Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:34 am 
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Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2009 7:36 am
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Location: Oakland, CA
Thanks so much for the link to that letter!

I have some thoughts on DFW and the Kate Gompert section on my new Infinite Summer blog at:

http://infinitetasks.wordpress.com/2009 ... biography/

I'd love it if you checked it out and let me know what you think!

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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:17 am 
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Posts: 11
According to this New Yorker article (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009 ... ntPage=all), DFW spent time at a halfway house in Brighton (a section of Boston) in late-1989-1990, following his breakdown while a graduate student in philosophy at Harvard. That's where he met a lot of people in treatment, attended AA sessions, and -- eventually -- started working on IJ. As the novel makes clear, the addiction/recovery themes are pretty central, so this makes a lot of sense. Also, helps explain how a guy like DFW, with both feet in privileged intellectual society, would be able to get such a good bead on addicts from different walks of life (as he said to a friend at the time, "everyone here has a tattoo or a criminal record or both" -- another trait that shows up among Ennet House residents).

The article is a good read in many ways, especially though on the addiction/mental health issues. One thing I found surprising is that DFW's main "substance of abuse" was marijuana, and it was that he sought treatment for -- just like Hal. Not inexperienced with that substance myself, I was struck by how severe Hal's "withdrawal" symptoms were -- suggesting, on some levels, that something else (DMZ?) might have been going on there. But after reading about DFW's experiences with pot & withdrawal therefrom, I'm inclined to believe he was writing from experience about serious psychological consequences from quitting that relatively "soft" drug (see also Kate Gompert, of course, who may be an even closer DFW-analogue, as someone with both mental health and substance abuse issues).

edit: also, the chronology sketched by DFW's family & friends in the New Yorker article fits precisely the description in the anonymous letter, so I'd judge that very well substantiated, if not 100% proven.


Last edited by misterAyed on Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:32 am 
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Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:48 am
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Kate Gompert's a character I wish we saw even more of because I do believe she was a DFW-analogue. In reading IJ for the second time line on p.74 really hit me hard where Kate says "Well how about either give me ECT again, or give me my belt back."

Most of you are probably aware to the fact Wallace hung himself with a belt so I found this line to be particularly chilling.


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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:42 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:36 am
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Motley Fool wrote:
Kate Gompert's a character I wish we saw even more of because I do believe she was a DFW-analogue. In reading IJ for the second time line on p.74 really hit me hard where Kate says "Well how about either give me ECT again, or give me my belt back."

Most of you are probably aware to the fact Wallace hung himself with a belt so I found this line to be particularly chilling.

Not to mention he underwent several courses of ECT before he went to the belt.


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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:14 pm 
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Location: Mansfield, MA
I agree. Kate's depression sounded like what I'd read of Wallace, particularly the business of "I wasn't trying to hurt myself, I was trying to kill myself (to stop the hurt)."
And marijuana, despite its reputation as a "soft" drug, may have more serious effects on someone with underlying psychological issues, such as depression, OCD or bipolar disease. Some folks are just more prone to addiction/drug dependency than others; they're hardwired that way.

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"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you." DFW


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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2009 8:26 am 
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"And marijuana, despite its reputation as a "soft" drug, may have more serious effects on someone with underlying psychological issues, such as depression, OCD or bipolar disease. Some folks are just more prone to addiction/drug dependency than others; they're hardwired that way."

I think you are correct.

I lost my boyfriend, the love of my life, to suicide over 8 years ago.

One of the effects of marijuana is that it overrides the other drugs that someone may be taking for depression. I learned this too late.

He repeatedly said, "I'm so tired of it all." Some of the scenes in IJ remind me all too well of talking to him.


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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 1:22 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 7:54 pm
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EverybodyHurts wrote:
And marijuana, despite its reputation as a "soft" drug, may have more serious effects on someone with underlying psychological issues, such as depression, OCD or bipolar disease. Some folks are just more prone to addiction/drug dependency than others; they're hardwired that way.


I think you're probably right here, in the main, although I think you are saying two different things. As Medusa also notes, marijuana may have a more profound impact on people with other mental health issues, whether because of interactions with prescribed meds (a la Kate Gompert) or because it destabilizes an already unstable mental equilibrium.

Your second point, about some people being more prone to addiction than others, is also very likely true, as I know all too well myself (having been in recovery for years). But although I have an "addictive personality," whatever that may mean, I never found cessation of marijuana to be particularly difficult from an emotional/mental health standpoint (nowhere near the challenge of quitting opiates, for example, with the deep depression that caused).

My point is simply that DFW, like Kate Gompert, was likely affected so greatly by quitting marijuana because of his particular psychological makeup/underlying depression, rather than because of some innate substance abuse propensity. From what I understand, he didn't have long-term substance abuse problems the way many Ennet House characters do, although he obviously suffered a great deal as a result of his substance abuse issues. But those were, however, secondary to his other mental health issues -- another very true point brought out in the book is the fact that a huge percentage of people with substance abuse issues have other mental health problems, as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Quote from DFW 2005 Kenyon college - Depression Suicide
PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:16 pm 
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Suicide in no way is the answer to your depression. Though there are difficult times in everyone's life, but suicide is not the way to put an end to those tough times. Rather the person should try and find out the way to get over it. Taking to family, friends about the problem can be best solution. Along with that, consulting a physician also helps. There are a lot of medicines which help in getting over depression.
Though during my depression period, I have never thought of suicide only because of my family support and the medicine which I use (Xanax). This medicine helps in relieving depression by slowing down the nervous system. This medicine is habit forming and should only be used in accordance with the instruction of a physician as sometimes withdrawal symptoms are even more depressing. So if you think you are having some problem, get to the root of it, talk about it and take medical help rather than going for something stupid. GOD bless

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