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Want To Maximize Popularity Like David Foster Wallace? Just Hang Yourself

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It goes without saying that the death of anyone is sad. Then again, maybe not, because if I didn’t preface this with “it goes without saying,” then I did in fact say it. So maybe it doesn’t go without saying, which needs not be explained. Has this introduction gotten self-referential enough for you?

Because it should be enough for fans of David Foster Wallace, an author who I swear I’d never heard of until his death by self-hanging last week. The depths of top media outlets have, in response, spawned a bevy of praise has hit the Internet. (Remember when they talked about Steve Fossett’s death, and you felt left out?)

So now I’ve heard of him. And you, too, can expose your brilliant works of art to the mainstream public just like David Foster Wallace. All you have to do is hang yourself in a fit of postmodern irony.

(Note: Blogcritics Magazine and it subsidiaries do not condone the hobby of wearing a noose. Please consult a doctor before attempting suicide.)

It might have been his intent. Or not. All I know is that Infinite Jest has shot up to #10 on Amazon’s bestseller list as of Tuesday evening. This, of course, is the case for anyone who dies, even for people like Kurt Vonnegut, who had already lived a full life and written a full library at the time of his death. I suppose this blends Hunter S. Thompson into the gray area between being in one’s prime and dying peacefully.

So where does this put a brilliant man who nobody knows about, such as — oh — me? Well, I’m probably too young to commit self-lynchery. For one, I’ve yet to birth an illegitimate child, who grows up to both spurn me and generate amazing writing of his own. I’ve also never been married, which means I have no estranged wife whose name will be the highly empathetic antagonist in my signature book.

But the downside would be that I couldn’t revel in the popularity. I could fake the death, but I’d have to admire the book sales from afar. I wouldn’t be able to speak to starstruck fans, sign autographs, or my biggest dream — be seduced by a girl who is in love with me and my writing, only to reject her because I can do better.

Then what’s the point? Why’d you do it, Mr. Wallace? Maybe he was generally depressed and bored with life. It’s tragic, yes, for him to take it so many years before he’s done with it, but on the flip side he’s encouraged me, a guy who never heard of him prior to this week, to be genuinely curious about his works. The man might be twisted enough to appreciate that effect.

Then again, it’s probably coarse to mention the business aspect of someone’s suicide a week after it happened. Which means the topic probably goes without saying.

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About Suss

  • http://www.ken-lowery.com Ken Lowery

    Your ignorance of a topic or person does not make that topic or person silly. But I guess your position as a former sports editor makes you qualified to… sorry, I can’t finish that sentence.

    Man, what silly tripe.

  • Kathryn Hedgepeth

    Dear Matt,

    Please read the books.

    Best regards,
    Kathryn Hedgepeth

  • Jose Morales

    I’m still not sure as to the intent of this post. Is it denouncing the idea that mainstream media ignores literary figures until they pass away? Or that the average person doesn’t bother with a writer’s work until they are sensationalized by said media (which explains why more people are familiar with someone like Dan Brown than David Foster Wallace)? Perhaps by distastefully implying that Wallace’s self-demise was little more than a marketing ploy (a repugnant thing to suggest, even in jest) Sussman means to deride the idea of suicide in general.

    It must be one or more of the above, because naked jealousy would be a piss-poor reason for this article to exist.

  • Anonymous

    Beyond tasteless.

  • SJ

    I congratulate you on your stupidity that doesn’t even allow you to recognize what stupidity it takes to write such an article.

    David Foster Wallace was recognized nationwide as one of the most important literary authors in America. His essays, published in Harper’s Magazine (I am not sure if you’ve heard of that important publication or not), were filled with wit and questions about contemporary American life. His fiction was funny, wry, tender, and provoking. It had an important influence on writers such as David Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, and many others of his generation as well as the one immediately following.

    David Foster Wallace’s death is not noteworthy for the unfortunate and sad circumstances surrounding it but because his death is a sad passing of a major intellectual. As such, Americans have lost a writer who has already contributed a great deal, but one whose youth meant he could have written many more interesting pieces if he had lived to an old age. Those who are saddened by his death, including myself, do not thrill at the sensationalistic nature of suicide, but genuinely mourn the death of one of the brightest contemporary writers in America.

