Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Praising the Good (An Occasional Series).

I have to confess I didn't know who David Foster Wallace was before he committed suicide this month at 46. I have been digging into his past and am highly impressed.

I have ordered Infinite Jest, his epic 1,000-plus-page novel (on Time's list of the top 100 novels of 1923-2006), and have looked at his 2003 book on the mathematical concept of infinity (Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity) as well as his book about traveling with Sen. John McCain during the 2000 campaign (McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope). To say he had writing range is an understatement.

In his book on infinity, a remarkably complex spin through math theory by an admitted amateur, he suggested mathematicians suffer from mental illness more than artists. He said its emphasis on abstraction causes a detachment from reality, and those who intentionally detach from reality (e.g. artists and other creative types) don't have the same risk of mental disease. He also included a staggering concept that there are certain computations or numbers that are so large that a computer larger than earth, working for longer than earth existed, couldn't finish the computation. A mind-bender, to be sure.

Look for some forthcoming Wallace book reviews here.