Nathan "N.R."’s review of Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Finney I read DT Max's "long thing" from The New Yorker and really loved it. I'm looking forward to this book


message 2: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Richard wrote: "I read DT Max's "long thing" from The New Yorker and really loved it. I'm looking forward to this book"

I loved the article, too, but the book's really disappointing so far (about up to p 70).


message 3: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Moira wrote: "Richard wrote: "I read DT Max's "long thing" from The New Yorker and really loved it. I'm looking forward to this book"

I loved the article, too, but the book's really disappointing so far (about ..."


I've got a few pages left. My thoughts may be presented tomorrow. I'm eagerly awaiting your review.


message 4: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Nathan "N.R." wrote: "I've got a few pages left. My thoughts may be presented tomorrow. I'm eagerly awaiting your review."

Who me? Haaah, I'm getting really fed up with it and am not even to p 100, a bad bad sign. I liked the magazine article much better - it had more insight and style. The book feels not just thin, not just biographically fixated, but shoddily written -- poorly structured, full of sweeping meaningless generalizations, just plain off about a lot of things.


message 5: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Moira wrote: "

Who me? Haaah, I'm getting really fed up with it and am not even to p 100..."


And that's why I await your review. But at your suggestion, I'm going to revisit the NYer article before I do my thoughts tomorrow.


message 6: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Nathan "N.R." wrote: "But at your suggestion, I'm going to revisit the NYer article before I do my thoughts tomorrow."

I can recognize bits and pieces here and there from the article, but man, it was so much better. For one thing, it was proofread.


message 7: by Richard (new)

Richard Finney Moira,

Very disappointed to hear you are not enjoying the book. I was actually going to start reading tonight. I will still read the book, but because I believe in the beauty of "anticipation" I will do so with a bit less spirit in my step...

Richard


message 8: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Is it too early (or is it too late) to direct you to what will be the superior response to this book? Friend Moira's review:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 9: by Moira (last edited Sep 02, 2012 10:40AM) (new)

Moira Russell Nathan "N.R." wrote: "Is it too early (or is it too late) to direct you to what will be the superior response to this book? Friend Moira's review:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/..."


Haaah at this point it's more like an inchoate mass of aggrieved status updates. Just OH MY GOD. It's so fucking bad.

The personal and voyeuristic information we possess about Wallace--that he was depressed, addicted, an asshole, a womanizer, got angry, was generally fucked up--will be from here to eternity used to object to our attributing sainthood to Dave. But sainthood is not a matter of moral athleticism; “saint” is not to be set over against “human being.” Rather, a saint is what emerges out of the experience of the despair of being human. A saint is one who refuses to succumb to the seduction of the merely human morass and endeavors to extract himself therefrom and return thereto. This is the stuff of which Wallace’s lifework consists. We insist upon retaining our notion of Saint Dave because his major effort was to make being human respectable again, and the drudging up of moral failures will not sully those efforts.

That's really nice. I like that. That's actually a lot more like what DTM wrote about "Saint Dave" in the goddamn roundtable. It's like a different person wrote the fucking book. (Your paragraph there also reminds me of Dostoevsky - who Wallace referred to a lot and even is mentioned by DTM now and then - but he just doesn't go deep enough.

D.T. Max’s book is, then, to be read only by completists, those who have read everything Wallace has written and read everything available written about him.

Haaah, that's me. Well no, I haven't read Broom or most of his short story collections. But I got 'em all. -- What's funny is I get the impression (correct if wrong) you were really dreading it and your suspicions were basically confirmed - I was looking forward to it and thought it wouldn't be all bad. I mean I know I am a picky bitch but I have read all kinds of literary biographies. There are about half-a-dozen terrible Plathbios and I have read (in some cases even reread) them all. Not one of them had this kind of awful blank incoherent confused vacuity. I've read People magazine articles that have more focus and integrity than this.


message 10: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Moira wrote: "What's funny is I get the impression (correct if wrong) you were really dreading it and your suspicions were basically confirmed "

You are correct. I was prepared to be wrong, but that chip on my shoulder just would not go away. I'm glad to have your confirmation of my review. I thought you might think I let Max off too easily.