  • Tom Lynn

    Matt,

    I read Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again before he died. They’re incredible books. I plan on reading more of his stuff, because I really like it. For you to exhibit this degree of professional jealousy (I’m assuming you fancy yourself a writer) over a great writer who was never really that famous is completely absurd. I’m not seeing a lot of media coverage over his death, so what’s your point?

    Get over your pride in never having read his books and read them, as Kathryn suggested. They’re hilarious, sad, and brilliant. At least have an informed opinion.

    Finally: You’re kinda cynical. And dumb.

    Tom Lynn

  • Daniel Saez

    My God…

    Don’t read his books. You’re going to miss the point anyway…

    DFW was a literary genius. A widely known author and his books were translated into many foreign languages.

    You`re dumb. And obviously ignorant of the literary movement in your country.

    Regards,

    DS

  • laura

    This is really tasteless.

  • Xenzi

    Hello Matt,

    this is the first time I`ve been on this website. I see that you are a sports expert, so you can`t be expected know anything about David Foster Wallace, which means you would be expected to write a pretty heartless, ignorant article about him, which is perfectly fine.

    But why publish it?

    Xenzi

  • Alex E.

    If you had never heard of him, then why write about him after he dies? That’s a jerk off thing to do. This article is nothing. Reader: If you’ve scrolled down far enough to read this post you should leave one of your own (because obviously you care) and let’s let this ignoramus have it.

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/39420/joanne_huspek.html Joanne Huspek

    Hmm… Unlike the other respondents, I found this article to be quite wry. While I have respect for Wallace’s work, the irony is not lost on me.

  • Pharmakos

    Don’t read much?

  • willy

    Or for those who cannot produce works of art &/or do not wish to kill themselves, piggyback on the tragic deaths of those who do.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Um … no! You’re all the ones who are stupid!

  • SJ

    Mr. Sussman,

    You wrote an article in which you callously implied that a writer who suffered from a debilitating depression committed suicide as a marketing ploy.

    Then you committed a fatal error in logic by explicitly saying that it is suicide, and other forms of death, that creates a writer’s fame.

    On the contrary, the death of a writer is only noted when the writer is already recognized. Obituaries in national papers are not written for obscure writers.

    Your article is flawed in logic. Moreover, you failed to do even the lightest research on David Foster Wallace before using Wallace’s death as a platform for your own twisted understanding of fame and what it might mean to be a writer.

    I saw David Foster Wallace speak a couple of years ago. Besides his innovative writing, Wallace was also known as a writer who disliked publicity and considered consumerism of art as something to be shunned (in fact, he spoke partly on that the night I saw him). As such, anybody who is a fan of his writing had very few opportunities to see Wallace in public.

    There might be readers who haven’t heard of David Foster Wallace or don’t know much about him and could read your article. By writing an article that does not take into account Wallace’s understanding of writing, but implying the exact opposite of the way Wallace approached writing, you malign Wallace and do a disservice to the reader.

    All forms of journalism, whether in print or online, should be held to a certain standard of facts. You have ignored all standards. Perhaps it is only an “opinion” piece. But even then, opinions worth considering are the ones based on facts as well as an interesting perspective.

    Additionally, any writer worth his salt would know that the foundation of writing is keen observation, something sorely missing in your piece.

    SJ

  • Ivan Bellman

    Wow… I was just thinking how I could not bring myself to share my personal feelings on the topic of Wallace’s death or reading his work b/c it would somehow be glomming on to coattails of his room temperature corpse. How does your post benefit you or the world, except by gaining a moment of celebrity amongst his outraged fans?

    You, sir, are truly sad.

    ~IB

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “You wrote an article in which you callously implied that a writer who suffered from a debilitating depression committed suicide as a marketing ploy.

    Then you committed a fatal error in logic by explicitly saying that it is suicide, and other forms of death, that creates a writer’s fame.”

    I never implied the first — only said it was possible — and never even came close to saying the second.

