David Lipsky’s Rolling Stone article about David Foster Wallace (“The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace“) is just amazing. Funny, fascinating, heartbreaking. If you know anyone who suffers from depression–and maybe even if you don’t–you won’t be able to finish it without tears in your eyes. When we lose someone like Studs Terkel, we say goodbye knowing that he did pretty much what he set out to do. With Wallace, we’ll always wonder what else he could have done.
He was astonishingly good, quick company, making you feel both wide awake and as if your shoes had been tied together. He’d say things like, “There’s good self-consciousness, and then there’s toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness.” He talked about a kind of shyness that turned social life impossibly complicated. “I think being shy basically means being self-absorbed to the point that it makes it difficult to be around other people. For instance, if I’m hanging out with you, I can’t even tell whether I like you or not because I’m too worried about whether you like me.”
He said one interviewer had devoted tons of energy to the genius question. “That was his whole thing, ‘Are you normal?’ ‘Are you normal?’ I think one of the true ways I’ve gotten smarter is that I’ve realized that there are ways other people are a lot smarter than me. My biggest asset as a writer is that I’m pretty much like everybody else. The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever almost made me die.”