I've read very, very few biographies. Some of it has to do with a prejudice against the genre. But most of it probably has to do with my literary interests being located in a corner where bio's are either not likely, or too soon given my reading mostly within the past 60 years. I think biographies are a necessary part of literary scholarship, but my interests tend to be more in the way of theory. Your comments yesterday about the life-cycle of the biography were very insightful.

The main thing I'm grateful to Max for is indicating the Dostoevsky direction. I've known in a slight way that Fyodor was in the background, but now I'm even more persuaded to finally get around to a mature reading of Crime & Punishment.


message 11: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Nathan "N.R." wrote: "You are correct. I was prepared to be wrong, but that chip on my shoulder just would not go away. I'm glad to have your confirmation of my review. I thought you might think I let Max off too easily."

Haaaaah no - if anything I'm a little surprised you gave it three stars. But the GoodReads star rating thing is weird, so.

I liked all the quotations of the letters/emails in the Max bio, but as I think I said before, that just really makes me want a Collected Letters, which would probably be a lot more biographically informative.


message 12: by Nathan "N.R." (last edited Sep 02, 2012 12:04PM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Moira wrote: "Haaaaah no - if anything I'm a little surprised you gave it three stars. But the GoodReads star rating thing is weird, so. "

I refuse to discuss the inanity of star ratings. ; )

I'm rather skeptical, too, about an edition of the letters being published anytime in the near future. I suspect they would suffer the same fate as the self-help books at the Ransom Center. On other hand, a good-sized volume could perhaps be cobbled together out of editor and fellow-author correspondence. Unfortunately, DFW didn't save much of his half of the exchanges (to my understanding), and its that dialogue with others that I'd really like to hear. But even a DFW epistolary monologue would be more interesting and informative than Max's biographical outline.


message 13: by Ali (last edited Sep 03, 2012 02:02AM) (new)

Ali I was excited when I found out this would be released and was going to look for a copy, but after reading your review and the status updates by Moira that have shown up in my update feed, I doubt I'll bother. "Voyeuristic" high school-style gossip of the sort found in this biography is not what I'm looking for. The terrible prose clinches it for me, I think. I'll stick to interviews, his books, and uncollected writings. Maybe I'll even read the Lipsky book eventually, after I've gotten through more of his corpus (I have eleven books by Wallace, and have read three of them). But I'll skip ELSIAGS.


message 14: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Ali wrote: "I was excited when I found out this would be released and was going to look for a copy, but after reading your review and the status updates by Moira that have shown up in my update feed, I doubt I..."

The Lipsky book is really irritating. But it's also eventual required reading, mostly because it's irritating. For folks who feel compelled to read the Max bio, for whatever reason, they might be best off waiting for the paperback, which I expect will introduce some changes and corrections and perhaps additional material, a la The Pale King.


message 15: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls Between you both it's been a screamingly funny but also painfully disappointing weekend. Most of the "professional" reviews so far have been favourable (if doing the frustrating thing of focusing on the content and not the quality of biographmanship).


message 16: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Nathan "N.R." wrote: "The Lipsky book is really irritating. But it's also eventual required reading, mostly because it's irritating."

Is it ever, yeah. But it's most likely the biggest chunk of unadulterated (or mostly unadulterated) autobiographical Wallace we're likely to get, until the letters, so.

I would recommend getting the paperback from a library, when it comes out. Wouldn't be surprised if there was some revising. There were at least several factual errors, apart from all the horrible grammatical ones, and the chronology's really messy.


message 17: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis MJ wrote: "Between you both it's been a screamingly funny but also painfully disappointing weekend. Most of the "professional" reviews so far have been favourable (if doing the frustrating thing of focusing o..."

The review in my town's paper this morning credited Pietsch with "completing" The Pale King. And this is a literary town.

