A portrait is to be valued as a portrait. Put it up in the room. Could the event-horizon of depressive attacks cut us off from more satisfying spidery links from life to art? The reviewer does not quite think so, though he admits he continues to commit a categorical error. He is still on the fence that we can honestly ask the questions we might want answered: what permitted him to write, and from what aspect did he derive the lifelikeness of his writing?
What does it have to do with me, me, me? Wallace would take too long to explain the intentional fallacy. The answers are not here, for they are in books. This account, whole and white-whaley as it is, leaves some of us out. Some of us were deep into a different story, similarly simple, conclusive, its action having risen years ago, actually.
Greatest Living Writer shows off what he can do. Voice of his generation writes inimitably voicey things on all subjects  , enlivens a body of work that crafted its reality to an elegant precision, just killing it all the time, peerless and weird, sumptuous in rereading, awesome.
The work was done. The days were over. The legacy and the argument on the page. The dick, like, captured my attention. Both are really, really good . The question of what makes the head throb heartlike still stands. The reviewer believes that whatever that means on the page, DFW came awfully close to addressing. We are not, nor do we really intend to get, any closer to a definition of good writing.
A lot of know-it-when-seen reigns in the meantime. For example, the reviewer will always believe, unshaken, that he knew —not him personally, though he saw his back at upstairs info in a bookstore where he imagines he was obsequious and brusque, open and strange—its best practitioner, a great writer. Here, insert rhetorical device: period, bam, bar-none, end of story.
Wallace thought it embodied that leap, and the reviewer disagrees. If these guys exist, has Kirn punched them in the face? What is he waiting for? Ultimately, maybe. In his writing there is the presence of the most expansive definition of intelligence, idiosyncratically warm; but the narrower, raw definition allowed him technical skills.
The best, most beautiful arrangement of words is arrived at to a logical certainty. The sentences are conceived and concocted the same way the reviewer thinks mathematicians can do a long problem sans calculator. Holding at once, far apart in his brain, the left field emergence of perfect adjectives and a grammatical analysis, words shine as cheesy effects representative of genius in the movies. What was on display was talent , objective, oracular, crushing and grand. Get your Halloween self out of my living room.
He smiled. It was mine, you know, and still is. Even though the South will never surrender. Everything about Allen Hall was beautiful. She loved the house. But this conversation with an arrogant spirit solidified defiance. Linda Nightingale — Author. Archives July Copyright, Linda Nightingale, March, Spits out the facts at warp speed nine. Main problem is it fails to render the aliveness of DFW or communicate the charisma of the man and his works. His life is depicted in terms of its struggles and suggests DFW inhabited a gloom-filled realm even in the moments when success and sex and productivity came his way, all of which were more abundant than the depressions and drug abuse.
A bio of this superhuman writer should be grandiose and as abundant in ambition and scop Workmanlike as predicted. A bio of this superhuman writer should be grandiose and as abundant in ambition and scope as a DFW novel. Something in the Roger Lewis line.
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And fails to even mention the publication of Consider the Lobster —heinous! This purple cover also offends my delicate eyes. View all 4 comments. Oct 15, Juan rated it liked it. This biography, useful as it is in providing some needed context, feels flimsy. The most obvious missing piece in this bio is an exploration of David Wallace's relationship to his mother. It is quite clear even from Max's work that this relationship was central both to who David Wallace was and to the stylistic and thematic choices in his work.
The difficulty of such an endeavor is clear. In unveiling whatever that relationship might have been like, Max risked offending Wallace's family, a risk t This biography, useful as it is in providing some needed context, feels flimsy. In unveiling whatever that relationship might have been like, Max risked offending Wallace's family, a risk that can derail a biography. The qualms of writers of biographical material, both tactical and borne out of common courtesy and compassion, are well exemplified in the first piece that actually touched on the matter of Wallace's relationship with his mother.
After this article was published, revealing something that reader's might have been gleaning from pieces like Suicide as a sort of present, Present Tense There is no question that family members should be spared the grief of seeing their intrafamilial relationships dissected in public in a biography. Also, arguably, no biography of David Foster Wallace can be complete without an extensive exploration of this relationship. This conundrum probably means that we will have to wait for a definitive biography of Wallace for a few years.
Further, there is extensive research done up until after the publishing of Infinite Jest in , at which point Max makes a mad dash for the finish line as if the main objective of the bio had already been accomplished. It takes Max until page to get to the publication of IJ and he then proceeds to wrap up the next 6 books, Wallace's final crisis and all material and analysis of Pale King in 80 pages. This approach left me with the feeling that Max unspoken conclusion for the biography was that Wallace is a failed writer, that published an astounding but essentially unfollowable book in IJ.
