I asked him why Wallace gets to be this icon, rather than another writer.
“Part of it is that he just had the look: the bandana, the long hair, like literary rock’n’roll. And part of it’s the backstory: prodigy, drugs, suicide. But the main part of it’s in his body of work: He wrote about our world, the world that our generation actually lives in. He wrote about TV in a serious way that didn’t condescend, drugs in a serious way that didn’t romanticize. He took our world for what it was, and then, he animated our world. It was like, he wrote through a gaze circumscribed by self-consciousness, and for the rest of us, self-consciousness is a self-defeating, deadening force. But not for him. Wallace’s writing was alive, invigorated, like he found a way to take that crippling, paralyzing, awful affliction of self-consciousness and redeem it, make it something new, something that enlivens rather than deadens.”
I observed that eventually self-consciousness, along with other factors, did kill Wallace.
“Well see that’s the tragedy.”