By Chet Yarbrough
By: D. T. Max
Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
Having read “Infinite Jest” several years ago, this reviewer has been mystified by praise given it by many writers, bibliophiles, and book-review’ publications; however, D. T. Max provides some clues to “Infinite Jest’s” seminal
value as a new genre of fiction. “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story” explains the tragedy of David Foster Wallace’s life; i.e. his character, ambition, literary evolution, and 2008 death. It is a fascinating biography, and along the way, one is re-introduced and becomes more informed about why “Infinite Jest” should be highly regarded.
DAVID FOSTER WALLACE ON “INFINITE JEST”: http://www.youtube.com/embed/YTLmg1JqyYs” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>iframe>
As reported in the New York Times: “…David Foster Wallace committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46…” Jonathan Franzen said, Wallace ‘…was a Lifelong prisoner on the island of himself’.1 Max shows Wallace to be a narcissist, particularly in his manic “feeling good” periods of life, but in Max’s review of Wallace’s family history, one is inclined to forgive the narcissism and appreciate the vulnerability of a young artist trying to find himself and make sense of the world. (There is a suspicion that one is seduced by a narcissist’s grand exit, by suicide, to make one feel Wallace’s fiction is greater than it really is but only time will be an adequate judge.)
The biographer of Wallace’s life, D. T. Max, works as a staff writer for “The New Yorker”. Dave Eggers, Tom Bissell, and Evan Wright (authors in their own right) say that Max delivers a history of Wallace that is ‘well researched’, ‘hugely disquieting’, and ‘indispensable’ in knowing Wallace and why he will be missed.2 One is inclined to agree with all of the former, but may question the latter; i.e., will Wallace’s writing be missed?
If one did not know anything about Wallace, after listening to “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story”, the uninformed becomes well-informed. Wallace is a smart, well-educated, germophobic heterosexual that drives for literary success with a manic-depressive intensity that is played out in his writing and ended by his suicide. His life is celebrated by academic success but marked by drugs, unhealthy human relationships, rehabilitation, and recidivism. He is shown to be an excellent professor of literature and an interesting conversationalist when his head is in the “game”. But, he is also shown to be violent and
allegedly capable of planning a murder when his interest in a married woman (Mary Karr) is thwarted by uncertain divorce in a troubled marriage.
CHARLIE ROSE INTERVIEW OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: http://www.youtube.com/embed/mLPStHVi0SI” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
At the very least, one is compelled by Max’s biography to give “Infinite Jest” another chance to impress; maybe the fault is more in the reader than the writer. [contact-form-7 id=”4427″ title=”What did you think about the review?”]
1 Quote noted in goodreads from Franzen about Wallace.
2 Comments summarized from blog entry by dtmax.com.