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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life of a Literary Supernova
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...
Published 20 months ago by Careful Reader

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent First Look
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...
Published 19 months ago by DRFP


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life of a Literary Supernova, 2 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (Hardcover)
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
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This review is from: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (Hardcover)
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. It didn't wow me or make me re-think my impressions of Wallace and didn't answer my central question about Wallace either (mainly, why a man who professed so dearly to wanting a new sincerity could often be so phoney) but it was an enjoyable read and hopefully it will lead to further examination of this brilliant author's troubled life.
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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
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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
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H. Fanelsa - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (Hardcover)
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Clunky, 2 Jan 2014
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Keith Brady - See all my reviews
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This being the first book length biography of Wallace is really no excuse for the clunky prose which makes this book a slog to read. Wallace is quite the character, but while Max clearly did his homework and spoke to many of the people closest to Wallace, they are rarely quoted. Instead we get Max's dutiful trudge through Wallace's life. If you read any of Wallace you will want to read this book and it does give insight into the man and the afflictions which led him to take his own life, but as a stand alone piece of writing this book is weak and you will not return to it, unlike, say, Infinite Jest. Always a shame when the title is the best of a book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars about writing, about a writer, 13 Dec 2013
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I have to confess that prior to reading this book I had not read any of David Foster Wallace's novels or other work. I am interested, though, in what motivates writers, and in how they live their lives as writers.

This was a fascinating read from that point of view. That the author, DT Max, has been able to produce such a page-turner with clear appeal to a reader unfamiliar with Wallace's writing (but who knew of him only as a kind of literary phenomenon) reflects highly, I think, his abilities as a writer of the literary portrait.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary writer, 21 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (Hardcover)
I only came to DFW 2 yrs ago and having read BIWHM I went straight to Oblivion along with his non-fiction, A supposedly fun thing. He is, of course, a great writer; his blow-you-away intelligence, wit, charm and, for me, above all, his interrogative spirit places him in the top echelon of writers seeking to do more than entertain. Reading Max's biography was fascinating as he chips away at the `statue' that resides in the minds of some DFW fans. That is not to say this is a mean biography, far from it; Max gives the reader an unabashed, yet respectful view of the man, letting the `facts' for the most parts speak for themselves - though, as if with other reviewers, I would have like to have been engaged with a little more reflection and commentary, particularly regarding his mental illness that led to such a terrible end. Nonetheless we get to see something of the life of the man driven for most of his life to write, ask the big questions and bravely attempt to seek their answers through his art. Be prepared for surprising revelations about his personal life, but then not really surprising... he put more than a toe in the water and brought back some stunning insights. I have The Broom of the System and Girl with Curious Hair winging their way to me as I write - ground-pleasure before the massive ascent of Infinite Jest. Thank you David Foster Wallace. And thank you D T Max.
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1 of 82 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Every Wallace Story is a Minutiae Story, 1 Oct 2012
This review is from: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (Hardcover)
No dead man, you will not be read "100 years from now."

No, you were never a "genius" that nominator is for the applied sciences and complex, theoretical mathematics.

Just say no to "Infinite Jest" predicated on a missing film that needs to stay missing, or rather excised entirely from the plot because a teenager could have easily imagined David Foster Wallace's "the Entertainment" and put it to better use in a video game.

The Suicidal Embrace. This happens when any supposed "artist" (I'm not singling out Wallace in particular) comes to realize a diabolical reality. It is this:

Insanity is believing a human being can create art.

Just as Virginia Woolf waded the River Stone, Hemingway oiled his shotgun in preparation and Wallace did indeed fly for a moment, so too it will always be: suicide is made strong, will go on via its singularity of repetitiveness and endlessly, tirelessly it leads to the next man waiting in self-murderous solitude.

Chris Roberts, God of Self-Murder
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