April 5th, 2011 / 3:15 pm

At the Awl, a comprehensive post re: David Foster Wallace’s private self help library.


  1. James Greer

      I said this on the Twitter but I’ll say it here, too, because it bears repeating. The smartest thing about DFW I’ve read (maybe ever).

  2. kb

      Wow. I keep watching the HBO version of Sunset Limited, reminds me of part of that:

      (on other people who want to commit suicide)

      Black: So how come they can’t be your brothers in despair and selfdestruction?
      What I think is you got better reasons than them. I mean, their reasons is just that they don’t like it here, but yours says what they is not to like and why not to like it. You got more intelligent reasons. More elegant reasons.

  3. Kyle Minor

      I agree. Bless you, Maria B.

  4. Parker Tettleton

      Thanks Blake & I can’t wait for There is No Year to arrive — shit’s going to be a festival.

  5. deadgod

      [dissension alert]

      The Granada House “ex-resident” warns us that she or he “wince[s] at some of the hyperbole and melodrama that are used in recovery-speak”.

      This “ex-resident” also says, after a short list of her or his opportunities and privileges, “And I was, at age 27, a late-stage alcoholic and drug addict.”

      Here are some symptoms of “late-stage” alcoholism: cirrhosis; liver failure; kidney malfunction; vomiting blood; bowel and bladder incontinence; gin blossoms all over the (swollen, sagging) face and hands; erectile non-function; uncontrollable tremors; memory loss; difficulty walking and speaking; tooth decay/loss; constant pain in the internal organs.

      Here are some symptoms of “late-stage” drug addiction: blood disease (especially hepatitis C); disintegration of the nose and loosening of the teeth; destruction of vessels in arms, legs, etc.; weakening of circulatory system; brain damage, including permanent memory loss and uncontrollable tremors; permanent lung damage.

      I think that Wallace never stopped getting away with perhaps-substance-abuse-related self-mythologizing, that, though it involved honest appraisal (every person in the world knows things that the sharpest whiz kid doesn’t), the “regular guy” pose was untrue and unworthy of Wallace, and that this ‘success’ was (paradoxically) central to his despair.

      I think that, even though it contains some nicely turned writing, Bustillos’s piece is mostly “hyperbole and melodrama”.

      I think that “self-help literature” – “persuading us to put John Bradshaw on the same level with Wittgenstein” – accelerates decay.

  6. alanrossi

      it does feel a bit too much like a “key,” as though she’s figured him out. still, i enjoyed the read, mainly for his underlinings and notes, but also for her desperately trying to find an answer for herself.

      i really really want to stay in that archive for a summer, wait, no, a winter or something.