I think there is a serious question involved regarding "for whom" the book was written.


message 18: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell MJ wrote: "Most of the "professional" reviews so far have been favourable (if doing the frustrating thing of focusing on the content and not the quality of biographmanship). "

Yeah, it's really getting the soft soap. Don't see it on the nyt bestseller list (yet?), tho: http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-b... 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290 in Books,' whatever that means.


message 19: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Moira wrote: "Don't see it on the nyt bestseller list (yet?), tho: http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-b... "

How depressing were it to make a showing.


message 20: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie I was going to order this...what a disappointment. I like his photo on the cover though.


message 21: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis B0nnie wrote: "I was going to order this...what a disappointment. I like his photo on the cover though."

Moira and I are killing sales on this. There might be action taken against us. goodreads could be named in a suit.


message 22: by Ali (last edited Sep 03, 2012 02:01AM) (new)

Ali Nathan and Moira wrote: The Lipsky book is really irritating. But it's also eventual required reading, mostly because it's irritating.
Is it ever, yeah. But it's most likely the biggest chunk of unadulterated (or mostly unadulterated) autobiographical Wallace we're likely to get, until the letters, so.


I guess I'll have to get a copy, then, if that's what it contains. I had heard the complaints and thought they were valid ones, so avoided the book, but that's going to need to change after I've read more DFW.

Moira wrote: 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290 in Books,' whatever that means.

Amazon's book rankings are weird and difficult to understand/explain, because they depend on the number of copies sold in a given time frame rather than the total number of copies, and because they're relative to eight or nine million other books. So there is no way to pinpoint how many copies a book is selling from its rank alone, which is all they give us. Their ranks are updated hourly, so if you get every relative and friend you can call up to buy your book at exactly 5:00 PM, after they update the stats you're going to have an absurdly high rank, and if you sell no copies at all in the next three days, your rank will go back down to something low. If by some insane chain of events everyone in the world is persuaded to stop buying the Harry Potter books, and that continues for, let's say, a year, each book's rank is going to be in the high millions, no matter how many copies they previously sold, just because no one has purchased them in the past year. All I can tell from the rank of ELSIAGS is that it's selling many copies, at least in proportion to all the other books, and that those copies are selling at a stable, fast rate. I see it's gone up to 188 now.

Justin wrote: hahahahaha!!! This is hilarious. Maybe you should worry more about the fact that Wallace was a shitty author than that there was one shitty book written about him, Lazy Eye.

Go away.


message 23: by Stephen M (new)

Stephen M Any suggestions for those of us who are still interested in learning about Mr. Wallace's life without having to go through this particular bio?


message 24: by Ali (new)

Ali Stephen M wrote: "Any suggestions for those of us who are still interested in learning about Mr. Wallace's life without having to go through this particular bio?"

It's mentioned later in the comment thread, but David Lipsky wrote a book chronicling a five-day road trip with DFW during the Infinite Jest tour, called Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. I haven't read it, so I'll wait for Nathan, Moira, or anyone else who has to chime in, but from what I gather, during that road trip, Lipsky conducted a series of interviews with DFW which give what is possibly the biggest glimpse into his life currently available. I'd imagine the books of essays are also a good resource if you haven't read them. Other than that, it's just as Nathan mentioned in the review: The best way to learn about him is to read his books.


message 25: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Stephen M wrote: "Any suggestions for those of us who are still interested in learning about Mr. Wallace's life without having to go through this particular bio?"

The Lipsky, of course, but it's a narrow slice of life during the IJ tour. It's not only Lipsky that annoys me in it, but DFW himself (of course). This is the unedited DFW from 15 years ago (on a road trip, more or less), and as I had already gone through a lot of other stuff re: DFW & IJ, by the time the Lipsky book came out it was old hat and repetitive. But if you've not already read a lot of interviews and profiles, it still counts as 'required reading.'

The other place I'd go is the collection of interviews recently published: Conversations with David Foster Wallace. I've not read the volume itself but have read many of the interviews. And spend some time kicking around the center of the DFW cyber-world at howlingfantods: http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/...

