DFW’s Other Half Of The Story

Adam Plunkett reviews the first book by Karen Green, the widow of David Foster Wallace:

Bough Down is the story of Green’s mourning, first and foremost. But a layer of it challenges the sensibility she mourns and may partially blame. “Honey, you smell agathokakological,” she writes, that word meaning made of both good and evil. I think that she cares less to lay blame than to define her husband’s streak of moral absolutism, a sensibility restlessly upset about the dross in himself. Green is both despondent and funny, both hopeful and desperate, both out of control and contained. She is comfortably unsure, and she goes through the vicious cycles that characterize so many Wallace protagonists without pushing the reader away or being undone by her own introspection. She takes apart the pieces of her thought, as does Wallace, but not to fleece herself for bad habits by obsessing over her own motivations. He would “[name] the impulse mistaken or accidental”; she doesn’t. He was famous for the either/or of ironies—either I love you or need you, either I’m selfish or able to care for you not just to make myself feel better, either I’m free or I serve a false god—stretched out from sentences to meganovels. Where his sensibility was either/or, hers is both/and, and a celebration of imperfect life.