David Foster Wallace delivered a speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College (2005) in which he encouraged people to learn how to think. "Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” His style and themes aim at moving beyond metafiction and the self-consciousness associated with writing which deconstructs itself. His characters yearn for authentic voices in a world where we are saturated by messages from the media telling us what to think. Wallace's use of footnotes reminds me of Nabokov's Pale Fire, and his condemnation of "phonies" speaks a Salinger like language. Vocal and vigilant about the power of our mind to assign meaning, Wallace himself suffered with the paradox of despair and the awareness that the mind is "infinitely" capable of giving us freedom. In an interview with David McCaffery, Wallace said: “Look, man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?”
Let us then applaud the proclivity toward levity, with the awareness that for Wallace this proclivity was and is the avoidance of the despair which underpins and defines human life.