On David Foster Wallace and 'The Bad Thing'

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In a personal essay at the Los Angeles Review of Books getting some nice social media buzz, Laurie Winer considers Wallace and the reality, and literature, of depression and suicide. Sample:

I printed out Michiko Kakutani’s review of "Every Love Story is a Ghost Story," D.T. Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, and I took it with me to my therapist’s office. I’m not seeing her all that much these days, once a month, and I plan to stop altogether at the end of the year. These days, we talk leisurely about what it means to live a worthwhile life. I am holding on to her a little longer than I need to, after slowly emerging in June from three months of what Wallace calls “The Bad Thing.”

“The Bad Thing.” I like this phrase because the state it describes doesn’t deserve a more nuanced name. The Bad Thing is not nuanced. The Bad Thing is a compassless darkness; it is the bottom of a foul deep well whose view of sunlight exists only to taunt. But even as I say this I know it’s too poetic. There’s nothing poetic about depression. This is why, most of the time, it’s no fun to read about. No matter how gifted the writer, nothingness — not the philosophical kind, but the experiential — is not much of a subject.

Wallace hanged himself in 2008, at age 46. Kakutani, who had not been generous to Wallace while he was alive, tacitly acknowledged the tragedy of his death by quoting liberally from his O.E.D.-length novel Infinite Jest, curating the sentences in which Wallace described the weatherlessness we call clinical depression.

Read it at the LARB site. Also, the Review has announced it has been offered a grant of $10,000, if it can raise mostly from readers by this Friday. In this video, founder and editor Tom Lutz tells it like it is.



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