Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace

Reading any biography on the heels of Caro’s LBJ series is a death knell for the follow-up author. I had been looking forward to peeking into the kimono of DFW’s life, but Max’s treatment feels almost hollow in comparison to the decades Caro pours into each volume of LBJ’s life. I put this down in frustration, and eventually picked it back up, not having anything else to replace it with at the moment. All the skeletons in DFW’s closet come out: depression, epic quantities of flings with random ladies, drugs, alcohol, egoism and doubt. Yes, he is brilliant, but he knows it, which tamps down the effect. Careening between the Midwest and Amherst (college) and Arizona (MFA grad school) then Harvard (PhD in philosophy quickly abandoned) then rehab and halfway houses and finally Bloomington for a productive stretch, and then Pomona State college (California) for the final chapter before he hung himself. He is a dedicated teacher, but realizes that he cannot teach and write, there is not enough energy. My favorite scene unearthed might have been the classroom scene where he writes these words on the chalkboard and asks the class what they have in common: pulchritude, big, miniscule, misspelled. <-- They're all the opposite of how they appear. Lots of words on Infinite Jest, his most widely recognized success. I prefer the non-fiction at the moment, but reserve the right to recast my vote once I attempt to once more into the breach with IJ.