Editor’s Note: As of this post, Points will be going on a “holiday hiatus” schedule– a light posting regime that reflects the editorial crew’s commitment to spending the holidays doing life rather than history. We’ll resume regular posting at the end of January 2013. I should also note that this will be my last post as Managing Editor; Eoin Cannon will take over that role next month with elan, aplomb, and a host of other personal traits that sound like exotic desserts.
Given that the idea for Points originated when I wrote a reflection on David Foster Wallace’s death for the ADHS “Daily Register” back in 2009 (scroll about halfway down if you want to see it), it seems fitting that my last editorial effort here is the interview that follows with D.T. Max, author of the impressive new biography of Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. With the help of Rich C., one of Wallace’s sponsors, Max has constructed a picture of the author’s life that gives addiction and recovery the pride of place they deserve. This account reveals a hugely gifted intellectual struggling not only with clinical depression, but with another conundrum– less clinical but still debilitating: how to speak and write the language of the heart in a world that values the body and the head over that more delicate organ.
Points: Not much of the critical literature on DFW attends to the role of addiction and recovery in his life and work. Your book puts them at the center, arguing that his participation in 12-Step culture accounts in many ways for this turn away from postmodern form and (non)feeling and towards fiction that is earnest, morally engaged, and “‘about what it is like to be a fucking human being’” (178). Can you talk a bit about how you came to see addiction and recovery as central to our understanding of DFW?
DTM: I think the single biggest force on David, from the time he entered a twelve-step program in 1988 for the first time until his death, was that program. Continue reading →