David Foster Wallace, the celebrated author of the novel Infinite Jest and seminal anti-cruise diatribe “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” may be dead dead dead in real life, but apparently he’s still alive and kickin’ it in the Simpsons universe. Here’s a framegrab of someone who strongly resembles him in the background of the latest Simpsons episode, cleverly entitled “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again,” as spotted by No Homers Club poster Real Melvin:
The character designer1 deserves points for detail: in a footnote in the essay, Wallace mentions wearing a “tuxedo-design T-shirt” because he failed to heed the “brochure’s instruction to bring a real tux on the Cruise” with the right amount of seriousness2. But look closer at his face… is that a smile? Is he actually genuinely enjoying himself on this cruise instead of grappling with existential despair over the artificiality of it all, the pampering-paranoia, the agoraphobia, and other such neuroses? That’s not the way I remember the essay. I suppose this alternate universe DFW doppelgänger is just a bit more cheerier about things, which might explain why he’s still living while his prime universe self is not.3
Or… brace yourselves, folks… what if this is like the ending of Titanic, and this is heaven??? Maybe Homer died a long time ago, in the early 1990s or thereabouts4. That would explain why all these dead people are walking around and the World Trade Center is still standing here in the “present.”5 It explains why his friends and family never age, because his memory of everyone preserved them at the age they were when he died. It would also explain why Homer never dies despite the many, many serious injuries he is subjected to on a regular basis. It’s all coming together now!!!6
1. Joe Wack perhaps?1a
1a. Yes, there’s footnotes.
2. However, I’m a wee bit disappointed by the absence of a lobster on his plate.2a There is something reddish there, but I can’t tell what it’s supposed to be… a napkin perhaps?
2a.You see, because he also wrote an article about lobsters called “Consider the Lobster.”2b
2b. Which was also used as the title for one of his essay collections, just like “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”
3. Could the absence of his trademark bandana have also played a role in alterna-Wallace’s longevity?
4. Suddenly the sequence in season one’s “Homer’s Odyssey” where Homer tries to off himself with a giant boulder takes on newfound resonance.
5. Remember, everything that has ever happened in the series5a is supposedly taking place over the course of one jam-packed year5b, which is always “now.”
5a. Personally I reject the “everything is canon” theory and subscribe to a “multiverse theory” of my own devising, based on the multiverse DC Comics used to have5c where the Golden Age versions of Batman and Superman live on “Earth-2” or whatever, while their Silver Age incarnations live on Earth-1. I still need to work out the details.
5b.An incidental detail that gets acknowledged in the “Library of Wisdom” series of books but is conspicuously never mentioned elsewhere.
5c. Before it got wiped out in the Infinite Crisis saga that gripped comic book readers in the 1980s.
6. This theory regrettably does not explain why or how contemporary celebrities, technology, culture, etc. appear in the memory-afterlife of someone who died twenty years ago. Perhaps Homer’s just in a really long coma and he can overhear people who come to visit his bedside talk about all those things, which then manifest themselves in his subconscious? Sure, let’s go with that.