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Unprecedentedly Willing

December 10 2015

So, I had been intending to write a 500-word review for each movie I watched. That hasn’t happened. It’s boring.

However, four months ago I saw The End of the Tour which is based off of David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End up Becoming Yourself. The book consists of an extended interview Lipsky did with Wallace for Rolling Stone in 1996 while the latter toured the country doing book readings prior to the release of his masterpiece, Infinite Jest.

I remember seeing Lipsky’s book in Barnes and Noble years ago when I’d wander around there prior to watching a movie. I never picked it up but there was something fascinating about the title and the guy and his dog on the front.

Who was that guy?

David Foster Wallace was a writer who loved to embrace his Midwestern guy next door persona, which was impossible because he was absolutely brilliant. Read any of his stuff, whether essays, books, or interviews, and you’ll often find him entertaining and always thoughtful even if you disagree.

His writing sets him apart. I’m fairly well-read. I love to read. I made an attempt at Infinite Jest this summer (a 1000-page tome with copious footnotes), and have thus far made it through three chapters. Not because I don’t enjoy it, but because the writing demands so much attention. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. Each scene is extreme and bizarre, but it is that strangeness which transports you there so completely.

Unfortunately for Wallace, he’s known as much for his battles with depression and suicide in 2008 at 46.

Yes, that story is what drew me in. I read AYEUBY prior to picking up IJ. They cover a lot of ground and say a lot of interesting things. Wallace says TV is like candy; it’s not filling (TV had an addictive appeal for him). He was wrong on what he thought the Internet would turn into, and tantalizing when he talks of some future real, honest political candidate (I wonder if Trump is this notion gone wrong). They discuss The Last of the Mohicans and Alanis Morisette.

The End of the Tour is a fairly straightforward adaption of the book. Some parts are left out, but you get a real feel for the man. It’s well-shot for what it is (diners, airports, car interiors). However, it’s a niche movie. Unless you really like DFW or love the genre of interview movies, you probably won’t enjoy it.

This is too bad. This movie has something to say. I found the scene with Brian Eno’s The Big Ship haunting and touching, but the deepest part of the movie inolves two small scenes right at the end. Technically this is a spoiler and probably the climax of the movie, but too much is said to leave it untold.

If you’ve ever suffered some sort of breakdown, whether mental or nervous or however else one might break down, you know how it can haunt you. Some of us are predisposed, whether by genetics or experience to have multiple of these episodes through our lives. Some are lucky enough to where this might happen only once or twice. I suppose there are even some who have never had something that causes them to completely fall apart, but I’ve never met that person.

But if you have ever felt that, especially if you’ve ever come to that point where you start questioning the value of life itself, when you’ve looked into that abyss, you know how it affects you. Even after you turn away, even when you work your way back, when you return to the world with the kind of knowledge and appreciation that can only be gained through real pain, that ghost still pokes around behind you. From time to time, you see it out of the corner of your eye, turn to catch it, and it’s not in view. But you know it’s there.

It chills you when you tell yourself you won’t go back. It chills you even when you know you won’t go back. It chills you when you look at people who knew you before or after and wonder if, even though you trust yourself to stay upright, maybe they are doubting you, maybe they are right then and right there wondering if you’ll ever go back. All you can do is ignore that ghost.

Yes, I like to hear myself talk. Sorry. But this is my blog, after all.

Anyway, these scenes capture the essence of this feeling better than any other movie, song, or book I know of. The first scene is taken largely from Lipsky’s interview:

You know what? Why don’t you write whatever the fuck you want? I am telling you that this was not a lost weekend sort of thing. Nor was it some lurid romantic writer’s alcoholic sort of thing. What it was was a 28 year old person who had really exhuasted a couple other ways to live. Really taken them to their conclusion. Which for me was a pink room with a drain in the center of the floor which is where they put me for an entire day when they thought that I was going to kill myself. Where I had nothing on, I got someone observing me through a slot in the wall.

And when that happens to you, you become tremendously, just unprecedentedly willing to examine some other alternatives for how to live.

The second scene, to my knowledge, was written for the movie itself:

It wasn’t a chemical imbalance and it wasn’t drugs and alchohol. I think it was much more that I lived an incredibly American life. This idea that if I could just achieve x and y and z that everything would be okay.

There’s a thing in the book about how when somebody leaps from a burning skyscraper, it’s not that they’re not afraid of falling anymore, it’s that the alternative is so awful. And so then you’re invited to consider what could be so awful that leaping to your death would seem like an escape from it.

And, I don’t know if you have any kind of experience with this kind of thing but it’s worse than any kind of physical injury.

You know maybe in the old days what was known as a spiritual crisis: feeling as though every axiom of your life turned out to be false and there was actually nothing. And that you were nothing. And it’s all a delusion. And you’re so much better than everybody because you can see that it’s just a delusion and you’re so much worse because you can’t fucking function.

It’s really horrible.

I don’t think that we ever change. I’m sure that I still have those same parts of me. I guess I’m trying really hard to find a way not to let them drive.

You know?

You know?