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Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace [Hardcover]

D. T. Max
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012
In his lifetime, David Foster Wallace was lauded by critics and loved by fans. But even to those who had barely read his work, he was something of a cult figure. Since his suicide in 2008, Wallace has become the Kurt Cobain of the printed word, and his life and death now stand as symbols of a generation's hopes and their despair. In this compelling account of Wallace's evolution from anxious adolescent into post-modern anti-hero, D. T. Max will speak to those who knew him intimately and those who were drawn to him from afar to tell the story of a man struggling to write authentically about "what it is to be a f**king human being" against the frenetic noise of modern life and the cavernous void of American culture. This is a story of drugs and depression, of madness and creativity intertwined, of a man who felt profoundly lost but still found a way to capture this lostness in words and hold it defiantly aloft, like a flag for his generation.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Publications Ltd; 1st Edition edition (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184708494X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847084941
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A supremely understated and magnificently comprehensive life of a remarkable writer... Tremendous -Sunday Times

A nuanced, deeply reported and fiercely sad book - Independent

An immensely moving and intellectually scrupulous biography ... Max is a compelling and subtle critic of the work - Scotsman

This is a fine piece of work ... detailed yet economical, shrewd and subtle about the writing... Max's sympathetic account of Wallace's life aches with the sense of a man who found it incredibly hard just living day-to-day in the world --Literary Review

A superb biography... that feels fresh rather than hurried... It not only brings Wallace to life, it brings the work into play as well. Max is a very smart writer - Observer

Very, very good... Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is relatively discreet about the details of Foster Wallace s eventual suicide, but I m not sure I ve read anything that makes the deep structural reasons for a suicide so apparent- David Baddiel, The Times

Scrupulous and affecting-Financial Times

An elegant tribute. Restrained and incisive, his book is respectful without succumbing to hagiography ... Mr Max s biography reminds readers of what has been lost in the untimely death of this rare and serious writer --Economist

About the Author

D. T. MAX is a journalist and essayist who is a staff writer at the New Yorker, and writes regularly for the New York Times Book Review, and the LA Times. His previous book with Portobello was The Family That Couldn't Sleep (2007). www.dtmax.com

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life of a Literary Supernova 2 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For me, David Foster Wallace was the real-life version of the character in Douglas Adams's Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy who, sitting in a café, suddenly comes up with the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. She is killed (along with the rest of Earth's inhabitants) before she can tell anyone, thanks to a reptilian race of intergalactic highway builders led by a fanatical poet-come-jobsworth, who demolish the planet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.
Reading Wallace's fiction (Infinite Jest) and non-fiction (A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again) is like watching someone writing their way towards the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Tragically, Wallace died in 2008, aged 46, halfway through writing The Pale King, the follow up to his masterwork Infinite Jest.
This well-written, neatly constructed biography, which covers, amongst much else, affairs, addictions, teaching, tennis and tobacco, by lively New Yorker writer DT Max, captures like a roach under a glass (a reference for Wallace fans) the too-brief life of this literary supernova.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent First Look 2 Dec 2012
Not having read many biographies I can't say whether this is a particularly good one. Sure, there were parts of Wallace's life that seemed to receive only brief attention (most notably for me the two periods that bookmark his sadly short life) and other elements that were missing (significant comment from Wallace's family for instance) but I don't know whether any biography can be exhaustive without being titanic in size.

Max's book certainly is a pleasant read, even if its style is conventional (a thematic approach might have brought more impressive results). Every Love Story is a Ghost Story won't throw up too many surprises for those who have done their background reading prior to this book but there's still plenty of day to day information that is nice detail to know. Though later on this seems to come at the expense of commenting on Wallace's fiction writing - the stories for "Brief Interviews" and "Oblivion" seem to pop out of almost nowhere. Even if the author doesn't illuminate much new critical information he is good when he comments on Wallace's work. Max ties Wallace's work together nicely and offers sharp insights into some of the meaning behind the stories. Crucially, Max avoids writing a hagiography of Wallace and perhaps that is his greatest achievement in a world that has almost uniformly canonised the author since his suicide. Not that Max is especially vocal in judging Wallace (I think Bustillos was much more forthright in her lengthy online article), he simply reports the facts that he knows and lets the reader judge. Anyone expecting a work that spectacularly praises or damns Wallace will be disappointed.

This is a good book though and a worthy first attempt at writing the life of David Foster Wallace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of a Great 4 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I appreciate an honest biography like this, where the author, DT Max, has done tremendous research and filling-in-the-gaps, and then sets about describing them in a manner that is easy to read and entertaining. This clear biography fills in a lot of gaps, and sets each of DFW's incredible books within the context of his desperation that they be as good as he could possibly make them, and his horrifying battle against his personal darkness.

I was fascinated to learn about how much of Infinite Jest was based closely upon the author's personal experiences - both in terms of Hal's tennis prodigy and Gateley's big-hearted rehab.

Ultimately this is a wonderful and heartbreaking biography of one of the true masters of post-War English language writing, fiction and non-fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 9 Jan 2014
Highly readable, hugely enjoyable biography - gives an excellent, balanced account of DFW's life. Can't recommend it enough. Even if I wasn't such a big DFW fan, actually even if I had never heard of him this would have still been a fabulous read.
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