This would be a massive underestimation of Wallace's work.
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It is also, however, possible that Max simply ran out of time. This was widely expected book and there must have been a lot of pressure to put it out fast. One would assume that if heavy research was put in at the early stages, it would have had to be sparse at the end with the deadline approaching. Max's style provides evidence to support the rush theory. There are, for example, sentences that must originate in transfer from subject to biographer and that patient editing might have weeded out, such as in the inadvertently funny: "He knew that he had to write for himself and not think about the reader, but that was easier to enunciate than to enact.
The book is not badly written, but there are a few of these little surprises lying around in it. The biography also fails to transmit what Wallace aptly called his "psychic pain". In Max's bio Wallace will be feeling depressed in one sentence and then hospitalized in the next and out of the hospital by the next paragraph. There is a feeling that Max felt that dwelling on unsavory topics such as what it actually feels to be severely, clinically depressed was somehow offensive to his subject, or that his journalistic principles kept him from approaching the more subjective aspects of "how it felt" for Wallace.
This, of course, can all be found on Wallace's work, but one would think it necessary in a book that is supposed to provide context for his own life decisions. Is this DFW first bio worthy of your attention, then? Yes, despite its shortcomings. It provides much needed information and context.
There are no incredible insights from Max himself, it feels rushed and skips important topics, but it is in all a worthwhile read. View 2 comments. This is a serviceable biography of David Foster Wallace. It's not one of the best-written books I've ever read, and it will surely be hated by those who feel DFW should be spoken of only in tones of hushed reverence, but it got the job done. Sep 19, Richard rated it it was ok. I guess I was hoping for something more rigorous. Facts and life changes are just sort of thrown out there. There's no real analysis or thoughtfulness of the kind you get out of a good biography.
It reads like a decent enough, well researched, magazine profile that's been squished under a rolling pin to stretch out to three hundred pages. There were elements that felt sort of trashy and airporty, as no random hookup or binge goes unreported. There's a " In all honesty though, being a fan of Infinite Jest, and a lot of Wallace's other writing, and being curious to know more about the life of the author, I couldn't put it down.
Still, it definitely wasn't a meal. Afterward, I got the same feeling you get after devouring a haul of halloween candy - a little guilty, a little sick, and not any wiser. Sep 04, Grace Liew rated it it was ok. Best parts of the book by far are the flurries of DFW's quotes copied wholesale, albeit they still suffer from DT Max's flimsy attempts to give context. The book wades only in shallow waters and rickety theories, with no cutting insights whatsoever. Why did DT Max even write this, then?
Another reviewer already said very succinctly my overall impression of this book: it reads like a long wikipedia article. Personally, I'm a huge wiki fan. I wiki all sorts of shit. I glean biographies of my favori Best parts of the book by far are the flurries of DFW's quotes copied wholesale, albeit they still suffer from DT Max's flimsy attempts to give context.
I glean biographies of my favorite famous people on wiki. The main reason wikipedia entries work so well for my procrastinatory casual research purposes is that wikis are non-emotive—you can read the blurbs of factoids any time of the day or night and you are never changed for the better or worse, just heavier with whatever information you came for, meh, and life goes on.
Sounds like DFW's biggest nightmare? But then again, I'm just projecting. Read the book for more than 30 pages in one sitting and you can feel the effects of the marked lack of direction. A gander at the chapter titles tells you nothing Don't get me wrong, I bought the book the day it came out, full sticker price, read it diligently and delighted at the bits of facts and DFW's witticisms, and, I suspect like many others, I bought the book because I couldn't not buy it.
His formula seems to be: throw in what I know about what DFW did and then construct concepts around them, however vague. The result is a lot of mundane info some of which I did love , but each mundane tidbit follows the pattern of trailing Somewhere in the middle of the book it is intimated that DFW fell out with his mother. No further exposition is given, which is incredibly unsatisfying, since the book opens with plenty details about how close the two once were.
Finally, the way the book ends shocked my socks off. Not that I was expecting a final bow to tie it all up, but this hurricane that terrorized the final 5 pages of the book? It made me cry. I know DT Max mentioned before that he vowed not to write a "sad" book, but the paltriness of this text is like a meta-sad, sadder than sad because your original desire to not be sad tried too hard to be not-sad. Aug 30, Lori rated it liked it. I am a huge fan of David Foster Wallace -- the person who tried, so hard. His books were not necessarily my favorites, but something about him pulled at me.
I've read everything I can find about him, every interview, every article, including the New Yorker article by D. I bought this book as soon as I heard about it, pre-ordered it, and was thrilled the morning it was automatically delivered to my kindle. Couldn't wait. And this was the most shallow, trivial biography I could imagine. I g I am a huge fan of David Foster Wallace -- the person who tried, so hard.
