the sad, extraordinary man


Wallace was tormented by one defining question: was the world anything more than a tissue of representations? A hard philosophical sceptic, he felt imprisoned inside his own head, his dark box. “There is this existential loneliness in the real world,” he told Laura Miller, the co-founder of, in an interview collected in Conversations with David Foster Wallace. “I don’t know what you’re thinking or what it’s like inside you and you don’t know what it’s like inside me.” It was his belief (more a hope, as it turned out) that “in fiction I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way”. But in his life Wallace, who suffered from clinical depression, kept slamming into that wall of separation between the self and the world. He longed to make connections – with other people, with other minds. He longed to understand better, to be free from the tumult and the pain that he felt, every day, without respite.

more from Jason Cowley at the FT here.