Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace

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by D. T. Max
     
 

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The acclaimed New York Times–bestselling biography and “emotionally detailed portrait of the artist as a young man” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

Since his untimely death by suicide at the age of forty-six in 2008, David Foster Wallace has become more than the representative writer of his literary

Overview

The acclaimed New York Times–bestselling biography and “emotionally detailed portrait of the artist as a young man” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

Since his untimely death by suicide at the age of forty-six in 2008, David Foster Wallace has become more than the representative writer of his literary generation—he has become a symbol of sincerity and honesty in an inauthentic age, a figure whose reputation and reach grow by the day. In this compulsively readable biography, D. T. Max charts Wallace’s tormented, anguished, and often triumphant battle to succeed as a novelist as he fights off depression and addiction to emerge with his masterpiece, Infinite Jest. Written with the cooperation of Wallace family members and friends and with access to hundreds of Wallace’s unpublished letters, manuscripts, and journals, this revelatory biography illuminates the unique connections between Wallace’s life and his fiction in a gripping and deeply moving narrative that will transfix readers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story:
 
 
“In his revealing new biography, D.T. Max gives us a sympathetic portrayal of Wallace’s life and work, tracing the connections between the two, while mapping the wellsprings of his philosophical vision…what Mr. Max’s book does do — and does powerfully – is provide an emotionally detailed portrait of the artist as a young man.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

                                                              

“All readers, even those who know nothing of Wallace, will be moved by the portrayal of one man’s honest struggle with mental illness…the book’s] poignancy is in its emphasis on Wallace’s years of hard-earned survival and his efforts, though unrealized, toward artistic transformation.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

                                                             

“A well-crafted, insightful chronicle of this singular writer’s life and literary work…Max’s biography succeeds on multiple levels: through his astute interpretations of Wallace’s literary output and liberal quotes from the writer himself, this book very much embodies the spirit and life of Wallace…for this reader, the biography provides a measure of solace – that is this great writer can’t be among us, at least he can be remembered in all of his genius and complexity.” —S. Kirk Walsh, The San Francisco Chronicle

                                                                  

“I’m having trouble remembering when I was last so consumed by any piece of writing, fiction or non…Max’s focus is, not surprisingly, more or less resolutely on Wallace’s life as it related to his art. This decision to strip the story down to its narrative essentials pays off in terms of compulsive readability…In providing a more complete sense of Wallace than we ever had while he lived, it makes his death feel more real, somehow more irrefutable. And, for anyone who felt a profound emotional connection to Wallace and his work, there’s a strenuously cathartic dimension to this: the experience of knowing him more fully, and of thereby feeling more completely the force and finality of his absence.” —Mark O’Connell, Slate.com

                                                                 

“You find it painful, frightening, and, yes, gripping, to read about someone in chronic and severe emotional distress. In writing a chronologically narrated, thoroughly researched, objective-as-imaginable biography, Max has created a page turner.” —Rivka Galchen, The New York Times Book Review

                                                       

“Max’s long-awaited bio, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, helps us understand the man behind the words, and the mind behind the suicide…[Max] makes Wallace begin to cohere and become more approachable, more real…necessary reading if you care about DFW or the cultural moment that shaped him and then felt his impact.” —Evan Hughes, GQ.com

                                                                 

“Documenting the life of a writer as revered and tormented as the late David Foster Wallace is a fraught task at best. D.T. Max has done an admirable job with Every Love Story is a Ghost Story…what emerges is a vivid portrait of an artist whose verbal brilliance was continually hampered, and ultimately silenced, by debilitating mental illness.” —Steve Almond, The Boston Globe

                                                                     

“Max’s long-awaited biography of David Foster Wallace has been the end-of-summer book for readers of literary fiction. It has inspired countless reviews, conversations, and online outbursts…Max somehow manages to tell a compelling story that peels back the public image of Wallace without stripping it bare, creating a portrait of a troubled and gifted man who crafted some of our time’s best writing and giving readers a fuller sense of the relation of the work to the life.” —Samuel Cohen, The Believer

                                                                           

“While Max appears to greatly admire Wallace as a writer and feel compassion for him as a man, he is never starry-eyed, or pulls his punches. Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is as illuminating, multifaceted, and serious an estimation of David Foster Wallace’s life and work as we can hope to find.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanityfair.com

“Brilliant and compulsively readable…Max’s new biography deftly reassembles the life of David Foster Wallace…strips away the legend and gives us an all-too-human writer…a convincingly intimate and lucid narrative…Max is respectful throughout – and his account of the writer’s final days is devastatingly measured.” —Taylor Antrim, Vogue.com

                                                              

“Full of all kinds of strange surprises, painting the most complete, and warmest, portrait of Wallace yet.” —Rolling Stone

