"The attention he gave to other texts was reflected in the way he responded to individuals. He was the most remarkable responder to questions. He was constantly being asked very stupid questions and he always tried to discover what legitimate issue could be contained in them or made of them. Unlike many philosophers who are in themselves, totally in their own head, he was entirely in the world, in relation to Others. Unlike many arrogant intellectuals, he was modest, charming, and very, very funny.
He was writing in those years in the wake of existentialism -- there is an implicit anti-Sartreanism in Derrida, which appears explicitly in several oblique but devastating passages.
For him it was necessary not merely to criticize old ways of thinking but to elaborate new ways of conceiving old ideas. Derrida furiously rejected the notion of the end of history. For him the future was always the focus of his speculation, the possibility of thinking something new, or anew. I can barely express my anger at the New York Times obituary that dismissed his work as abstruse and ridiculous, if not sinister. Never was there any evidence that the journalist had tried to read Derrida's writing, or even considered the possibility that there was something new and valuable in this work that has excited so much interest. It would suffice to read one of Derrida's essays, and to discuss it with one competent person, to understand the value and the implications of his philosophies. It's sometimes hard work, as George Bush likes to say."
[update: Mark Taylor's kind piece on J.D. may be found here.]