David Foster Wallace: The End of the Tour

Perhaps the excellent new film The End of the Tour has you excited about David Foster Wallace or wondering about other tragic authors who met an untimely end. Here are a few avenues for you to explore.

You could always check out out the source material for the film: reporter David Lipsky's Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. This book reveals that ultimately, our heroes are more flawed than we are willing to admit. As Wallace himself readily admits in this book, getting everything you ever wanted does not lead to spiritual fulfillment. Although Lipsky wants what Wallace has, even Wallace himself perceives its emptiness, and the struggle to maintain a "normal" identity with new-found fame.

Truman Capote forged a new style of true crime writing with In Cold Blood. He also promised convicted murderers things he could never deliver, like freeing them from prison, and made a true Faustian bargain for his soul in the process. The book that defined Capote's career slowly led to his ruin as a human being because of his closeness to the case. (Capote was also memorialized on film, in Capote and Infamous.)

Sylvia Plath told the story of her own unraveling in The Bell Jar, complicated by mental illness and the pressure of finding domestic bliss for young women in her era. Although cliched to some, it still holds up as one of the clearest documents of an upstart author beginning to collapse under the weight of expectations. (The movie Sylvia tells the story of her romance with poet Ted Hughes.)

Perhaps we load new, brilliant authors with too many standards in America. They're just people, after all.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library