The New York Observer reports that there are two biographies of David Foster Wallace being offered to publishers. One is by D.T. Max (who wrote the excellent New Yorker piece) and has already sold. The other, by David Lipsky, is perhaps not quite a biography, apparently more a sketch based on a series of interviews he did for Rolling Stone in the mid-90s (which never got published).
Max’s biography is due to come out no earlier than 2011. He aims to examine the sociological factors that shaped D.F.W’s writing (this for some reason depresses me).
“The reason I wanted to go longer on him is that most writers live and die in a room writing, and Wallace definitely did that, but he also lived and died out on the street. He was in the world in a way that most writers are not. Because of his peculiar openness to the world and his peculiar kind of sensitivity, everything that happened in this country affected him and entered his fiction in a way that I don’t think is true of other writers.”
He added: “We don’t know the book where the author is a child in the ’70s … where he first becomes a writer in the Reagan era, attacking when everyone else is retreating. And where he keeps trying to produce during the profound blandness of the Clinton years. … That’s not on the bookshelf yet. Because the writers who’ve gone through this experience are just too young—they’re in mid-career; much of their work is ahead of them,” Mr. Max said. “So in the tragedy of Wallace’s early death, I see an opportunity, a chance to write down a story so recent, it’s strange.”
Much as I admired Max’s piece, I would prefer to hear more from D.F.W., rather than someone else’s take on him. Let’s hope the Lipsky book finds a home.