21 May 2013
This is Water/Make Good Art
Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend. Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading.
This is a very interesting speech and DFW brings up a number of things to think about. Unfortunately, it's terribly sad knowing now that DFW took his life a few years after giving this speech. It makes some anecdotes and thoughts in This is Water very eerie.
Summary from Goodreads:
In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman stood at a podium at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to deliver the commencement address. For the next nineteen minutes he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength: he encouraged the students before him to break rules and think outside the box. Most of all, he encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to make good art. This book, designed by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd, contains the full text of Gaiman’s inspiring speech. Whether bestowed upon a young artist beginning his or her creative journey, or given as a token of gratitude to an admired mentor, or acquired as a gift to oneself, this volume is a fitting offering for anyone who strives to make good art.
In contrast, Gaiman's speech is on a serious subject, but it gives a wonderful uplift. Granted, this is for an arts college commencement - hence the emphasis on "good art" - but the message can be applied to almost any profession. Choose what you like, and be passionate about it so your outcome is good and worthy of your effort (a way better commencement address than any I had to sit through). The layout provided by Chip Kidd is a fabulous addition to Gaiman's words (for those of us who have heard Neil read, you can hear his voice in your head). Definitely a book to own in hard copy.