Tom Bissell had a appreciation in the NYT recently of the book length version of a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace that I was complaining about in the comments earlier in the month. Jacob Silverman riffs on the piece here at the Virginia Quarterly. Both spend some time mulling over the apparent removal of an allusion to suicide in the published version of the speech:
It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master.
Bissell writes of the excision:
It is not difficult to understand why. Any mention of self-annihilation in Wallaceâ€™s work (and there are many: the patriarch of â€œInfinite Jestâ€ is a suicide; Wallaceâ€™s story â€œGood Old Neonâ€ is narrated by a suicide) now has a blast radius that obscures everything around it. These are craters that cannot be filled. The glory of the work and the tragedy of the life are relations but not friends, informants but not intimates. Exult in one; weep for the other.
Silverman argues that excising such passages is a mistake.
[Update: As Bissell points out in the comments, he's left a comment at the Virginia Quarterly site clarifying things: The line in question wasn't in the original written version of the speech, on which the book is based.]
[Second Update: Oh, check out the correction to Bissell's piece in the NYT.]
Setting aside the personal tragedy it reminds us of for a moment, I think it’s worth pointing out that the text is better off without the passage because the point it makes is so transparently idiotic. People shoot themselves in the head because (provided you don’t miss, as some people do, unfortunately), it’s the quickest and most painless way to kill yourself with a gun. Where the fuck else are you going to shoot yourself, if you’re going to shoot yourself? Your liver?