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Summer Of DFW- Depression

Just over a week ago, I began my summer of David Foster Wallace with Infinite Jest. It is definitely a tough book to get into with chapters taking place in different periods of time, with characters that aren’t always named. There is a bit of mystery to reading it and discovering who is actually speaking.

Thankfully, David Foster Wallace writes in such a way that you are able to tell who the action is focused around. Each character is surrounded by different style of prose and pacing, which makes it a fascinating read. I am approaching a fifth of the way through the book, and the storyline is just starting to unfold. The language used has been wonderful to read. Every now and then, I find myself reading the book with his voice reading the words. I haven’t found any audio of him reading the book himself, but the voice I hear in my head is the one that read This is Water for the commencement speech at Kenyon College.

During this first section of the book, one of the characters we meet is struggling with depression. She has a nice monologue with the doctor who is treating her that I thought was worth sharing. I am sure I will find other little snippets like this as I continue reading.

When people call it [depression] I always get pissed off because I always think depression sounds like you just get like really sad, you get quiet and melancholy and just like sit quietly by the window sighing or just lying around. A state of not caring about anything. A kind of blue kind of peaceful state. Well this isn’t a state. This is a feeling. I feel it all over. In my arms and legs.

All over. My head, throat, butt. In my stomach. It’s all over everywhere. I don’t know what I could call it. It’s like I can’t get enough outside it to call it anything. It’s like horror more than sadness. It’s more like horror. It’s like something horrible is about to happen, the most horrible thing you can imagine – no, worse than you can imagine because there’s the feeling that there’s something you have to do right away to stop it but you don’t know what it is you have to do, and then it’s happening, too, the whole horrible time, it’s about to happen and also it’s happening, all at the same time.

Everything gets horrible. Everything you see gets ugly. Lurid is the word. Doctor Garton said lurid, one time. That’s the right word for it. And everything sounds harsh, spiny and harsh-sounding, like every sound you hear all of a sudden has teeth. And smelling like I smell bad even after I just out of the shower. It’s like what’s the point of washing if everything smells like I need another shower.

— Kate Gompert, Infinite Jest1

  1. Page 73, but the monologue is broken up with other exposition and dialogue with the doctor.