    Which must mean, with no errors in logic whatsoever, that you absolutely loved my article. I thank you for your support, and will continue to crank out the best I can offer!

  • TL

    I noticed that you commented back to all (Comment 14, above);

    “Um … no! You’re all the ones who are stupid!”

    Wow, great comeback. [Edited]

  • km

    Wow. Pathetic. This article gives brainless, ill-informed, grossly inappropriate blogging a bad name.

    I wouldn’t worry about becoming famous as a writer, Matt Sussman–it’s safe to say it won’t happen to you whether you decide to kill yourself or not.

  • Pete

    Seriously, you’d never heard of David Foster Wallace?

  • David Hobart

    Youre a writer and youve onhestly never heard of David Foster Wallace?

    Doesnt matter cause youre a sportswriter? Well so was he, and a damn good one at that who didnt rely on snark and shock value to get his point across like you and all the other mini Jim Romes that litter the internet.

    read this and then disprove your thesis please

  • TL

    It’s laughable that you try to come off as this controversial shoot from the hip type, and yet I make a sincere inquiry as to whether or not you are retarded and the editors remove it to protect your delicate sensibilities.

    I guess I shouldn’t ask you again.

  • http://kingofballs.blogspot.com/ K.B.

    Why was the comment where Mr. Sussman says that the folks posting under his name before (e.g. the comment “Um … no! You’re all the ones who are stupid!”) removed? Was it not true? While Sussman’s article was ridiculous, he didn’t really say THAT, did he? Because, the comment is still here, but the claim that it and the other two (one removed–the profane one) are still present. Who moderates this? Not Mr. Sussman, I guess?

    On topic to Mr. Sussman: Just read some of his work, okay? I recommend starting with Broom of the System, even. Or the short stories in Girl with Curious Hair. Or, you could even read non-fiction in his treatise on infinity called “Everything and More.”

    Broom of the System was written well before he was known for anything. Same with Girl with Curious hair. Just read them, with an open mind if at all possible after all these attacks. I don’t care what you think about his suicide, just read his work, for your own sake. You’ll like it, I almost promise.

    I am the King of Balls.

  • Juliann Mitchell

    Hi Matt,
    It is quite fascinating to read your article and then see the responses which were impassioned to say the least. You know you struck about a hundred nerves with many of the commenters who were quick to point out the merits of Wallace’s work. I thinks it takes courage to write a piece that people might not appreciate. Keep writing and just remember controversy sells.

  • Alex E.

    If you Matt Sussman, would like to gain a bit of notoriety, perhaps you could come over. I’d kick you in the teeth. We could film it. Put it on YouTube and we could see if you become famous. Seriously. Remove this article. It’s trash and you are uninformed. Writing about people who have made a substantial contribution to American prose after their death is not analogous with writing about your losing money on a Nascar bet. The fact that you had never heard of David Foster Wallace proves your ignorance. What college did you go to? Infinite Jest is in as heavy rotation as On the Road, A Catcher in the Rye and Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But you’ve probable never heard of that last book either. It’s been compared to Ulysses for christsake. Remove the article.

  • SJ

    Mr. Sussman,

    Just because you feel comfortable writing about a topic without having read the necessary sources first doesn’t mean that other people do likewise.

    You write:
    “I never implied the first — only said it was possible –”

    Do you know the definition of imply? You wrote in your article:

    “And you, too, can expose your brilliant works of art to the mainstream public just like David Foster Wallace. All you have to do is hang yourself in a fit of postmodern irony.It might have been his intent. Or not.”

    Your disingenuous “Or not” does not undo your intentional misreading of David Foster Wallace’s final act. Of course you meant to suggest that his suicide was a ploy for attention as that is the hook on which your article hangs.

    While you are understandably inclined to be defensive about the negative comments to your article, you should consider that you wrote a rash article without research and without empathy for a fellow human being who committed suicide after two decades of depression.

    On the one hand, I feel inclined to defend David Foster Wallace as a great writer. Yet, I need not defend Wallace at all as his writing speaks for itself. Anyone who has read Wallace would recognize its value and contribution to literature.

