“We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met?”—David Foster Wallace
The hagiography around David Foster Wallace—one I’ve devoutly consumed and even added to—has grown to somewhat absurd proportions in the four years since his death. It is thus possible to view D.T. Max’s new biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, as yet another contribution to the cult of DFW; this, however, would miss the substance of Max’s book. Every Love Story… actually goes to great lengths to debunk many of the myths that have grown around Wallace since his death. And although Max is clearly sympathetic towards Wallace, the book doesn’t shy away from being honest about him.
One of the ways Max establishes credibility in this regard is by making clear how unreliable a source Wallace himself is. Indeed, Wallace told a remarkable number of lies about himself: lies about whether or not he had read Thomas Pynchon, lies about who he’d slept with, lies to editors about where he’d been published, lies to friends about graduate school applications, lies to women and family members and interviewers, often about things that hardly seem worth lying over. On some level, this is consistent with the popular image of Wallace as someone intensely afraid of revealing himself to people. But it is frankly troubling to read about how dodgy, immature, and narcissistic he could be at times, and Max doesn’t shy away from these unflattering details. Continue reading »
First things first: This is not going to be a mere excuse to tell you how much I like David Foster Wallace’s short story collection, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. For one, any loyal reader knows that already. Plus, I already have one series of posts where I write more than anyone should about something you almost certainly don’t like as much as I do.
No, this is more about a more general point, specifically the importance of a narrative arc. Even more specifically, about the importance of narrative arc within the context of John Krasinki’s film adaptation of Wallace’s short story.
Last year, John Krasinki released his directorial debut, an adaptation of “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.” When I first heard about this film, I was surprised, and not just because it associated one of my favorite things with one of my least favorite things. I was surprised because the story seemed to me, as it likely did to most people who had read it, unfilmable. It is, as the title quite literally states, a series of interviews with unnamed men. If there is any connection at all between these men and the interviewer, or each other, it is not mentioned or even really hinted at. The interviewer, in fact, never speaks and is not characterized at all; there is no indication that it is even the same person in each interview (the dates and times given for each interview actually suggest that there is no single interviewer). Continue reading »
What we read while looking for another way to make two million dollars:
- A new study finds that women may actually make better judges using certain standards.
- Does anyone not feel much sympathy for David Letterman? Robin Hanson offers a defense of blackmail…Well, more like a defense of the removal of anti-blackmail laws.