Searching Through the Ashes of an Exploded Life
USinfo | 2012-12-27 16:32

In “Infinite Jest” David Foster Wallace described clinical depression as “the Great White Shark of pain,” “a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it,” a “nausea of the cells and soul,” a sort of “double bind in which any/all of the alternatives we associate with human agency — sitting or standing, doing or resting, speaking or keeping silent, living or dying — are not just unpleasant but literally horrible,” a radical loneliness in which “everything is part of the problem, and there is no solution.” 
Such passages underscore the deep, molecular sadness that permeates so much of Wallace’s work and the emotional turmoil he suffered himself, though even in retrospect they do not blunt the terrible shock of his suicide four years ago at 46. In his revealing new biography, “Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story,” D. T. Max gives us a sympathetic appraisal of Wallace’s life and work, tracing the connections between the two, while mapping the wellsprings of his philosophical vision. The book captures the heartbreaking struggle Wallace waged with severe depression throughout his adult life, and his battle not only to write — to capture the frenetic debates in his head on paper — but also to navigate the humdrum routines of daily life, while feeling perched above “a huge black hole without a bottom.”
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