It’s become problematic to talk about David Foster Wallace, to rave about his literary prowess because of his behaviour. But there was a time when he loomed large for me. He was one of the best of his generation. A man who channelled irony and earnestness to write hilarious and dark stories, going to places others wouldn’t dare; inspiring in part the Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s collective school of thinking/writing. Not that it’s a competition but Fight Club’s Chuck Palahniuk is a one-note wonder compared to this guy, lingering on the modal line like Miles Davis’ early attempts to be a great trumpeter while Foster Wallace flitted about all over the place, a Dizzy Gillespie-styled mentor.
For me Foster Wallace’s work was like that of a musician; he was as important to me in his abilities as a novelist, critic, short-story writer and essayist as many of my favourite musicians, actors and filmmakers are in their roles, with their abilities. But also he wrote big, difficult books. And long, complicate stories. His versions of concept albums, of double-live greatest hits; his versions of DVDs with all the extras.
David Foster Wallace cared deeply about many things – as experienced when you read his collections of essays: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster – and one of those things was music.
His book, co-authored with Mark Costello, Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present is a pioneering piece of music-journalism-as-philosophy in consideration of that then much-maligned genre of rap and/or hip-hop. The book was released in 1990, so deals with the antecedents and the beginning of the mass growth. To read it now, one needs to remember when it was written and understand that it will be out of date in places, but it is still a remarkable piece of measured and patient criticism/analysis. And shows that rare trait of the brilliant essayist, to be able to write at length and skill about anything and make it interesting; people could read Signifying Rappers with no interest in hip-hop and maybe not want to listen to any rap or read anything more on the subject and yet they would like that book. I firmly believe that. And so few writers have that ability.
That book may have dated and that can’t be helped, but the title story to his wonderful collection The Girl with the Curious Hair sure hasn’t. That story was my introduction to his genius, and the bizarre tale involves an acid-drop and a Keith Jarrett concert. And there’s some very curious hair too. That story had me listening to Keith Jarrett again as I re-read it. And then went on to devour the rest of the book, which features pop-culture references flying at a mile a minute (a spot-on look at life as a guest on the David Letterman show) and postmodern absurdist philosophy.
He was also the master of footnotes. 
One of his other great short story collections, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, is a must read – for the story Signifying Nothing. Or for the opening story, A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life – which is less than five lines long.
I have read most of Foster Wallace’s remarkable output. But I never read his biblically sized novel, Infinite Jest.
And I’m pretty sure I never will. A copy sits on my shelf though. Because, still, maybe one day…
It is with full acknowledgment of all the privilege I possess that I say I still admire David Foster Wallace. But only for the work he left behind. I admire him as author. Which is what this is about.
 Absolute master!