I’ve been reading “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself–A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace,” by David Lipsky, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. It’s a remarkable log of five days spent together when DFW’s huge book, “Infinite Jest” was published in 1996. Wallace, as many of you may know, suffered from depression and after winning the MacArthur Fellow award after his books were published, suffered setbacks due to withdrawal from an anti-depressant drug called Nardil. Eventually, nothing worked as a substitute, including electro-convulsive treatments. And although he was happily married for four years, he hanged himself at the age of 46. He was a good friend of Jonathan Franzen too–although JF appears to be much more openly ambitious while Wallace appeared almost shy about his fame.
In this book, he talks about what writing means to him. “If the writer does his job right, what he basically does is remind the reader of how smart the reader is. Is to wake the reader up to stuff that the reader’s been aware of all the time.” From reading “Infinite Jest” reviews on Amazon.com (there are over 400 of them, either they LOVE it or they HATE it…) it seems that he has depicted a picture of America as a place of addictions, and especially to pleasure which eventually kills them. One incredible reviewer said they were so sad to read the last page that they immediately started reading the beginning again, only to find more pleasure and understanding in the second reading than the first. Thus, Wallace’s book invoked the very pleasure addiction principle within the actual reading and structure of the book! Endless addiction to the book’s reading. It is over a thousand pages long and I’ve reserved it at the library. People say readers in their 20’s and 30’s are more attuned to the kind of world described in the book–but I’ll give it a try anyhow.
I’m writing about this because I am moved by what comes across in Lipsky’s journalistic observations about David Foster Wallace–his sincerity, modesty and innocence. The five star reviewers on Amazon who write lengthy descriptions of why the novel touched them said in one way or another that it changed the way that they looked at their lives and the world around them.
How many books do that these days?