There is a fascinating, impressively-researched article about David Foster Wallace’s relationship to religious faith by Ervin Beck in the latest issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. Wallace is one of my favorite writers, and Beck is a former professor of mine and one of the most important mentors that I’ve had, so I was very excited to read the article this afternoon. Despite its sectarian-sounding title (“David Foster Wallace Among the Mennonites;” Mennonites [including lapsed Mennos such as myself] love to talk about famous people’s connections with Mennonites, with Rembrandt being the most common example. Contemporary examples of celebrities who are either Mennonite or had/have strong Menno connections include Phyllis Diller, Newt Gingerich, Matt Groening, and the Canadian authors Rudy Wiebe, Di Brandt, and Patrick Friesen), the article is of interest for anyone who enjoys Wallace’s work or is interested in contemporary fiction. As is well known, Foster lived a tortured life, struggling with mental illness and constantly feeling that his work was never good enough despite its brilliance. Beck’s article does a beautiful job of sensitively addressing these issues and the role they played in Wallace’s interactions with his Mennonite acquaintances. This is no surprise, as Ervin is one of the sweetest, kindest persons I have ever had the privilege to meet.
Published by danielshankcruz
I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…). View more posts