@hypnosifl I agree. It's a chicken and egg problem. Let's say you have an incredibly gifted and incisive writer who is suffering from crippling depression. He describes himself as a horrible person and his description rings true, even to people who've never met him. How do we know what came first: the self-loathing or the self-analysis? Maybe he hates himself because he correctly understands his own flaws. Or, maybe he has a neurological condition that directly causes baseless but overwhelming feelings of self-loathing that he then rationalizes, using his prodigious ability to imagine plausible characters.
@lululemming That Franzen takes from that that his friend was "dishonest" tells me he missed a large piece of his humanity entirely
Did Franzen say he was "dishonest" in some larger sense than the minor issue discussed in this article? The full New Yorker article can be found on scribd here, with the stuff about Wallace mostly starting on p. 10...he does seem to feel like a lot of people have come away with an over-saintly image of Wallace and talks about his demons, but I didn't get the impression that he was accusing Wallace of intentionally trying to prevent a fake saintly image to the world, in fact he talks on p. 12 about how part of the appeal of Wallace's fiction was his putting these demons on paper:
To the extent that each of us is stranded on his or her own existential island--and I think it's approximately correct to say that his most susceptible readers are ones familiar with the socially and spiritually isolating effects of addiction or compulsion or depression--we gratefully seized on each new dispatch from that farthest-away island which was David. At the level of content, he gave us the worst of himself: he laid out, with an intensity of self-scrutiny worthy of comparison to Kafka and Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky, the extremes of his own narcissism, misogyny, compulsiveness, self-deception, dehumanizing moralism and theologizing, doubt in the possibility of love, and entrapment in footnotes-within-footnotes self-consciousness.
Franzen's essay is interesting, I feel like he does have a lot of genuine insight into his friend's mental processes but at the same time there's something over-simplistic about the way he talks as though Wallace's behavior can be fully understood in terms of the sort of personal narratives that were going on in his head, and Franzen also seems think that to some significant extent he can judge Wallace for indulging his more "demonic" internal narratives. Franzen says himself that he has a great inclination to see all aspects of life in narrative terms, which makes me think of this article by a philosopher on how narrative explanations for human behaviors have been continually undermined by scientific studies of the connection between brain and behavior...even though Wallace surely had a lot of screwed up internal narratives which contributed to his suicide, it may be better to think of them more as his left brain's stamp of approval or rationalization for feelings emerging from a more subconscious level that doesn't lend itself to narrative explanations, feelings which couldn't have been fixed by a simple conscious act of adopting a more "healthy" outlook. And maybe that kind of understanding would make people a little less likely to be angry at depressed people who commit suicide or otherwise act self-destructively, since moral blame and narrative ways of explaining behavior seem to be pretty closely connected.
@lululemming That is a beautifully reasoned, incredibly intelligent, eloquently argued defense of suicide. Reading it, you might almost be convinced that there was nothing selfish about suicide at all; that, indeed, the loved ones of the depressed person are the ones who are being selfish, by continuing to desire that the depressed person would stay alive in the face of such debilitating, to-them-unimaginable pain.
And in thinking that, we might come to understand a little bit the kinds of massive, soul-destroying mindfucks someone who was both deeply intelligent and deeply mentally ill might have wrought on the people who loved him.
Has Remnick ever asked people questions before? It certainly doesn't appear so from that excerpt. That was painful to read, much less witness.
I have often posited that the reason the "half marathon" isn't a satisfactory goal for so many - neither those who run nor those who nag those who run - is that it is named and measured in terms of its incompletion relative to a marathon. The Half Marathon needs a distinctive name of its own! Unfortunately, the city halfway between Athens and Marathon is called Nea Erythrea, which is just not catchy.