The New York Times
In his revealing new biography…D. T. Max gives us a sympathetic appraisal of Wallace's life and work, tracing the connections between the two, while mapping the wellsprings of his philosophical vision. The book captures the heartbreaking struggle Wallace waged with severe depression throughout his adult life, and his battle not only to write—to capture the frenetic debates in his head on paper—but also to navigate the humdrum routines of daily life…What Mr. Max's book does…and does powerfully—is provide an emotionally detailed portrait of the artist as a young man: conflicted, self-conscious and deeply thoughtful, like so many of his characters a seeker after an understanding of his own place in the world and a Melvillian "isolato," yearning for connection yet stymied by the whirring of his own brain and the discontinuities of an America reeling from information overload.
—Michiko Kakutani
The New York Times Book Review
In writing a chronologically narrated, thoroughly researched, objective-as-imaginable biography, Max has created a page turner.
—Rivka Galchen
Library Journal
Appearing in The New Yorker a year after David Foster Wallace's suicide, Max's "The Unfinished: David Foster Wallace's Struggle To Surpass Infinite Jest" really fired up readers. Here Max details Wallace's struggles to become a novelist while circumventing depression and addiction and also explores his powerful impact on American letters—particularly as a symbol of integrity in an increasingly slick world.
Kirkus Reviews
A thorough, understated account of the life of the pioneering author and how his addictions and fiction intersected. Before his suicide, David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) pursued a host of paths as a writer. He was a showy ironist who drafted his Pynchon-esque debut novel, The Broom of the System (1987), while an undergraduate student at Amherst. He was a bright philosopher who wrote at length on Wittgenstein and infinity. He was a skilled (if not always factually rigorous) reporter who covered state fairs, politics and tennis with intelligence and style. But the biggest inspiration for his admirers was the compassion, wit and understanding of our media-soaked age that emerged in later novels like Infinite Jest (1996) and the posthumous The Pale King (2011). In this appropriately contemplative biography, New Yorker staff writer Max (The Family that Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery, 2006) avoids overdramatizing climactic events in Wallace's life, though it had plenty of emotional turmoil. Wallace was hospitalized for addiction and depression multiple times, and even at his steadiest he could collapse into rages. (Max chronicles in detail Wallace's disastrous relationship with memoirist Mary Karr.) Max emphasizes the psychological tug of war within Wallace, who struggled to reconcile his suspicion of mass media with a habitual gulping down of hours of it; his high-minded pursuit of art with a need for emotional and sexual attention; and his resolve to blend entertaining fiction and dense philosophy. Max draws upon the rich trove of Wallace's papers (he was an inveterate letter writer) and dozens of interviews, from Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors to literary contemporaries like Jonathan Franzen. Wallace's family relationships get relatively short shrift, but it's clear that under the veneer of a successful, brainy novelist was an eager-to-please native Midwesterner. A stellar biography of a complicated subject: Max's portrait skillfully unites Wallace's external and internal lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780147509727
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/27/2013
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
599,929
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story:
 
 

“In his revealing new biography, D.T. Max gives us a sympathetic portrayal of Wallace’s life and work, tracing the connections between the two, while mapping the wellsprings of his philosophical vision…what Mr. Max’s book does do — and does powerfully – is provide an emotionally detailed portrait of the artist as a young man.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
                                                              

“All readers, even those who know nothing of Wallace, will be moved by the portrayal of one man’s honest struggle with mental illness…the book’s] poignancy is in its emphasis on Wallace’s years of hard-earned survival and his efforts, though unrealized, toward artistic transformation.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
                                                             
 

“A well-crafted, insightful chronicle of this singular writer’s life and literary work…Max’s biography succeeds on multiple levels: through his astute interpretations of Wallace’s literary output and liberal quotes from the writer himself, this book very much embodies the spirit and life of Wallace…for this reader, the biography provides a measure of solace – that is this great writer can’t be among us, at least he can be remembered in all of his genius and complexity.” —S. Kirk Walsh, The San Francisco Chronicle
 
                                                                  

“I’m having trouble remembering when I was last so consumed by any piece of writing, fiction or non…Max’s focus is, not surprisingly, more or less resolutely on Wallace’s life as it related to his art. This decision to strip the story down to its narrative essentials pays off in terms of compulsive readability…In providing a more complete sense of Wallace than we ever had while he lived, it makes his death feel more real, somehow more irrefutable. And, for anyone who felt a profound emotional connection to Wallace and his work, there’s a strenuously cathartic dimension to this: the experience of knowing him more fully, and of thereby feeling more completely the force and finality of his absence.” —Mark O’Connell, Slate.com
                                                                 
 

“You find it painful, frightening, and, yes, gripping, to read about someone in chronic and severe emotional distress. In writing a chronologically narrated, thoroughly researched, objective-as-imaginable biography, Max has created a page turner.” —Rivka Galchen, The New York Times Book Review
 
                                                       
 

“Max’s long-awaited bio, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, helps us understand the man behind the words, and the mind behind the suicide…[Max] makes Wallace begin to cohere and become more approachable, more real…necessary reading if you care about DFW or the cultural moment that shaped him and then felt his impact.” —Evan Hughes, GQ.com
                                                                 
 

“Documenting the life of a writer as revered and tormented as the late David Foster Wallace is a fraught task at best. D.T. Max has done an admirable job with Every Love Story is a Ghost Story…what emerges is a vivid portrait of an artist whose verbal brilliance was continually hampered, and ultimately silenced, by debilitating mental illness.” —Steve Almond, The Boston Globe
                                                                     
 

“Max’s long-awaited biography of David Foster Wallace has been the end-of-summer book for readers of literary fiction. It has inspired countless reviews, conversations, and online outbursts…Max somehow manages to tell a compelling story that peels back the public image of Wallace without stripping it bare, creating a portrait of a troubled and gifted man who crafted some of our time’s best writing and giving readers a fuller sense of the relation of the work to the life.” —Samuel Cohen, The Believer
                                                                           
 

“While Max appears to greatly admire Wallace as a writer and feel compassion for him as a man, he is never starry-eyed, or pulls his punches. Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is as illuminating, multifaceted, and serious an estimation of David Foster Wallace’s life and work as we can hope to find.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanityfair.com
 

“Brilliant and compulsively readable…M

Meet the Author

D. T. Max is also the author of The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery. A staff writer for the New Yorker, he lives outside New York City with his wife and two children.

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Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DFW is the most awe -inspiring writer of my life. His story is tragic, but it is also deeply instructive, sweet and funny. A wonderful book about a beautiful mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This biography was well written, but I also think that DT Max opted out of giving a more detailed analysis so that the book would be easier to write.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not worth reading, not insightful or well written.
shtraus More than 1 year ago
Poorly written. The author just list facts, sometimes completely unrelated to the context.