    On the other hand, I find your article a shallow and substanceless attempt to be a contrarian without any regard for the end of a human life. Your article attempted to devalue David Foster Wallace and his contributions; in the end, you’ve shown your inability to understand the value of human life and empathy.

    Those who called you cynical labeled you correctly. If you wish to write something of value, perhaps you should consider valuing something and someone besides yourself.

    There are many great writers, living and dead. If you continue to think that any writer unknown to you cannot be great, you confine yourself to your own ignorance. You might want to consider whether you want genuine intellectual growth. Or not.

    SJ

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Why write this? Really low. The thesis itself is pretty lame, and the title just demonstrates an almost complete lack of empathy or taste. You are capable of better, Matt. For shame, man.

  • Pete Jr

    “The man might be twisted enough to appreciate that effect.”

    No, he likely would have been bored by your repugnance.

  • Edwin G. Walls

    DFW was very well-regarded before his death and justifiably well-regarded after. To suggest that his suicide is a marketing tool suggests that you have very little knowledge of DFW and his work, and perhaps should have withheld criticism until learning a little more.

  • Edwin G. Walls

    I would also like to add that a writer who does not really know who DFW is (or was) is like a physicist not really knowing who Einstein was. It is kind of a self-admission of ignorance of one’s vocation. But even worse, the article is simply tasteless, insensitive, unnecessary and irrelevant.

  • Patricia Gauss

    Someday when (if) you grow up (and you have a LONG way to go), you will be ashamed you ever wrote and published such an article. You are ignorant, uninformed, and immature.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Matt,
    I can’t imagine why you would write a piece like this…..

    Wallace was a brilliant writer, known to quite a few readers, both serious and not. A man with a wife and family.

    He certainly didn’t kill himself to increase his popularily.

    Publishing this makes blogcritics look really really bad.

    It’s infantile and really dumb. What on earth were you thinking?

  • Paul

    Ugly and shameful.

  • sad man

    I’d love to write something that would convey how strangely emblematic your piece is with regard to DFW and his writing. He struggled with honesty, celebrity, irony, and cynicism. You provide a dissertation worth of material in your headline alone.

    I guess it’s the difference between writing to pay the bills and writing because it’s in your blood. Good luck with your career and if you get the chance: check out some of DFW’s sports writings. A few tennis articles, as well as a review of Tracy Austin’s book. They elevate the genre. j

  • Read the books.

    Tasteless drivel. Glad you attached your own name to this piece, Matt.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chris_mcv Chris McVetta

    “Oh, angry mob, is there no problem that you cannot solve with your outrage and torches?” — Jon Stewart

    Well, I have to say, that I understand where Mr. Suss was going with this. And I also understand that there is a certain line that you never cross. There’s a comedic “fine line” between making jokes abot 9/11 and The Spanish Inquisition. The first rule of comedy is this: Never joke about things that are TOO SOON.

    Matt makes some clever observations, no doubt. That being said, there are still a lot of loyal readers out there who will get upset about ragging on a cherished writer (as well as a fellow human being) who, no doubt, although extremely talented …had some deep emotional issues (and that, my friends, cannot be discounted).

    It’s “the Kurt Cobain rule.” Take this observation for what it’s worth…

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Actually, the first rule of comedy is be funny.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Dane Cook thought it was, “You don’t have to be funny as long as you’re remotely sexy and extremely loud.”

  • Alex E.

    Haha, how about this for irony? Matt Suss is quoting Dane Cook of all people. The problem is Matt, this article wasn’t funny. Not at all. Stick to sports [Gratuitous vulgarity deleted by Comments Editor].

  • http://infinitejesterings.blogspot.com/2008/09/dead-at-46-david-foster-wallace-hanged.html Aaron Brewington

    I wasn’t going to post a response to this article since it is tactless, its thesis confusing, its writer [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] gives sports writers a bad name by trying to capitalize on things he is not qualified to write about, etc., but as a person who writes professionally about sports, I just couldn’t stop myself from saying shut up.

