DAVID Foster Wallace’s life was brilliant, tormented, and short — cut off by a 2008 suicide. Because your humble blogger was going through complicated matters of his own — an incompetent gnome had just crashed the newspaper I wrote for, hundreds of colleagues and I were soon out of work — I never entirely engaged with the sudden death of the man who is likely to stand as the greatest writer of our generation.
D.T. Max’s Wallace biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, gets into the novelist’s life and death, as well as the ideas that animated him and his times. The tale comes across as a classic generational journey between theory and irony on one hand and sincerity and… something else on the other.
HERE is my long Q+A with Max, on Salon.
Let me put in a plug, by the way, for a lively, recent anthology of work about DFW, The Legacy of David Foster Wallace, which includes pieces by novelists Don De Lillo, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, etc., as well as DFW’s editor at Little, Brown.
I also asked Max a question we did not have room for on the Salon interview. Here it is:
ST: What kind of long-term impact do we expect Wallace will have? My guess is that he opened the door to a certain kind of literary voice: Would we have gotten Dave Eggers and the McSweeney’s empire without him? Anything else, generationally, culturally, or otherwise? Where do we see his influence?
DTM: Wallace definitely broadened the idea of what the “literary” could be in American fiction both in terms of the sentence and the novel itself. How many young writers today pattern themselves after him? But I think literary styles change and what is of the moment today is going to be passe tomorrow. in some ways we are already seeing a backlash. Where DFW continues to grow stornger is in what you might call almost-literary writing, on the web, on blogs, in journals, where he liberated a generation to write more the way they thought.