David Foster Wallace: “Why on earth we were so miserable when we’d been so lucky”

In 1996, David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest was a critical and popular success. The new movie The End of The Tour recreates the author’s tour for that book. This NPR interview was originally broadcast March 5, 1997.

“A lot of the impetus for writing “Infinite Jest” was just the fact that I was about 30 and I had a lot of friends who were about 30, and we’d all, you know, been grotesquely over-educated and privileged our whole lives and had better healthcare and more money than our parents did. And we were all extraordinarily sad. I think it has something to do with being raised in an era when really the ultimate value seems to be – I mean a successful life is – let’s see, you make a lot of money and you have a really attractive spouse or you get infamous or famous in some way so that it’s a life where you basically experience as much pleasure as possible, which ends up being sort of empty and low-calorie. But the reason I don’t like talking about it discursively is it sounds very banal and cliche, you know, when you say it out loud that way. Believe it or not this was – this came as something of an epiphany to us at around age 30, sitting around, talking about why on earth we were so miserable when we’d been so lucky.”