Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 3

Every Love Story is a Ghost StoryI, for one, do need DFW’s stories and his story. If nothing else, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is a book for writers…or, more accurately, for those who Want To Write. Or perhaps I can only speak personally: DFW’s struggles with writing – that is, struggles to write – scare and heal me, both because they are so familiar to me. There are many other ways I relate to DFW, though I fear how arrogant or off-base that looks in ‘print,’ and I don’t want to draw false parallels or claim for myself what is not the case or what DFW might have been referring to when he told David Lipsky who was interviewing him for The Rolling Stone in 1996, “I’m not so sure you want to be me.” The point is that I am trying to name where I feel seen, even if it is by a man who I will never meet because he died almost eight years ago. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 3

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 2

Every Love Story is a Ghost StoryWe come to the end of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story knowing maybe more factoids and ‘things that make you go hm’ about DFW than we otherwise might have, but not enough more about the people in his life…the people Amy refers to when she devastates listeners of her interview by saying, “the hardest thing about this is fighting so hard for someone and still losing them.” And what is it that they – including DFW – fought so hard for/against?” The other main qualm I have with this rendering of DFW’s life is that D.T. Max did not challenge the narrative of mental illness – odd, since this is David Foster Wallace we’re talking about. But, to be fair, nothing else I’ve read on DFW challenges the narrative, either. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 2

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 1

Every Love Story is a Ghost StoryDavid Foster Wallace, the greatest writer of his generation, began captivating my attention in late 2014, over six years after he hanged himself in his California home, not even mostly as a writer (though his Infinite Jest gave me, among other things, howling compassion for drug addicts), but more as a person. He had what I and so many other writers pine for and he didn’t want it. And yet, I get it. Much more, I get it. DFW has since become my favorite theologian. I will qualify that I never met David Foster Wallace; but then, neither did his biographer, D.T. Max, and he wrote a whole book about him. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 1

“Just Mercy,” A Review

Just Mercy
In preparation for lawyer, activist and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson‘s visit to Seattle on Feb. 24th (Queen Anne Methodist Church), I read his gripping and heartbreaking work Just Mercy. Working at a law firm that specializes in protecting the vulnerable, giving the underrepresented their day in court and fighting for the voiceless, I know how fierce the fight for justice is and expected that Stevenson’s story would be one of great difficultly and constant struggle. But not even I, cynical and way-over-informed as I am, was prepared for just how deep the brokenness of our ‘justice’ system goes. Not only does it seem to be this country’s first response to those who have been traumatized, but it itself is incorrigibly traumatizing to those who fall into its claws, which barbarically include children, women, people with mental and intellectual disabilities and, as I’m sure we’re all aware by now, a vastly disproportionate number of people of color. Continue reading “Just Mercy,” A Review

The Body Keeps the Score, A Review

The Body Keeps the ScoreBessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist with 30 years of experience and infinitely more compassion. Reading his work felt like a hug, firm against my railing and flailing but not constricting or threatening. I have a friend who met him, and that’s apparently how talking to him “in the face” (a concatenation of “in person” and “face to face” I made when I was young) feels, too. I’m tempted to simply repost all the quotes I’d put up on Facebook, in an effort to be seen and known, while I was reading this book, right here because they really are the best reasons to read this book. You don’t have to be a therapist or doctor to benefit from this book; its technical precision and ‘shop’ language don’t obscure the message for the lay reader and his gentle yet urgent tone belies his deep concern for those who suffer, both at the hands of those who are supposed to care for them and under the care of the system that is supposed to help them heal. Continue reading The Body Keeps the Score, A Review

“Inside Out,” A Review

040915_InsideOut_CharactersPart innovation, part flagrant stereotype: just a few notes on Inside Out.

I’ll start with Sadness because I felt a lot of resonance there. I read a critique of the film that Sadness’ character “normalizes depression,” but maybe we need a dose of that. We’ve so pathologized life’s grief, sadness and feeling low that we have a whole industry around “treating” the feelings while ignoring what to me are obvious causes of them. We live in a culture where even our friends direct us to professionals (without thinking that having to pay someone to listen to you might just make you feel shittier) or police; the rate of expert deferral is keeping pace with the rate of “mental illness” diagnosis. And in my experience, it’s true that memories that sadness touches don’t “turn back.” It’s not that you can’t heal, it’s that “healing” doesn’t always mean “happy.” Continue reading “Inside Out,” A Review

Despicable Me 2: Despicable Me to despicable movie

minionMy husband and I are 0 for 4 on the movies featured during our movie nights recently and I’ve been too unengaged by the badness of the first three to feel it worth any commentary on them. Our attempt last weekend to remedy such banality made me wish for boredom. And it was also too instigatingly bad in the far-worse-than-just-merely-not-entertaining-at-all way that I am, once again, prompted by horror to the old writing desk(top). We enjoyed the first Despicable Me movie enough to ignore the ever-lurking voice in the back of your mind that whispers how bad sequels usually are and how much worse they tend to be if their predecessor is a hit, though that could just be because comparison. In other words, we thought we were making at least a tolerable choice. Continue reading Despicable Me 2: Despicable Me to despicable movie

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

silver liningI’ve been developing a list of movies that deal with mental health realities so you’re probably going to be seeing more of these little reviews. Released the same year as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Silver Linings Playbook was a bit more of an ambiguous sell for me. Bradley Cooper plays a refreshingly honest and sort of hapless guy trying to put his life back together after a stay at a psych ward (not shown but alluded to), which he apparently landed in because of a single incident involving an understandably distressing event.

Continue reading Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

weeping-wallflower-jerry-cordeiroI’m inching closer to outwardly, rather than secretly, pursuing a long-held interest: the mental health field.  I cringe to use the phrase because I think we need a better linguistic system to discuss these lived realities but for now, I’ve got to use the common vocab so everyone else will know what I’m talking about. Until very recently, I haven’t admitted to myself or anyone else that this is and has been a consistent draw for me throughout my life because, well, I didn’t trust myself. I have assumed my thoughts, ideas and desires needed constant scrutiny, refining and shaping – all from the outside, of course – since I was a child and it’s caused me to do so much out of fear.  Continue reading Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Noonday Demon, Part 4

the noonday demon

We’ve finally arrived at the end of my absurdly long review of The Noonday Demon.  Andrew Solomon’s chapter entitled Evolution was very interesting to me, irrespective of whether I disagreed with all of it or not (“agreement” was really not the point here), and would make a great stand-alone essay to encourage people to think differently/in a multi-faceted way about depression.  The chapter is a relatively neutral discussion on different theories of the origin of depression attempting to get at any useful function it might have.  But he freely admits, towards the end of the book, that he basically only wrote about people he liked (429), as if it is self-evident why such a thing should just be readily accepted (from a person who claims to do exhaustive journalistic research, no less!).  But, if, as he claims, “writing is an act of social responsibility” (428), then writing about people you admire is biased (at best) and thus not all that responsible.  Simply admitting your bias doesn’t excuse you from responsibility.  Writing about people you like is much easier than writing about people you don’t like and admitting to doing the former is, to me, basically saying you’ve purposefully written a lop-sided, half-told story.  No one can see all angles but it doesn’t make sense to me to claim to be nobly taking up your duty to society by writing while simultaneously ignoring people because you didn’t like them as if your personal preferences are the gold-standard measure of a human being. Continue reading The Noonday Demon, Part 4