None of these things do what a bio does, but are the things out of which a bio is built, and I think, today, they are still more important.


message 26: by Jacob J. (new)

Jacob J. DFW was a womanizer? But he didn't even get laid on his IJ tour. (That's from Lipsky's book.)


message 27: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Jacob wrote: "DFW was a womanizer? But he didn't even get laid on his IJ tour. (That's from Lipsky's book.)"

I wasn't paying attention anymore; I wasn't keeping score. But, as it is the task of the biographer to investigate, Dave was a bit of an embellisher--he was a fictionist. (There is no good word for the particular bit of the sex/gender-relations-world involved here that Max was so interested in making sure that his fellow voyeurs knew about).


message 28: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Jacob wrote: "DFW was a womanizer? But he didn't even get laid on his IJ tour. (That's from Lipsky's book.)"

So, that's also my last word on the question. There will be plenty of internet locations that will want to continue to discuss the question of DFW's sex life.


message 29: by JSA (new)

JSA Lowe Just here to praise Nathan so haven't read the whole thread above, but 1) hell yes Dave was a womanizer, and 2) "And some of us are compelled to purchase it, read it, and object to its existence." HAHAHA YES. Nathan, really well done. Thoughtful and succinct and I feel the truth of what you're saying—this isn't a real bio, just a placeholder for the one that'll be written in 10-15 years, maybe 20 years, that will actually be researched and written, perhaps when certain family members or keyholders are out of the picture, as that often has to happen, but I am rambling, I just wanted to thank you for your review. Bravo!


message 30: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis J.S.A. wrote: "I just wanted to thank you for your review. Bravo!"

You're quite welcome and thank you right back for the Like.

No matter how deep I may wade in de River Nile, I concede that some things are simply going to happen because they are inevitable. I, on the other hand, having prayed the serenity prayer, don't feel compelled to be happy about those circumstances.


message 31: by Nathan "N.R." (last edited Sep 06, 2012 06:02AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Bret Easton Ellis uses all the power of his brain to sound like our moosey little Justin:

http://biblioklept.org/2012/09/06/bre...

And the self-righteous sanctimony about popping the pretentious sanctimony-solemnity bubble surrounding DFW has got to be brought to an end.


message 32: by Jacob J. (new)

Jacob J. Nathan "N.R." wrote: "Bret Easton Ellis uses all the power of his brain to sound like our moosey little Justin:

http://biblioklept.org/2012/09/06/bre......"


Am I completely naive, or is the vitriol involved in this a little unprecedented?

I can appreciate vehemence, as it can encourage lively debate, but I am not even coming across anyone willing to engage in honest discussion about the literary canonization of DFW. It's all blatant backlash.


message 33: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Jacob wrote: "I can appreciate vehemence, as it can encourage lively debate, but I am not even coming across anyone willing to engage in honest discussion about the literary canonization of DFW. It's all blatant backlash. "

I've already canonized DFW. I'm waiting to be corrected about that. This Ellis-type backlashing clearly does not rise to the occasion of getting my head back on straight. Honestly, I'm available to hear a debunking of DFW. I really do want to know that my literary sensibilities have it all wrong.


message 34: by Jenn(ifer) (new)

Jenn(ifer) Excellent review sir.


message 35: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Jenn(ifer) wrote: "Excellent review sir."

Thank you most generously, Jenn(ifer).


message 36: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls Surely those Bret Easton Ellis tweets are fake? He can't be that stupid can he?


message 37: by Ali (new)

Ali It's all real. Here's the source. The tweets are still up there, too:
http://twitter.com/breteastonellis


message 38: by MJ (last edited Sep 06, 2012 07:52AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls Scroll down and there's about a page of Ayn Rand quotes. *slaps forehead*


message 39: by Ali (new)

Ali I didn't see those before. I'm looking now, and there must be about fifteen of them. *Gag.*


message 40: by JSA (new)

JSA Lowe Ye gods, that's gone and put me RIGHT off my breakfast.


message 41: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie Better a canonized DFW than this http://exiledonline.com/david-foster-...
Talk about just not getting it!


message 42: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis B0nnie wrote: "Better a canonized DFW than this http://exiledonline.com/david-foster-...
Talk about just not getting it!"


