David Foster Wallace, depression and suicide

by Rodolfo Rosini


a few days ago I posted on twitter a video of a speech of David Foster Wallace dispensing some interesting pop wisdom about choice in a commencement speech. It was a bit too touchy feely for me but overall was good. Today was looking for a quote and found a transcript the original speech and realized that the text in the video had been heavily edited. All the grit about suicide[1], atheism and any controversial theme had been scrubbed out to make a more ‘palatable’ version. The original version is much more interesting especially considering the comment about that “most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger” coming from him.

Read the original here.

[1] Wallace committed suicide by hanging himself on September 12, 2008.[23] In an interview with The New York Times, Wallace’s father reported that Wallace had suffered from depression for more than 20 years and that antidepressant medication had allowed him to be productive.[20] When he experienced severe side effects from the medication, Wallace attempted to wean himself from his primary antidepressant, phenelzine.[21] On his doctor’s advice, Wallace stopped taking the medication in June 2007,[20] and the depression returned. Wallace received other treatments, including electroconvulsive therapy. When he returned to phenelzine, he found it had lost its effectiveness.[21] In the months before his death, his depression became severe.[20] Numerous gatherings were held to honor Wallace after his death, including memorial services at Pomona CollegeAmherst CollegeUniversity of Arizona, and on October 23, 2008, at New York University—the last with speakers including his sister, Amy Wallace Havens; his agent, Bonnie Nadell; Gerry Howard, the editor of his first two books; Colin Harrison, editor at Harper’s Magazine; Michael Pietsch, the editor of Infinite Jest and Wallace’s later work; Deborah Treisman, fiction editor at The New Yorker; as well as authors Don DeLillo,Zadie SmithGeorge SaundersMark CostelloDonald Antrim, and Jonathan Franzen.[24][25][26]