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David Foster Wallace's Not-So-Sober Plot

A new bio reveals details of the late novelist's druggy past—including a plan to off Mary Karr's husband.

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DFW in his tough-guy persona. Photo via

By Hunter R. Slaton

08/28/12

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To anyone who has read his fiction, it's evident that wunderkind American author David Foster Wallace, who took his own life by hanging four years ago, was intimately acquainted with what he called “substances.” Main characters in his novels, most notably tennis prodigy Hal Incandenza and hapless burglar Don Gately in Infinite Jest, his 1,097-page masterwork, wrestled vividly with addiction to everything from run-of-the-mill marijuana to weapons-grade pharmaceutical narcotics like Dilaudid. And, though he was more circumspect about his own personal struggles, bits and pieces came out over the years, including an anonymous (yet clearly Wallace-penned) “testimonial” for a rehab called Granada House in Allston, Mass.

Now, with the release on Thursday of a new biography of Wallace by D.T. Max, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, new details are emerging about the postmodern writer’s history of drug and alcohol addiction, treatment and recovery—including a salacious snippet about how Wallace, who had become enamored of the writer Mary Karr, author of the alcoholism memoir Lit, actually hatched a plan to kill her husband “with a gun he tried to buy from a guy in recovery,” according to Rolling Stone. Although Karr found out about the plan—when confronted, Wallace managed to pin it on a friend—the two did eventually become an item, perhaps proving the old AA adage that, in recovery, “the odds are good that you’ll meet somebody, but the goods are going to be odd.”

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