I gave it three stars because it was about David Foster Wallace, who means a lot to me. But the book itself? I'd give it one star. There is little to no psychological interpretation, and in fact it seems like Max simply did not want to go there. Now that would be a book to buy in hardback. In the acknowledgements, he says that all the important people in Wallace's life were open and generous with him, but the book surely doesn't read that way. At every turn, he takes the gloss. At every turn, he gives the shallowest description of what happens. It's like he refuses to step beyond the "then this happened, then that happened" to offer a substantive, integrative comment on what happened.
In fact, I knew more about Wallace already than I learned in this book. This happened, then that happened, then he hung himself, then that's it. Like Wallace's death, this book left me feeling cheated. I just wanted more of him. It's the only bio there is right now so I'll take it, but it's a pretty pitiful biography. Apr 05, Leo Robertson rated it really liked it.
William Wallace was 7ft tall and shot fireballs out his ass. Thanks to D.
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Max, David Foster Wallace no longer does this. Whether or not Wallace agreed this book was necessary for him to stop doing shooting fireballs out his ass, it was for me. Intent delivered. But I remember this other Earth in the background of shots where the protagonist considers her regrets: her problems carry the William Wallace was 7ft tall and shot fireballs out his ass. But I remember this other Earth in the background of shots where the protagonist considers her regrets: her problems carry the weight of the world.
We do carry problems in our head that, to us, feel as if they carry an infinite mass.
Problems of the imagination are the biggest and most severe that exist because they can invisibly carry infinite properties and magnitudes. But that I did, and feel all the better for it. This no more clears up the matter, as Wallace did try to create obscurity when it came to the personalization of his writing, but The Depressed Person remains nameless and essentially genderless for a reason. And also because I know that with this new context, I will read Infinite Jest for a third time- not that two readings cleared that fucker up, to be sure.
Holiday read I am making time to review despite being ball-deep in editing :D Jun 05, Adam Floridia rated it liked it. How can you write a true biography, a biography that really captures a human's whole life, or even just "the important" parts of it, and still moves smoothly from one important event to another?
Rhetorical question. I don't have the answer. Max certainly doesn't have the answer either. DFW once wrote about how impossible it would be to even accurately capture the infinite stimuli of a fleeting moment, so I don't envy the charge that a biographer takes on.
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Here are a few things I really didn' How can you write a true biography, a biography that really captures a human's whole life, or even just "the important" parts of it, and still moves smoothly from one important event to another? Here are a few things I really didn't like about this particular biography. Many of the transitions or lack there of between sentences, between paragraphs, and between "important" parts of the subject's life are just awful due to their afore-parenthetically-mentioned non-existence.
Next, Max's use of endnotes.
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Instead of clearly and in my opinion properly documenting them by using endnotes, Max devotes his endnotes to little "asides," making them seem like space to dump stuff he couldn't fit into the body of the book. Since this is a biography, I feel that it needs to make a point of clearly documenting its sources--see Charles Shields's Vonnegut Biography.
Unfortunately, dumping narrative tidbits in the back doesn't stop Max from also peppering in the most random and unnecessary facts every now and again in the biography proper. Finally, there are many parts of DFW's life about which I would have liked more detail, parts brought up by Max but not sufficiently delved into. Perhaps he could have devoted more space to adding depth here by limiting the amount of space given to summaries of DFW's work. Here are a few things I liked about this particular biography.
It was about David Foster Wallace, a writer and person I admire. It gave me a fair enough overview of Wallace's life. The writing did move along well-enough and there was a spare great sentence here or there. Even though I knew how it would end, I couldn't arrest a few tears on the last page. No expert on Wallace, I oddly can't come away from this pages saying I've learned a great deal of new information about his life; nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about his life. Here are my excuses for not supporting the above claims with textual evidence.
It's late. I'm tired. I'm lending the book to someone tomorrow. Oh, and I've got to throw this in here. I lied, the opening isn't exactly a rhetorical question. The correct answer is "Ask Brian Boyd. View all 5 comments. Apr 09, Marissa rated it liked it.
A serviceable if voyeuristic biography I purchased guiltily and consumed with greater guilt. The unambiguous, sour truth is that David Foster Wallace was, for prolonged stretches of time during his life, an angry, pretentious, entitled, manipulative, womanizing hateful asshole. This is a technically accurate but diminishing view - one I suspect to be the fault of biographies, a sort of collaboration between the author and the reader to bear witness to a story whose theme is already contrived while obtaining some trivia along the way.