    Your little experiment is over, [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] and you have a bunch of little angry comments here to prove that you are “somebody.” Yes, as your article sort of ignorantly implies, negative attention is attention and therefore good. Toddlers know this and act out based on it. But, “it goes without saying,” that wasn’t his “point” and I find your assessment a sad and lonely philosophy to grab onto since it basically shows a desperation for things that are going to leave you feeling hollow in the long run.

    I also don’t like being implicated with the likes of sports people like you, the author of this essay, who probably never touched a ball or made the team and terribly wanted to be a “jock” for all that it represents. People forget that DFW, the guy you were writing about, was a college athlete and even wrote sports articles. Don’t write anything like this again, please.

  • Sarah

    Matt,

    If I was in your current position, I would have realised by this point in time that I had made a serious error in writing this article. From all the negative response to your piece of writing, it is obvious that people view your writing as not solely controversial, but laughable. There are some opinions expressed like yours, which are conveyed in such a way that even though the reader may not agree with them, they can accept that it is a good piece of writing; however the majority of readers cannot respect you in this way. You have allowed yourself to be made a fool by your own hand. I’m sixteen, and even I can recognise that you should stop arguing now, do the honourable thing and simply eat your words. If I can see this, why can’t you? Arguing for the sake of arguing is a petty thing to do.

    As a writer, do you have no pride in your work? It would make me cringe to write a piece like this, after having merely read one piece by DFW. His commencement speech reached out to me, his style so easy-going, his meaning made so plain – it had me hooked from the first paragraph. I’ve read more of his work since then, and I feel that if you had read anything by this man you wouldn’t be able to write such an article. Even though you never plainly state your opinion, and organise your thoughts into ‘probabilities’ and ‘theories’, your intention is made clear and it is still highly insulting to the death of a great and highly respected author. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Insulting a man after his death in this way shows weakness and cowardice. Would you dare to write such an insensitive piece on a man of his standing in society while he was alive? Or better yet, in a national newspaper? Here lies my point: you shouldn’t write trash like this, if you know that you would never do so in the previous situations I mentioned, because as a writer you are in a position to spread your knowledge to those less informed. By writing such a sloppy piece, by lacking research and accuracy, you are spreading bullshit. As somebody studying English I’m horrified to read this sort of article. Not just because of its content, but generally by your ethic.

    I don’t know, you may be one of those guys who doesn’t give a damn what people think about your writing – if you are, then tell me… what are you writing for? They say that this cut throat world can manipulate an honest man’s judgement over time, and gosh I sure hope that I don’t end up being like you. You should know how much the media can spin things the way they want. I have a friend who’s so affected by weight issues brought up in the media, and maybe that’s why I feel so strongly about the media’s responsibility to the people.

    I’ve made this way too long, and other people have been far more eloquent. But I can’t believe that I spent so much time writing this to an undeserving man like you.

    The sad thing is, they’re probably going to cut out half of this, even though I believe that a person like you, could really use criticism like this.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ever-on ST

    Wow, it’s almost like a scene in a David Foster Wallace piece playing out, set to rewind/ff/play at the same time.

    Almost.

  • Jesus

    “Personal attacks are not allowed,” it says above.

    Remarkable, given the personal attack you’ve perpetrated here on a wonderful human being and the people who loved him.

    You should instead pray that you one day possess the smallest fraction of his kindness, humility and humanity. And even with someone like you, miracles happen, and this may one day be possible.

    But for you to ever have the smallest fraction of his talent and reputation? Well, keep praying…

  • Jaideep Dave

    Want To Maximize Popularity Like David Foster Wallace? Just Hang Yourself

    Or, if that’s too hard, you can always write, ‘Want to Maximize Popularity Like David Foster Wallace?…’

    Seriously, I had never heard of a cretin ‘Matthew Sussman’ before I read the ‘Want to Maximize Popularity Like David Foster Wallace? Just Hanging Yourself’ piece. But now, I know who Sussman is.

    On a more serious note, get a frigging life!

  • Joseph Ross

    Real writers’ works are published on paper.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Real writers’ works are published on paper.

    Thank god I have a printer.