David Foster Wallace and Zachary Gray

My friend Tracy called me to tell me when David Foster Wallace died. She and her husband introduced me to DFW's work in the first place, loaning me their ten-pound copy of Infinite Jest, and I had the sense she felt in some way responsible for the dismay I was going to be feeling over this news. Trouble was, I felt no dismay.

I only recently realized why DFW's death doesn't upset me. I realized it because last week I re-read all the Austin chronicles by Madeline L'Engle, and for the first time I really grasped that there will never be another installment in the story of Vicki Austin and her absurdly religious yet endearing family, because L'Engle died last year.

You don't feel the death of an artist until you've wrung every drop of meaning and enjoyment from his or her work and start looking around greedily for more. (With L'Engle, I still have all her books for adults to read, but that doesn't comfort me when I think that I'll never find out what happens to Poly O'Keefe or Zachary Gray.) It's going to be a long, long time before I can confidently say I've really absorbed Infinite Jest, and until that time, David Foster Wallace will not be dead for me.

As for L'Engle: thank goodness for Hollywood, which will go on making crappy, crappy films of twelve-year-old-me's favorite novels long after the author is gone. Hooray!


Jared Padalecki, you can flop your hair all you want: you are not and will never be Zachary Gray.