not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.
A good biography, thoroughly researched and written. It neglects neither the genius, nor the personal pain, nor the gargantuan ego of its subject, though it does occasionally seem to leave stuff out to spare the feelings of the living. Wallace and his mother are “incredibly close” in one chapter, then in the next, Wallace seems to have been angry at her for the last 20 years. No explanation besides his parents’ divorce is ever given, and that parenthetically. Also, there’s the problem that Wallace’s life isn’t all that interesting. Lots of pages spent on the psychic toll he incurred by dropping out of college twice, and even though each time it probably was a momentous, defining time period for Wallace, the reader has to conclude that a kid taking two year-long breaks from school in between a series of straight-A semesters is not the most gripping stuff. The book’s biggest strength is how it deals with Wallace’s bouts of depression–rather than trying to bring us into the author’s head, the book leaves us on the outside, feeling slightly frustrated that we don’t have any way to bridge the gap between our brain and his–which is, of course, exactly what it feels like to deal with a friend or family member suffering from depression. We’re not watching Wallace’s life through his own eyes, which would be impossible and anyway perhaps not desirable–we’re watching it through the eyes of everyone who was watching him.