Pairing: David Foster Wallace & Kanye West
For the last few days (and a lot earlier than that too) Kanye West has been in the news. Starting with a tweet last week ("BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!") and ending with the release and almost immediate withdrawal of his new album The Life of Pablo, even long-time fans of his brand have found themselves at odds with the media icon.
David Foster Wallace has also been in the news since his seminal work, Infinite Jest, is turning twenty years old this month. And also because somebody just made a bong out of their copy of it.
This pairing of Kanye West and David Foster Wallace accentuates the similar tones between the two artists. Both possessed outsize personalities that overshadowed/outshined other contemporaries in their respective fields. Kanye West as a media personality almost seems like a plot of a novel that David Foster Wallace never wrote, because he is dead. People on the internet have speculated that Kanye is suffering from severe depression, perhaps brought about because of extreme stress. David Foster Wallace battled with his depression, and ultimately chose to take his own life because of it.
When pairing Kanye West with David Foster Wallace it’s better to consider, not their similarities, but how they complement each other. On multiple occasions David Foster Wallace called for the creation of an American literary experience that would abandon irony in favor of pure sentimentality. If there is any cultural figure who presents art that is so honest it is Kanye. His output extends to his personality, creating an identity that is so brutally sincere it can border on embarrassment. But it is real.