David Foster Wallace on Robin Williams

Tuesday, 12 August, 2014

The writer David Foster Wallace committed suicide on 12 September 2008. He was 46. For those trying to make sense of the severe depression that Robin Williams battled, here’s how Wallace saw the condition and the despair it produces:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”


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  1. Conrad says:

    Dave Wallace is one of the greatest frauds of our time. He knew it only too well. He wrote about it. And he finally couldn’t take the split between what he thought he should be and what he was. To compare what he did to his wife to what it would be like to jump from one of the twin towers during the flames of 911 is a travesty and a fraud. The two cases are utterly unrelated. A person who jumps from a burning building does nothing wrong. David Wallace knew that what he did was wrong the whole way down. The act of utter cruelty that he perpetrated on his wife gives the lie to everything he wrote the same as it would have if he had murdered a baby or committed Sandusky level pedophilia. He knew it well himself. He punished himself for it the only way he knew how.

    If you think I’m wrong, just think of his poor wife, Karen Greene, cutting him down and worrying she would break his knees when he fell. He could have a left a sign or called 911 so she wouldn’t have to see him, find him. It is inexcusalbe. He did leave a manuscript pile, with a light burning over it, in the garage afterall. It wasn’t an act of selfishness; it was an act of utter hatred.