I hadn't heard of David Foster Wallace until my cousin asked for Consider the Lobster in our Secret Santa gift exchange a few years back. Since Wallace was a professor at Claremont College, which is not that far away, I decided to use the professor connection to get he book autographed. I never met Wallace, only chatted with him on the phone, but he was very nice.
I still haven't read Infinite Jest, but my interest in Wallace was definitely piqued. I was saddened to hear of his death earlier this year.
There was a very nice essay in Rolling Stone,
The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace, that talked about about his decades-long struggle with depression. His story is beautiful and sad.
My favorite parts of the essay are when it talks about how difficult it is to write. I know the feeling.
"Wallace told Costello about a woman he had become involved with. 'He said, 'She gets mad at me because I never want to leave the house.' 'Honey, let's go to the mall.' 'No, I want to write.' 'But you never do write.' 'But I don't know if I'm going to write. So I have to be here in case it happens.' This went on for years.'"
I am so familiar with this experience. I have spent many hours trapped at my desk playing some useless game like solitaire or slitherlink, not wanting to write, but having to write all the same.
(His friend,) Mark Costello was also worried. "Work got very hard. He didn't get these gifts from God anymore, he didn't get these six-week periods where he got exactly the 120 pages he needed. So he found distraction in other places." He would get engaged, then unengaged. He would call friends: "Next weekend, Saturday, you gotta be in Rochester, Minnesota, I'm getting married." But then it would be Sunday, or the next week, and he'd have called it off.
I know this practice of serial obsessions. When I have spent too many hours trapped behind a computer, I start to fantasize about other doing other things and start having absurd obsessions. I went through a phase when I was shopping for a horse, or planning to get a tattoo in Kyoto, Japan, or becoming a yoga instructor. If I weren't so trapped, I would never consider such things. But I was, and so I did. And so did David Foster Wallace. And perhaps in some twisted way, it helped the writing too.