Sunday, September 14, 2008

Author David Foster Wallace Found Dead, Suicide



CLAREMONT, Calif. - David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46.

Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department.

Wallace taught creative writing and English at nearby Pomona College.

"He cared deeply for his students and transformed the lives of many young people," said Dean Gary Kates. "It's a great loss to our teaching faculty."

Wallace's first novel, The Broom of the System, gained national attention in 1987 for its ambition and offbeat humor. The New York Times said the 24-year-old author "attempts to give us a portrait, through a combination of Joycean word games, literary parody and zany picaresque adventure, of a contemporary America run amok."

Published in 1996, "Infinite Jest" cemented Wallace's reputation as a major American literary figure. The 1,000-plus-page tome, praised for its complexity and dark wit, topped many best-of lists. Time Magazine named "Infinite Jest" in its issue of the "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005."

Wallace received a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 1997.

In 2002, Wallace was hired to teach at Pomona in a tenured English Department position endowed by Roy E. Disney. Kates said when the school began searching for the ideal candidate, Wallace was the first person considered.

"The committee said, 'we need a person like David Foster Wallace.' They said that in the abstract," Kates said. "When he was approached and accepted, they were heads over heels. He was really the ideal person for the position."

Wallace's short fiction was published in Esquire, GQ, Harper's, The New Yorker and the Paris Review. Collections of his short stories were published as "Girl With Curious Hair" and "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men."

He wrote nonfiction for several publications, including an essay on the U.S. Open for Tennis magazine and a profile of the director David Lynch for Premiere.

Born in Ithaca, N.Y., Wallace attended Amherst College and the University of Arizona.




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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Review: Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski


Brutal. Violent. Relentless. Fun. This could be easily be a four-word review, as these particular words go a long way in preparing you for Duane Swierczynski's third novel, out on the heels of The Blonde. Severance Package does a wonderful job of combining corporate office politics and the deadly world of nothing-is-as-it-seems espionage, raising the question of exactly which profession is more ruthless, cut throat, and soullessly ambitious. One would be tempting to describe it as a cross between The Office and Three Days of the Condor, but that would barely be doing it justice.

Duane Swierczynski’s writing style has one major asset that many authors tend to overlook these days: brevity. His descriptions are colorful and informative, yet they aren’t weighed down by their own poetic license. Characters and locations are set up and knocked down as quickly and efficiently as dominoes, without ever leaving the reader confused or unsatisfied.

Even the story itself, which takes place in the time frame of a few hours, is tight and compact, with all of the action and suspense layered delicately from beginning to end. Swierczynski’s storytelling style is as quick and hard hitting as a lead sap to the temple.

The comic book reminiscent illustrations scattered throughout the book are interesting and fun, even though some might find them a little distracting. Of course, considering that Swierczynski authored the Cable series for Marvel Comics, and is currently helming a six issue run of The Punisher in Garth Ennis’ absence, the presence of the silhouette artwork is understandable.

If you like your novels short, sweet, and chock full of balls-to-the-wall action, you should definitely not pass this one up. Just don’t forget to punch in.



Book Review: How the Rich are Destroying the Earth by Herve Kempf


With a title like this, most people are going to love or hate this book before they even crack open the cover. Polarizing and blunt, the name of the book is the bold declaration of Herve Kempf, and he spares no time in explaining in great detail why he believes this to be true.

The book is slim, a mere 105 pages, with another 17 pages on end notes. But he wastes no time with meandering prose or rampant speculation. Instead, he packs every page with scientific data, researched information, and educated predictions as to where these trends and figures will lead us if they are allowed to continue without intervention.

Some may call such a tome alarmist, but this will not be received negatively, for Kempf is indeed attempting to raise the alarm. His fear is that the rich and powerful of this increasingly global nation are not only depleting and destroying the finite natural resources and life sustaining ecosystem, but the fragile economic balance that keeps the majority of its citizens from being plunged into hopeless poverty and financial ruin.

The message is simple; the small percentage of rich and powerful billionaires who own the majority of the world's wealth are doing everything they can to amass even more, and at the detriment of every living thing on the planet except themselves. It doesn't matter the consequences, they live by three simple rules: Get It, Keep It, then Get More. It is an increasingly unpopular message, especially in an age where unfathomable wealth is easily promised with the click of a mouse, but Kempf does his best to spread the word. He demonstrates not only what damages they wreak upon the Earth and its populace intentionally and with disregard for human life and well being, but also the unintended results that greed and arrogance allow them to overlook.

Yes, most people will indeed judge this book merely by its cover. But that very may well be the point in the first place. If the title of this book angers you, then perhaps you are the one that should be reading it. You might just find yourself surprisingly enlightened.



Book Review: Mental Sharpening Stones by Jeffrey Gingold


Jeffrey Gingold, internationally acclaimed author and Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, has assembled an exceptional collection of articles and interviews featuring techniques for increasing and maintaining cognitive awareness.

The majority of the informative articles in this collection contain numerous helpful tips on how to keep mental faculties sharp and attentive, and ways to keep the stumbling blocks of Multiple Sclerosis from getting in the way of functioning professionally and privately. These include everything from mental exercises and organizational tips, to handy tools that can be utilized to cope with some of the physical setbacks, such as voice recognition programs for word processors.

If you or a loved one has MS, this book will prove to be a useful resource for day to day living.