Monday, May 10, 2010

Biography: Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky

David Lipsky’s most recent book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (Broadway) is not a biography of the late David Foster Wallace. Rather it is a heartbreaking and surprisingly intimate visit with a giant talent that has since been too cheaply spent.

Like just about everyone else, I guess, almost two years after his death, I still feel the loss of this writer acutely. And that word that so many people have used in connection with Foster Wallace -- loss -- is entirely inaccurate. Because, of course, Foster Wallace killed himself. And he left us behind to make of all that’s left what we will. I can’t quite bring myself to forgive him for that. The books he won’t write. The stories he won’t tell. “Suicide is such a powerful end," Lipsky writes in an afterword that runs near the beginning of the book. Appropriate somehow, “it reaches back and scrambles the beginning. It has an event gravity: Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction.”

In 1996, Rolling Stone assigned Lipsky to travel with Foster Wallace near the end of the tour for Infinite Jest, the work that would make him famous. Lipsky sets it up:
I’m thirty years old, he’s thirty-four. We both have long hair .... this book runs from the minute I turn on the recorder, through five days of diners, arguments, on-ramps, friends, a reading, a faraway mall, his dogs, up to the last word David said to me. It's a word that meant a great, complicated amount to him. After he died, I read through this week again. I was surprised and moved -- it seemed very much like him -- to see that he used it in the context of dance.
Lipsky is a skilled interviewer and a terrific writer and so what we end up with is far, far beyond what might be expected. One of the great literary minds of his generation speaking frankly and at length with an award-winning journalist who, himself, has a great deal to say.

I imagine that, as the years pass, we will see biographies about the troubled and talented Foster Wallace. I doubt, however, we’ll see another portrait that cuts quite this close to the bone. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself is a remarkable book. You hear Foster Wallace’s amazing voice on every page. And your heart breaks all over again.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I cried. As you said, what a loss.

What a terrible, terrible loss.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 11:28:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Lorne Daniel said...

Losing DFW's voice & inquiring mind was a huge loss to literature and to our society. Unfortunately his deep depression was unknown to most, outside of his family, until he was gone. When I read about his struggles with mental health and medications over his last years I am even more amazed at his accomplishments. Harry Ransom Center has many of his papers - intriguing records: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 9:52:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sad. Still.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 3:33:00 PM PDT  

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