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July 27, 2009

Learning From Pretend

Filed under: Uncategorized — ezraklein @ 7:43 pm

By Ezra Klein

I liked this paragraph from Alyssa Rosenberg:

I haven’t watched The People v. Larry Flynt for years, but I remember how gorgeous Courtney Love’s portrayal of Althea Flynt was, as a picture of someone just kind of slipping away (incidentally that, and Lindsay Lohan’s performance in Mean Girls rank as the two roles I most wish the actresses who took them learned life lessons from.).

I find that I get this a lot more with books than I do with films. I’m reading Infinite Jest right now, and it’s brutal for exactly this reason: It’s in no small part about why it’s worth living even when living hurts. And its answer, at least in parts, is that if you can get through this day, and then get through the next day, and then get through the day after that, then even though you can’t see it now, there will be a day when it doesn’t hurt so much. What’s so wrenching about it, of course, is that David Foster Wallace didn’t play the author of Infinite Jest. He was the author of Infinite Jest. These were lessons he had learned, and was trying to teach. And then, eventually, they weren’t enough.

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5 Comments »

  1. Point taken, but it’s not like he just got sad and killed himself. Depression is a disease, not a mood. Might as well lament that a person who broke his leg didn’t get up and walk it off. Wallace was reportedly adjusting treatments, and the adjustments didn’t work. Take your cast off too soon and your leg’ll give you hell for the rest of your life. I guess you actually are saying that in the face of the depression, the lessons weren’t enough, so my response may be a little knee-jerky. I guess I felt as if you were prescribing something (the lessons) that couldn’t really be expected to work in the first place, and it came off as a little tsk-tsk and judgmental. As I reread what you wrote, I think my initial urge to take your post that way was probably over-sensitive and mistaken.

    Comment by Daryl Houston — July 27, 2009 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  2. i’m with this above commenter.

    Comment by meh — July 27, 2009 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

  3. Ditto to Daryl. And really, I don’t know yet if the book is a lesson in “why it’s worth living when living hurts.” Maybe it is, maybe it’s not (worth living, that is). Or maybe that is like one of Don Gately’s cliches, that it has to be heard over and over and over until you can really hear it, and I just haven’t yet (and maybe there are a thousand books with that message littering newsstands and airports). My guess is that IJ was a special – even a brutal – book well before September ’08, and will be in September ’18 or ’28, when readers are not so poignantly touched by recent events.

    Comment by infinitetasks — July 28, 2009 @ 2:13 am | Reply

  4. Adding to what Daryl said: the salient point about DFW is it never got better. Check out what Kate Gompert says or read the recent New Yorker article about DFW and the book he was writing.

    Comment by eriks — July 29, 2009 @ 11:19 am | Reply

  5. Whatever worked for Don Gately quit working for David, and we can only guess why. Kate Gompert give us haunting clues as to what David grappled with. I do therapy with depressed people and it’s really, really hard to turn it around sometimes. I had two client suicides in the months before David’s death, and his death on top of it hit me like a ton of bricks, even though it had been years since I had given him a thought. I have a client right now going through the very same stuff, who contemplates suicide very seriously and who causes me to struggle as a clinician to save his life. I’m just trying to instill a vision of possibility and healing in this guy to counter this dark story he tells himself all day long. It is a very hard thing to deal with.

    Comment by Ralph — July 31, 2009 @ 6:55 pm | Reply


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