Vivian Valvano'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
Oct 29, 2012

Read in October, 2012

I cannot and will not give stars to this biography of David Foster Wallace, published just a few years after his tragic 2008 death. I'll just comment. I love Wallace's writing, fiction and non-fiction, and I tremendously admire the sheer brilliance of his mind. Moreover, and above all, I bow in awe and admiration to him for his long, arduous, heroic battle with mental illness. That it ended in his suicide does not make him any less heroic for me. The depths of his severe chronic depression, the years of addiction that were self-medication but which depressed him further (AND which he did successfully overcome, with herculean efforts), and the failure of psychiatric medication to provide relief in the last months of his life are heartbreaking. That he was able to use his superior mind and imagination and creativity so magnificently as much as he did is nothing short of miraculous. Wallace was clearly a very complex person. D. T. Max, I suppose, means well, but he is not a good writer. How can a person who is not a good writer, who writes the flattest of sentences, hope to write about Wallace? The best parts of this biography are the quotations from Wallace (and they are abundant; Max had access to reams of letters, papers, notes, and, of course, the published works). He had cooperation from some family members and friends and past lovers and, importantly, Wallace's beloved wife, with whom he shared a great love in his last few years. But unless Max is quoting from Wallace or (less cogently) from one of his interviews with a source, all that I could do was lament that I wasn't reading more of Wallace's own words. The last part of the book, about Wallace's last days and suicide, actually sounded cursory to me, as if Max didn't know how to handle the topic and rushed through it. Anyone interested is better off reading the excellent ROLLING STONE article by David Lipsky, published after Wallace's death. The world lost one of the greatest, most original literary artists of the contemporary period when Wallace died, but his wife and family and dearest friends lost a loved one - and he, himself, lost his life. May he rest in peace.

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