New Yorker staff writer D.T. Max’s lecture on David Foster Wallace began, appropriately, with an audio excerpt from Wallace’s “This Is Water,” the 2005 Kenyon commencement speech that has since gained national recognition.
The event, co-sponsored by The Kenyon Review and Student Lectureships, took place Tuesday evening.
The speech linked Kenyon to the now-immortal writer, a humorous but profoundly troubled figure.
Max told the crowd that the themes Wallace touched on in the commencement speech were prevalent in much of his other writing ﾗ especially Infinite Jest, the 1996 novel that catapulted Wallace to literary stardom.
To conclude his lecture, Max read a passage from his biography of Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. The passage depicts Wallace in a Massachusetts halfway house where he spent time rehabilitating from a devastating alcohol addiction. The implication was that Wallace’s experience in rehab had influenced the delivery and tone of “This Is Water” ﾗ a tone stripped of dogma and pretension, bent on reifying the simplest truths.
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