Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The End of the Tour – a Journey into the Mind of David Foster Wallace: A Psychoanalytic and Artistic Reflection through the Film

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The End of the Tour – a Journey into the Mind of David Foster Wallace: A Psychoanalytic and Artistic Reflection through the Film

Article excerpt

The End of the Tour – a journey into the mind of David Foster Wallace: A psychoanalytic and artistic reflection through the film

Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality - there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire.

No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth -actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested."

(David Foster Wallace, 2011)2

The End of the Tour, by James Ponsoldt, shown with success at the Sundance Festival and much anticipated by the critics, went on general release in American cinemas on 31 July 2015. I was at the premiere: the auditorium was packed.

The film brings some precious material back into the light: the long interview recorded in 1996 by the young Rolling Stone journalist, David Lipsky, with the writer David F. Wallace, who had suddenly become a cult author after the publication of his magnificent third novel Infinite Jest (1996). The 'interview' lasted for five days, the most tumultuous, exciting and sleepless of Lipsky's life, reported in full in his book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David F. Wallace (2010), on which the film is faithfully based. I put the term 'interview' in inverted commas because, reading his book but, above all, seeing the film, we realize it is much more than that: the reason for the interview which the editor commissioned from Lipsky, is transformed from the outset into a highly fertile encounter, rich in exchanges and reflections on every aspect of life and art, thick with emotions, profoundly sincere and authentically human. David Lipsky, at the time a passionate novice journalist and already an admirer of Wallace, travelled from New York to Illinois, where Wallace had been living for a year in a landscape literally drowned in ice and snow, and where he was hosted for five days. Five unforgettable days for Lipsky, from which he learned an enormous amount because " ... talking to him was a delightful social experience, and also a literary experience" (2010, p. xxi), but also emotionally contentious and in some ways suffered, to such an extent that Lipsky was relieved when he was unable to publish the interview, having been sent by his magazine to a much easier assignment about drugs; and the laborious recording of those days ended up, apparently forgotten, on a cassette. The two men never met again. Only in 2008, when Lipsky came to learn about Wallace's shocking suicide, found hanged by his wife in the garage of their house in California, did he decide to take up the material again and to write the book which has become today, five years later, not a documentary (as it plausibly might have done), but a genuine piece of cinema, a happy choice enriched by the entire poetic and representative capacity of the cinema. The book forms the exact screenplay of the film, and so in this study I refer both to the film and to the book.

Exquisitely narrated and performed by Jason Segel (Wallace) and Jesse Eisenberg (Lipsky), the film recreates all the intense atmosphere of the encounter and is also to be praised for introducing the audience not so much to the 'character' but to the person, the human being, who was Wallace, respecting his deep desire to be considered as himself, and not only as a successful author. Both the book, as Lipsky writes in his fine introduction, and the film are in fact intended as a homage to Wallace, a precocious and furiously intelligent genius, with a prodigious but incurably ill mind, who risks being remembered anecdotally for his suicide and not for his complex, joyful and lively personality, which his friend the writer Mark Costello called "incredibly quick, incredibly funny. Dave had this ability to be inside someone else's skin" (2010, p. xx).

Since his biography, his illness and his immensely rich literary output have been written about endlessly, in this article I will dwell on the principal emotions which the film aroused in me and also, I believe, in members of the audience who did not know Wallace's books: I shall try to treat these five days as a long session. …

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