I began by trying to read it as parody. Only a little editing and we might have it.

When we get bored with stupid people saying stupid things about Saint, Holy, Most Revered Upon High David Fucking Wallace, I'm gunna start collecting junk statements about William T Vollmann. The mass of stupid things said about him is growing, such the following from B0nnie's linked article:

"But Eggers isn’t the worst member of the McSweeney’s group. That honour goes to William T. Vollmann, one of the most god-awful prose writers in the English language. In fact, if there’s one nice thing I can say about David Foster Wallace, it’s that he never wrote a book as hideous as The Atlas, a collection of stories from Vollmann’s international trips. Here’s a sample of that book’s rottenness, a piece called “Lunch,” about New Yorkers in a restaurant:. . ."
Well, but he's just getting started there and it goes on with some really awesome stuff about how awful Vollmann is and even gets some jabs in there about whores.


message 43: by Ali (new)

Ali Gass has also had some stupid statements said about him. Not nearly enough for a collection (if only because he's one of the less well-known and read of the pomo crowd), and most of them only concern The Tunnel rather than his entire body of work as is the case with DFW and WTV, but frustrating all the same. So has Pynchon. I think it's safe to say that most authors who require that the reader bring something more to the work than the average book would require, that they work a little bit during the reading rather than taking in the book passively as you would with any mass-market piece of fiction, and also those who diverge from the ordinary manner of storytelling and experiment with their writing have all had stupid things said about them, with the exception of those who are so unknown that nothing at all is said, positive or otherwise.


message 44: by MJ (last edited Sep 06, 2012 09:29AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls Don't forget that greasy hack Mark Leyner, talk about ringleader of the puffed-up blowhards...


message 45: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls To be fair to Gass, he was open about his complete lack of interest in contemporary fiction. The only author he gave a nod to was DFW.


message 46: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis MJ wrote: "To be fair to Gass, he was open about his complete lack of interest in contemporary fiction. The only author he gave a nod to was DFW."

Recollection where that nod is located? Two things I like about Gass: he's a philosophy professor and he's from North Dakota.

MJ wrote: "Don't forget that greasy hack Mark Leyner, talk about ringleader of the puffed-up blowhards..."

We need more people saying stupid things about Leyner. This would be a good thread wherewith to begin. Anyone else have some real zingers? I think he's a totally empty, Sugarless Nutsack, puffed-up by blowhards.


message 47: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Nathan "N.R." wrote: "Bret Easton Ellis uses all the power of his brain to sound like our moosey little Justin:

http://biblioklept.org/2012/09/06/bre......"


Yeah, instead of being all pretentious and trying to write important literature, Wallace should have taken a cue from Ellis and stuck to writing puerile bullshit.


message 48: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 06, 2012 11:22PM) (new)

Moosey?

I am Bret Easton Ellis.

Did somebody say something about Beckett?

I don't understand satire.


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

How 'bout this:

Instead of everybody generalizing and getting all puerile, why don't one of you Wallace fans throw down a body of text from Wallace's fiction which you find especially great and we'll analyze it. If it needs some context then just describe the context a little.
If it's really all that great, shouldn't the greatness be evident in at least a paragraph or two in isolation?


message 50: by Antonomasia (last edited Sep 07, 2012 12:36AM) (new)

Antonomasia Greatness in any art is not an absolute; there's always a way to argue against it if you really want to. And such argument is simply a way of framing personal taste in objective-sounding statements.

Anyway, this discussion has essentially been declared a serious-DFW-fan safe-space.
You're as likely to convert the other posters to your viewpoint as to make Richard Dawkins a Jehovah's Witness. Why bother, man?* Agree to disagree. Or start a group DFW: Not All That.

* A rhetorical question.


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