Wow. The Associated Press is reporting that Wallace - most famous for his doorstop-of-a-novel Infinite Jest - was found hanged in his Claremont, Calif. home, according to his wife. You can read more here.
Like most people, my first brush with Wallace was Infinite Jest, but I couldn't tell you what that book was about without looking for a description on amazon.com. Like most readers I never got anywhere close to finishing it. I thought: God, this is just self-indulgent wankage (yes, I realize that's redundant). And I didn't understand what a good writer the guy was until I read an essay of his in Harper's about luxury cruise ship travel that was so achingly funny I can quote from it to this day. You can find it in his terrific collection of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments. Wallace, who had been teaching creative writing and English at Pomona College, had an unerring eye for the ridiculous, a skill we should never, ever underestimate.