I’m not trying to make this blog into a David Foster Wallace memorial wall; this will probably be my last post on the subject. But I did want to publicize the fact that Harper’s has now made all their DFW material publicly readable in .pdf, including one of his finest stories, “The Depressed Person,” and one of his finest pieces of comic reportage, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” listed here under its original title, “Shipping Out.”
And via Cosmic Variance, this quote from DFW’s book Everything and More:
n modern medical terms, it’s fairly clear that G. F. L. P. Cantor suffered from manic-depressive illness at a time when nobody knew what this was, and that his polar cycles were aggravated by professional stresses and disappointments, of which Cantor had more than his share. Of course, this makes for less interesting flap copy than Genius Driven Mad By Attempts To Grapple With ∞. The truth, though, is that Cantor’s work and its context are so totally interesting and beautiful that there’s no need for breathless Prometheusizing of the poor guy’s life. The real irony is that the view of ∞ as some forbidden zone or road to insanity — which view was very old and powerful and haunted math for 2000+ years — is precisely what Cantor’s own work overturned. Saying that ∞ drove Cantor mad is sort of like mourning St. George’s loss to the dragon; it’s not only wrong but insulting.
This is an important and correct thing to say about math, and about what happened to David Foster Wallace last weekend.