Those of us fortunate enough to have known David Foster Wallace personally didn't know him as David Foster Wallace. We knew him as Dave Wallace, as that is what he called himself. He is sometimes cited as "Foster Wallace," but the "Foster" wasn't part of his surname. Nor, do I think, was it his middle name, although I could be wrong about that. What I do know is that the "Foster" became part of his published name at the urging of an editor, on account of the fact that there were already dozens if not hundreds of "Dave" and "David" Wallaces in print, and it would be well for Dave to make his name more distinct.
I worked with Dave on three pieces for Premiere magazine: "David Lynch Keeps His Head," which was nominated for a National Magazine Award and subsequently anthologized in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again; a consideration of Terminator 2 and the rise of "effects porn" that Premiere declined to publish and subsequently saw print in the in-house mag of the British book chain Waterstone's; and "Big Red Son," an account of the Adult Video News award that appeared in Premiere under the title "Neither Adult Nor Entertainment" and the dual byline Willem de Groot and Matt Rundlet. (It is in the book Consider the Lobster under its original title.) And yes, therein lies a tale. A few tales, really.
Right now, I don't have the heart to tell them. I will tell you that not only was Dave a genius and great, hilarious company, he was also one of the most stand-up guys I've ever met. There was a massive amount of drama in the editing of the last-cited article, and it wound up appearing in Premiere in a version that Dave considered bowdlerized. He was pretty—no, extremely—angry about this, and said, for one thing, he was never going to write for Premiere again. I, too, was angry, as I had not agreed with how the piece had been, finally, altered, and I was preparing to resign from my position at the magazine. I mentioned this to Dave in one of our several harried exchanges about the situation. I heard from him again soon after that. He told me that, yes, he was furious with Premiere and that, no, he never intended to write for it again, but that he was not angry with me personally and I shouldn't quit on account of the situation; "I think what you do there is good, and you should keep doing it." And that, yes, he and I would continue to be friends.
And so we did. (I used to joke that had this been any other writer of stature, he would have enthusiastically approved of my quitting, and then stopped returning my calls.) I spoke to him a few months ago, after getting canned from Premiere.com, and he was typically supportive. "I always thought you were too good for them anyway," he said in his typically earnest, strangely gentle and extremely definite tone. We discussed, as usual, our mutual over-the-moonness about our mates; we had wed our respective spouses within about a year of each other, and continued to be gobsmacked by our luck in this respect. (On one of his increasingly infrequent trips to New York, in 2002, he had met my future wife Claire and pronounced her a "peach.") He sounded healthy, and happy, and...Christ. To learn tonight that he had taken his own life, it is just inconceivable to me. Inconceivable. I don't know how I can make that word register with the strength it needs to right now. Inconceivable.
Every bit of my heart goes out to his wife and family.
UPDATE: Here's something I wrote last year, on the old blog, about my adventures in the porn world with Dave, Evan Wright, and Nathaniel Welch.