View 1 comment. Sep 26, Hannah Garden rated it it was amazing. I'd like to write a very long and thoughtful review of this but honestly when would I have time. I have nine minutes till I need to get dressed and head to Penn so wanna hear it here it go. This book is not perfect. If that surprises you you are a moron. Some of the reviews I've glanced at so far have been written by morons. If you expected to pick this up and by its virtues have the absence of his death filled, to have the absence of his life in your life because you didn't know him, he was I'd like to write a very long and thoughtful review of this but honestly when would I have time.
If you expected to pick this up and by its virtues have the absence of his death filled, to have the absence of his life in your life because you didn't know him, he was just some guy somewhere else in the world, he didn't know you filled, you are a moron. Go somewhere else. I have wounds to lick and I will be busy for some time. Max never met Wallace. This is just a biography it is not a memoir. And but so. And but so this seemed a safe little place to go. And it was. His life was silly and perfect and stupid and clumsy and an accident and a striving and here is the thing: If anyone anywhere ever tried harder to better the self that he was, I don't know.
I don't even know what that effort would look like. I don't even know that I'd want to know it existed, that effort. Because the failure of this one is enough every time I think of it to make me question the sense of the project in general, which is as close I think I safely can come without throwing all the towels in. All the towels covering all your chairs, all the towels drenched in all your sweat, a thousand years of solitude, you try you tried you tried so fucking hard.
Sep 05, Jason Coleman rated it liked it Shelves: greatest-hits. DT Max breezes through the childhood, does a thorough job on the rise and fall and rise of the Broom to Infinite Jest stretch, and gets a little lost during a whirlwind tour of the final decade.
Though it wasn't Max's intention—this bio is most def sympathetic toward its subject—he manages to make DFW rather insufferable. I blame this on an inability to find a foothold in the 21st-century leg of the story and his over-reliance on letters the "biographer's oxygen" he calls them in which Wallace DT Max breezes through the childhood, does a thorough job on the rise and fall and rise of the Broom to Infinite Jest stretch, and gets a little lost during a whirlwind tour of the final decade.
I blame this on an inability to find a foothold in the 21st-century leg of the story and his over-reliance on letters the "biographer's oxygen" he calls them in which Wallace frets endlessly over his writer's block and where he fits into the cosmos of American literature. The careerism becomes positively stifling. By the time I was done, I fled to A Month in the Country just to remind myself what a self-effacing, simply told story looked like. One suspects there was a nobler artist, not to mention a somewhat less single-minded guy, than what comes through in the final chapters. But the hot streak is very well done.
You really feel the gears grinding as Wallace creates his masterpiece. That peculiar Amhurst-Tucson-Cambridge-Bloomington-Pamona trajectory and the depression-wellness-relapse trajectory that ran alongside it is vividly evoked, and there are beautiful distillations of Wallace's thoughts and predicament along the way. Max writes of "the mistaken American belief that pleasure can do anything other than stoke the need for more pleasure," notes how the grunge sensibility "flew in the face of [DFW's] recovery theology," and that Wallace "knew only way one way to seduce: to overwhelm.
And his portrait of a charmingly bourgeois genius who was a regular Joe in most regards and whose imagination torturously stopped revealing itself at one point rings true. Tragically, the post- Jest years would be largely a dead end. He came to feel time was passing him by. The book's a quick pages and, for better or worse, reads something like an extended New Yorker article. No doubt a fuller biography will come out eventually. And a Selected Letters, just you watch. I wish my old friend George Garrett was still around so I could ask him about how he hid Wallace's socks and shoes one night in Yaddo when he [Wallace] was having it off with Alice Turner in one of the bedrooms.
George held out on us with that story. Jun 22, Hadrian rated it liked it Shelves: usa , nonfiction , biography-memoir. It might be humorous, in some darkly comic sense, that this is an unfinished biography as an appendage to an unfinished life. But there is little else that is comic about the book. Max, to his credit, uncovers the very real and human aspects of DFW's life. There are some interesting musings on mental illness, and DFW's own struggle for accepting himself. Max does not glamorize the struggle of mental Damn. Max does not glamorize the struggle of mental illness, and I must credit him for that.
This biography leaves me with far more questions than answers. Let's hear more about his mother. Instead, this book seems oddly truncated. If it were edited and squeezed, some chapters would have made a fantastic article about the toil that went into creating Infinite Jest. The whole thing seems unfinished, even a bit sloppy. Of course, in a more perfect world, this biography would not exist at all and DFW might have found a more real happiness through his suffering. But this is what we have, and we must make do until a 'definitive' edition comes along. We turn to the work itself again. Addendum: One of the editors of this book, Paul Slovak, was previously assigned to Vollmann's Imperial.
The world wonders. Aug 21, nostalgebraist rated it liked it Shelves: dfw , nonfic-misc. This is a good source of info about David Foster Wallace, if you're into that sort of thing and I am.