"Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience . . . We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy's impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character's pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside." He once argued that the linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein—one of the most terrifying thinkers who ever lived—was an artist because "he realized that no conclusion could be more horrible than solipsism."
"The rest is silence," says the dying Hamlet—these are his last words to us. But Wallace was no quietist: in his writing, at least, he never stopped wrestling with the "terrible master" in his own skull. Even beyond this life, he seems to have found silence unimaginable.*
An Unquiet Mind:
"I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms, or a world without dry and killing seasons. Life is too complicated, too constantly changing, to be anything but what it is. And I am, by nature, too mercurial to be anything but deeply wary of the grave unnaturalness involved in any attempt to exert too much control over essentially uncontrollable forces. There will always be propelling, disturbing elements, and they will be there until, as Lowell put it, the watch is taken from the wrist."
"We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this--through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication, we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. "
— Kay Redfield Jamison (An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness)