This Is Water
David Foster Wallace
When David Foster Wallace died in 2008, he left a prolific collection of intelligent, dryly humorous fiction and essays. Though his career was cut short at two novels (Infinite Jest, Broom of the System) and a handful of short-story and essay collections (including Girl With Curious Hair, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again), Wallace’s literary achievements will be admired by readers and writers for generations to come. This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life is a commencement speech Wallace read at Kenyon College in 2005. In it, he speaks of the boredom and frustrations of adult life, and the idea that it is possible not to lose one’s mind in working, middle-class America, and resist what Wallace labels one’s “default setting” of passivity and blame-laying upon the external world for our society’s shortcomings. Whether Wallace himself ultimately succumbed to this very conflict is questionable; however, This is Water remains a compassionate, if not bittersweet, advisory tidbit for the next generation, about whom Wallace expresses a sincere concern that they might be following his path.