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Flu in, flu out

Apologies for the long absence from the site (and from my usual space in the National Post): I spent the first half of the missing fortnight traveling to and from the UK, and the second half recovering from a premier selection of the world's finest respiratory viruses. I can report that London is the same as ever, only with better food. To make up for lost time, I have a mortifyingly inadequate column on the late David Foster Wallace in today's Post.


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A few comments about your column on David Foster Wallace in the Post. His depression appears likely to have been chronic with it spanning his entire adult life. He had been hospitalized numerous times and medicated for decades because of this problem.

When you say "It is a terrible shame he gave up so soon" you are doing a disservice to Mr. Wallace. If his depression was as constant and severe and untreatable as it appears to have been, the amazing part may have been that he was able to survive so long.

That's my mini-rant, hope you're feeling better.

Hang on, you're saying it's a "disservice" to him to wish he had gone on writing instead of killing himself? Because that's pretty fucked up.



Your London-based readership regrets we didn't have the opportunity to buy you a pint.

The suggestion we were actually planning on getting you to expense our pints instead is merely a rumour spread by previous visiting Canadian bloggers on whom we've tried the same tricks.

Half Canadian:

Yeah Paul. Expressing remorse over someone killing themselves isn't a 'disservice'. How thin must your epidermal be to take offense at that?


Apology not accepted. As a non-paying reader I demand more. Or at least an update, for chrissakes.

The middle ground for Paul: True, we should celebrate his writing and intellect, no question; but we're poorer for his decision to exit stage left. That it was a more attractive option than "hanging on" is indeed very sad.

Alex B.:

[very slightly]In Paul's defense, "gave up" can be pretty charged in the context of suicide, and for some people it represents the mindset of: "He was just a pussy(weak coward/loser) that couldn't hack it at life".

Of course Cosh's piece was too glowing/positive to be taken that way(kind of reminds me of Hitchens on Hunter S. Thompson), and it's his right to be snide to a friendly comment if he wants.


Colby, Wallace died at a young age but he didn't give up "so soon". He struggled with this problem going on three decades and that was my point.


He hadn't been "struggling" with depression for decades - he had been taking antidepressants for over twenty years, but homeostasis finally caught up with him and the drugs became ineffective. He killed himself when all other treatments failed to work.

These other treatments consisted of additonal "medical" therapies - more medications, electro-convulsive therapy, and the like.

Perhaps if his "doctors" had actually treated his mind instead of pulling out the prescription pad and the electrodes, he'd be alive today.


nitus, the fact that Wallace was taking drugs for decades doesn't mean they were doing much, if any, good. What drugs he was taking we have no idea of either. Some tend to have few serious side effects, however if he was bipolar, many of the drugs are quite toxic long term.

You say:

"if his "doctors" had actually treated his mind instead of pulling out the prescription pad and the electrodes, he'd be alive today."

Really? And you know this how? That comment alone displays far more ignorance then insight on your part.

Yes, David Foster Wallace "gave up", and I can not support that, but I bet that his condition was more chronic and more serious then the public ever knew and that he surrendered after having endured great mental hardship for a long, long, long time.


All seriousness aside, fortnight? Are you channeling Steyn? No need to mind you, I prefer your stylings myself.

Having a word for a two-week period comes in handy a lot, and, hey look, it so happens our language is conveniently provided with one! I used to work for a magazine that was published every 14 days: the conversational subroutine concerning what exactly "bi-monthly" means gets tiresome quickly.


Stephen Vincent Bent?


We do know, from his family, that those drugs were working well for him for the better part of two decades. When they became ineffective, from homeostasis and growing side-effects, he was unable to find an alternative treatment that worked.

We also know - or should know - that drugs, in clinical depression, are a stop-gap measure. They are not a cure. Thoughts, good or bad, are habit-forming, and if no effort is made to treat the underlying thought process, the drugs will not in and of themselves solve anything.

And we know that the average psychiatrists session has gone from one hour to less than half an hour on average over the last twenty years, and that fewer and fewer psychiatrists practice any form of therapy at all - I read one estimate a few months back that suggested fewer than 20% of psychiatrists take any interest whatsoever in their patient's mental state.

They ask questions about side effects, the patient's view on how the medication is working . . . they may order a bloodwork. But above all what they do is try to get that patient, prescription in hand, out their door as rapidly as possible - so that they can admit the next patient.

Believe me, I am more experienced than I'd ever have cared to be with psychiatric practices, and when you start breaking out the electrodes after 30 years of speeding your patient out the door with an Rx pad, there's something wrong there.


nitus, according to Wallace's family, he was chronically depressed, in spite of the medications.

For lack of anything else to offer, doctors/psychiatrists/counsellors will often keep a patient on medication even if it is not working. They don't know what else to do.

Lastly, I would not necessarily agree that depression is a problem with the thought process. It is often a mood problem unrelated to life events. Having lived with depression his whole adult life, I imagine Wallace likely tried other approaches too.


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