the key step of universalising his neurosis


Wallace wrote and lived like someone who had become consumed by his own themes: media supersaturation (for Wallace it was television, though as Max points out he’s been posthumously claimed for the Internet generation); the scrambling of high and low culture; the moral imperative and extreme difficulty of paying close, continuous and loving attention to the right things amid a blizzard of distractions and addictions. Wallace’s recursive, doodling sentences, his self-consciousness, his goofy and sometimes childish pot-head humour, his emotional lability – all had about them a distinct and deliberate air of the teenage slacker. The images that survive of him – long-haired, wide-eyed, stubbly, wearing T-shirts, unlaced hiking boots, flannel shirts and the bandanna which he told a friend’s child was to prevent his head from exploding – cemented that image.

more from Sam Leith at Literary Review here.