D.T. Max on David Foster Wallace’s Boston

It was David Foster Wallace’s fine biographer D. T. Max who remarked to me months ago that the Boston dimensions of Wallace and his masterpiece Infinite Jest had not been taken in. Spot on, I realized. The Wallace I met and interviewed (fumblingly, I’m afraid) in 1996 when Infinite Jest appeared seemed lost somewhere between his midwestern beginnings and the oceanic anxieties, addictions, hunger and general weirdness of our times. But Max prompted me to read Infinite Jest all over again, and of course he’s right: the book is a map of the hospital hilltop in Brighton; of Prospect Street in Cambridge between Inman and Central Squares; of Harvard Square and McLean Hospital; of the fashionably seedy precincts, then and now, of Somerville on the edge of East Cambridge. So I asked D. T. Max — the New Yorker staff writer who contributed that memorable obituary profile — who Wallace was after all, and what persuaded Max himself to undertake a serious biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story.

David is the author of his time who has the fairest chance to be read 50 years from now… I really feel the way David touched the themes of the 1990s – themes of addiction and excessive entertainment in American culture have become even more outstanding and  more relevant to most of us, and when you reread Infinite Jest today – it’s really a novel that’s fundamentally about television and video, but you read it today and you think you’re reading a novel about the Internet.

D. T. Max with Chris Lydon at M.I.T., Spring 2013


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