According to D.T. Max, ‘At the time of his tragic death by suicide in September 2008, David Foster Wallace was the foremost writer of his generation, the one who had forged the newest path and from whom the others, directly or indirectly, took their cues.’ Indeed, for someone desperate to escape the confines of self and wary of literary celebrity, Wallace endured more than his share of hype and admiration. This paradox is unsurprising when we consider Wallace’s repeated depictions of bleak coincidence in his fiction. Early in Infinite Jest (1996), footballer Orin Incandenza – the elder brother of physically deformed Mario and hyper-intelligent Hal – suffers a nightmare of being smothered by his mother’s disembodied head; when Orin wakes, his latest ‘Subject’ (sexual conquest) is watching a documentary about schizophrenia. Mediated by Orin, the voice-over describes its subject:
The life of David Foster Wallace
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
by D.T. Max
Granta (Allen & Unwin), $39.99 hb, 361 pp, 9781847084941
Shannon Burns is a tutor in European Studies at the University of Adelaide. He has published short stories, poetry, and academic...
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Michael Hofmann reviews Ted Hughes by Jonathan Bate