Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace


David Foster Wallace was one of the most innovative and influential authors of the last twenty-five years, a writer whose distinctive style and example not only changed the way a generation wrote but also how it lived.  What draws so many people to this gifted, passionate, and conflicted writer, and to his work? In EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY:  A Life of David Foster Wallace, one of the most talked about and praised books of 2012, D.T. Max captures Wallace’s compelling and turbulent voyage through life – his genius, his struggle to find comfort and meaning in a difficult world, his anxiety and loneliness – as well as why he mattered as a writer and what he tried to teach us.


Drawing on interviews with more than a hundred individuals, including Wallace’s wife and other members of his family, literary friends, and old lovers, and with access to Wallace’s unpublished letters and manuscripts, many in private hands, Max charts how Wallace came to be the person and the writer that he was.  He takes us from Wallace’s youth in the Midwest in the 1970s to his hot-house success in his twenties and subsequent collapse into depression and drugs, and from there through his painful reemergence as an apostle of recovery, ending with his triumphal novel of addiction and redemption, Infinite Jest, published when he was just thirty-three, and his subsequent struggle to surpass that novel.


Max engages critically with the entire range of Wallace’s writing, including his short story collections and his popular nonfiction, showing the intimate connection between his life and his work.  Perhaps most importantly, Max looks at how Wallace was able to find meaning in a disorienting, distressing time, fighting his way to authenticity and sincerity and a belief that fiction could illuminate the possibilities of being alive in the world.


D.T. Max, one of the premier literary journalists of our time, has written this insightful and fascinating portrait of David Foster Wallace with great sympathy, understanding, and affection. The book is generous and well-balanced, full of elegant writing and deep, strong reporting. As Dave Eggers has said, “We should feel grateful that this story was told by someone as talented and responsible as D.T. Max.”