Good essayists make strong arguments. Great ones know how to argue with themselves. Thought isn’t linear, after all. It zooms off in unexpected directions at the slightest breeze. Doubts and trivia warp its travel, so too does the act of putting it on the page. No one understood this better than David Foster Wallace.
Perhaps it really was his childhood that taught him this. The author of “Infinite Jest” nearly said so in an essay about growing up in Illinois, trying to hit tennis balls into driving, trigonometrically complex wind. But thanks to D.T. Max’s biography, which documents the writer’s life-long battle with depression and addiction, it seems clear the tornado was actually inside Wallace’s mind.