Paul's Reviews > Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max
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's review
Sep 11, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012
Read from August 31 to September 10, 2012

On Sep 11, 2012, at 8:35 AM, [I] wrote:
So, tomorrow's the 4th anniversary of DFW's death.

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:04 AM, [ ] wrote:
actually just started reading the bio. it's pretty good. seems like the writing was kind of a rush job maybe, but the details are interesting.

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:11 AM, [I] wrote:
I finished it last night. It's good, but it's just sooo short. The writing gets better as it goes along. The guy's a good writer. That said, he's a NYer guy, and I think ppl get pretty comfortable there, because it's such a singular style and they cultivate that and maybe . . . not coddle the writers, but the writers get comfy, and I'm wondering if when he started doing a book, not related to the NYer, if it was kind of an adjustment. Anyway, yeah, the writing gets better, but as his life goes on it gets kind of fuzzier and vague a little bit, and too fast. I'm not like a DFW expert though I did pretty much read every damn thing written about him when he died, and to be honest the bio didn't really tell me anything I didn't know. Which, for a bio, is a super bummer. I mean, there'll be more bios, but not for at least another 10 years. I guess best case would be this one gets panned and someone else takes up the torch. Not that I wish the guy (Max) ill, because I think he's a rad dude and like his stuff, so. Lose-lose. The super bummer is he did a piece a long time ago for the NYer which was just a profile of DFW, and a LOT of that is recycled in the bio. So a lot of it felt familiar. And, worst part, the end, where dude died, was completely reused, like I'd already read that exact few pages/scene, and dude didn't even expand it from the profile. Iunno, I felt like he should have been way more expansive. Fans want to know. I could say more, but I'll take the DT Max route and just not. >: (

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:19 AM, [ ] wrote:
yeah, it seems like he's deserving of the extensive bio treatment. for me -- knowing a little about him but not a ton -- it's been pretty interesting so far. i'm only 80 pp in but he's definitely already answered that question people always ask: "how could someone DO THAT?" after a suicide. it's like, well, yeah, that was what his life was like. makes sense. i'm sure it gets a whole lot worse as it goes on. one thing that really surprised me, unless he's downplaying wallace's other early writing efforts...i was really surprised his first novel was his thesis. the writer almost makes it sound like he was just, "eh, i'll write a novel," and that's what resulted.

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:31 AM, [I] wrote:
Yeah, he was just obviously born to write. Like, that's where his talent was. That first novel isn't GREAT. It's good, but. I remember he said something like it's a book written by a writer trying to make ppl think the writer is smart, or something like that, and he's kind of right. I guess yeah he like just rattled the thing off and chilled for the rest of the semester. I dunno, like, I already knew all that though. Like I wish it would have gone into more of his "awakening" and realizing he was meant to be a writer. Give me MORE. And, worst, is that it DOESN'T get worse as it goes. There's basically nothing at ALL in there re his father. His dad just isn't in the book. His mom HARDLY, and his sister a tiny bit. It says he goes to therapy. We know that. No more insight there, Max? Like, how much of Brief Interviews came from his life? More on Brief Interviews! And then, it's basically you've got 6 pages left and he still has to publish Oblivion and go off his meds and die, and that stuff is just stuffed into the end. Consider the Lobster, the collection, isn't even mentioned, in terms of how did it get published etc. I dunno. Just, so much left unsaid. Which, I dunno if this is fair, but to a guy as expansive as Wallace, doesn't it even make LESS sense for the bio to be 300p? Wouldn't Wallace want it all in there? Esp. a vain-ish, self-conscious dude like he was. Or is that a sort of specious, superficial take?

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:37 AM, [I] wrote:
I'm basically trying to not go on and on and on about the whole thing, to be honest, since A. He's a huge inspiration to me, if not a hero but maybe close to a hero-ish?, but who cares unless you're me, and B. I probably want to try and prove how much I know about DFW and how much of the bio I "already knew."

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:39 AM, [ ] wrote:
well, yeah, i guess if he devoted 6 pp to publishing oblivion and dying, that's a rush job right there. good title though. but here's the thing -- dude's life wasn't all that interesting, aside from writing and being severely depressed, right? it's not like he ran across the country for 2 years or anything. so it's probably tough rounding up material. but i see what you're saying.

On Sep 11, 2012, at 9:47 AM, [I] wrote:
I saw [ ] this weekend and we were talking about it, he said the same thing about his life not being super super interesting. I get that, but it also doesn't hold up. To a Wallace fan, Wallace taking a shit is interesting. This bio was cool in that it didn't dwell on his parents' upbringing, and a ton on his childhood, which a lot of bios do and it's sort of obligatory and definitely boring, and then it didn't dwell on his aftermath (smart since it's only been 4 years), so that was cool, but sure, all he did was write and teach; but emotionally, where was he at? I don't need another letter that he wrote to DeLillo. SO many letters to DeLillo. Or Franzen. Tell me what he was THINKING. Where he was at EMOTIONALLY. What did he think about his mom at the time? What about his DAD? What was he talking about with his therapists? (I realize there's doctor/patient privilege stuff there, not sure how that works when a patient dies, but). That sort of stuff. Less what was he doing, more what was he thinking, what were his students thinking about him, his colleagues, all that. Was he getting up and cutting the lawn every day? Was he thinking about alcohol? It makes it seem like he struggled ZERO with addiction. Is that the case? These are the questions a bio should answer, not create. Is sort of what I'm saying at heart.
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