Eight years ago today, prolific writer David Foster Wallace was found dead in his home. He was fighting a long battle with depression that finally got the best of him. The New York Times has stated that “those who knew him best concurred that Mr. Wallace was a titanically gifted writer with an equally troubled soul.”
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Great artists are great partly because none of us can understand how their minds work. What is interesting about David Foster Wallace’s case is that he speaks of suicide in many ways in his book Infinite Jest. Joelle represents a cry for help, Kate Gompert represents the escape from suffering, and James O. Incandenza, most morbidly, represents suicide as performance art.
A revealing piece by The New Yorker revealed issues David Foster Wallace was having with an anti-depression drug called Nardil. The article states that, “Wallace was becoming more convinced that Nardil might be getting in the way of ‘The Pale King.’ The distorting effect of being on antidepressants was something that had long bothered him.” It wasn’t until he got off Nardil that his mental health came into serious question.
After being off Nardil for a few days he began experiencing side-effects like weight loss, loss of motivation, and poor memory. In an act of desperation he agreed to twelve sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. After all his treatments and attempts to get him on other medications, his wife Karen Green, realized Wallace has decided to try and kill himself again.
We will never know why David Foster Wallace decided to end his life. What we do know is that he was suffering. And is his own words, “The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise.”
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