D.T. Max, New Yorker staff writer and author of Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, peppered his talk about the communal grieving of the gifted and troubled writer with plenty of levity. An anecdote about DFW’s mother Sally elicited much laughter from the crowd. She was such a grammarian, Max said, that if she saw a grocery checkout sign that said “10 Items or Less,” she would go to the manager and say, “No, no, it’s 10 Items or Fewer.”
Max balanced the lightness of his talk by recalling the big questions that haunted him as he worked on the biography, published within five years of its subject’s suicide. “Can you do proper work in this timeframe? What are you losing?” he wondered.
“I think it’s odd to talk about a grieving biographer, but it’s true. It happens. I loved David, and I missed him in this world. In writing the book, I was reanimating him. I wanted him for a friend. His death was so new, it still seemed possible for me.”