did in fact kill himself. This makes the publishing of this book seem like a most cynical enterprise. Either the editors assumed readers already knew Wallace’s fate and would see the irony of his words or they figured such a bummer ending to his positivity would harm their sales figures.
Either way to read that the only reason not to kill yourself is to realize you’re not the center of the universe and then to learn the man who spoke this sentiment did kill himself leaves you wondering, what exactly is the point?
I guess according to Little, Brown and Company, the publisher of this book, the point is whoever has the most money in the end wins, dignity be damned.