Cory Leonard

Revisiting David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College Address

In career on March 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm

I find Wallace to have given an insightful and kind convocation speech–in a field that is notable for its superfluity and self-gratification. But this view from Tom Bissell makes me sad to see how much this thought-provoking and truth-telling talk was really about the speaker himself.

Wallace was often accused, even by his admirers, of having a weakness for what Nabokov once referred to as “the doubtful splendors of virtuosity.” Standing before the graduates of Kenyon College, Wallace opted for a tonal simplicity only occasionally evident in the hedge mazes of his fiction. He spoke about the difficulty of empathy (“Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of”), the importance of being well adjusted (“which I suggest to you is not an accidental term”) and the essential lonesomeness of adult life (“lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation”). Truthful, funny and unflaggingly warm, the address was obviously the work of a wise and very kind man. At the edges, though, there was something else — the faint but unmistakable sense that Wallace had passed through considerable darkness, some of which still clung to him, but here he was, today, having beaten it, having made it through.

via Essay – David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College Address – Great and Terrible Truths –


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