My wife bought me a copy of "the book with the cruise essay in it" just two months ago. I was told that it was ridiculous that I hadn't read it before. Or that I hadn't read anything by you before.
I've heard your name countless times in the papers and magazines and people have downright gotten in my face to say that I need to read David Foster Wallace, but here I am just getting to you. Just two months ago. (I just started reading Phillip Roth in 2003, if that tells you how far behind I am.)
And you scared me, man. It embarrassed me. The first evening I cracked the book, I shut it within five minutes. I wasn't prepared for it. I didn't know the writing was going to be so heavy and wickedly charming and smacking of the highest intelligence and that not only did you demand my full attention, but you demanded I borrow some from my neighbor. It freaked me out. I felt suddenly exhausted and I went to sleep feeling like a chump.
"Well what do you think of David Foster Wallace?" my wife asked.
"I feel like I was reading Hunter S. Thompson's younger and quieter brother. The brother who understood the world without attacking it at 100 mph."
I opened your book, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, a week later. In the table of contents I saw there was a story about competitive childhood tennis and that rang true of my own childhood, so I started there. You described the game of tennis with the zest of a computer nerd describing his favorite WOW character. It was as if I was reading a first-person anthropology thesis on the impact of Illinois' culture and wind on the analytical perspectives of a teenage male who could always hit the ball back to his opponent. It was brilliant and funny and perfect.
I read your "cruise essay" next in awe. Simply.
But I tread lightly here as I don't know you. My wife says that you are the Kurt Cobain of the literary world and that fans of yours will be grieving as such.
I just wanted to say it was nice to meet you and say that you left quite an impression on me, and for that I thank you.
My thoughts are with your family and friends.