David Foster Wallace's Biblical Fall from Grace
I've been reading "Every Love Story is a Ghost Story" by D. T. Max. It is the biography of David Foster Wallace, rife with many disappointing truths, and sad lengths of time, and heart-plucking anecdotes. It has been helping me heal after investigating his troubled abusive relationship with Mary Carr.
The past two weeks of high-school, as well as the week after graduation, were uncomfortable and hectic and blurry. I fell into some cynicism, and felt guilty about falling in, and felt guilty about not taking time to appreciate the moment, and ended up stuck between the blur of moments. To make things worse, I began seriously digging into the Mary Carr stuff after hearing about it come up again and again from every person who knew about it and knew how much I idolized him. A teacher, a friend, a girlfriend, a grandparent, another friend, a person I never really knew, a person who disliked me. . . Since I had so closely held David up to myself as a person to compare, the re-labelling of him and his work as false hit me deep. Of course, his work is not "false," and should be held separate from the author. And of course, he is not false, but real, and deeply troubled past what I had known before. I felt intensely shaken and unnerved.
I don't regret getting close to DFW, but I do regret attaching my identity to only his good parts. He is incredibly charming, and so is his writing, and brilliant. Like a mirror, I compared myself with him, and I saw myself in his work.
I belong to an online community of people re-reading Infinite Jest over the summer. I simply wasn't in the place to re-read it after graduation, but I nonetheless joined in order to hear and be a part of the discussion.
There's a quote that I am reconsidering through this lens of re-imagining David Foster Wallace.
By digging deeper into his wounds and addictions, his abusive and disgusting sides, behind the facades and walls he built and through his pathetic moments, I can use him as a more realistic mirror into myself.
I would like to share with you two images in the biography following the third and fourth times David Wallace had to come home to live at his parent's house—the "Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Fund for Aimless Children"— post-breakdown. After the third time of coming home, Wallace returned to Arizona.
When Wallace came home the fourth time, it was because he had tried to take himself off of his depression medication (Nardil) cold turkey after trying to come clean through his AA program. Perhaps he might have believed that quitting Nardil would make him an "exceptional" AA member, or perhaps it was out of some profound sentiment. Nardil takes time to get out of the system, and once it was out, he collapsed. His mother drove him home, and his psychiatrist recommended they put him back on Nardil. The Nardil didn't work. At the end of his rope and after one suicide attempt, they tried Convulsive Therapy.
I found these images striking in the way that they situate him in a light I had never understood him. I still haven't gotten to the Mary Carr sections of the book, and I still haven't settled my thoughts. I wanted to post this, though, so I can look back upon it and see the process of how I viewed him at various places in my life.