David Foster Wallace: The Death of a Genius

David Foster Wallace captured the essential loneliness of American life. But he couldn't escape it

Suzy Allman / The New York Times / Redux

David Foster Wallace

What would you write if you could write absolutely anything? This is the question that, as a reader, one imagined David Foster Wallace facing. Whereas ordinary authors resorted to the standard tricks of the trade--write what you know, look deep into your soul, whatever--Wallace seemed to have no earthly constraints. He knew everything and could look into anybody's soul he wanted to. Any writer in America would have killed for his talent, but the man to whom it belonged killed himself. On Sept. 12, Wallace's wife discovered his body at their home in Claremont, Calif. He had hanged himself. He was...