Atlantic Monthly

The Fatal Cure

David Foster Wallace, a postmodern writer and Atlantic contributor, hanged himself Friday.


Kurt Vonnegut, a novelist who practically begged to be put on suicide watch, thought that writing novels was a treatment for depression, if not an outright cure. Blues music, he suggested, was analogous: a way of palliating an intolerable condition by transmuting it into art. A clinical study at the University of Iowa supported the theory that depression runs in the families of writers, and a wide array of anecdotal evidence (I would cite the film Crumb) suggests that practicing an art can, if the artist is lucky, save him from the fate of his relatives.


Pobre, etsita, isolatuta… baina harro

Note: Careful readers may notice something different about this article. It is written in Basque, for the esteemed magazine ARGIA.


Abkhazia eta Hego Osetia plazara atera dira berriki baina ez dira, inolaz ere, “gatazka izoztu”en azken ereduak. Afrikako Adarrean, Somaliland izeneko lurraldea dago. Hauxe duzue “existitzen ez den” herrialde honetara egindako bidaiaren kronika.

Mohammedek begirada eroa zeukan. Faktore hori, eta bere hortz berdeak, mesfidatzeko nahikoa arrazoi ziren. Goiz hartan ezagutu genuen elkar Jijigan, Etiopian. Gizonak hiriko gauza erakargarri bakarra erakusteko, eta murtxikatzeko, gonbita egin zidan: kat izeneko landarearen hostoak. Bertan, Somaliako mugan, Mohammedek kata landatu eta handik garraiatzen zuen gero. Diotenez, makina bat dira kataren esklabo Afrikako Adarreko etorkinen artean. Nola errefusatu landareak sortzen duen zorabio gustagarri hori?


Small World After All

Originally appeared in the Fall 2008 Culture+Travel.

Courtesy of Google Earth

Since Google graphically shrank the Earth, the most far-out trips start at your desk.

When I first logged in to Google Earth, I felt liberated from gravity, space, and time—unmoored from the planet and allowed to soar, like a great bird, and discover the world’s mysterious grandeur. I could go anywhere from my computer. And where, unfettered at last, did I travel first? To the tar roof of my own building. I had no idea there were so many air-conditioning units up there. Is that my clothesline in the back? Are those my socks? The irony was at my own expense. Google Earth is positively pregnant with potential for travelers. And yet my first impulse—yours, too, I bet—was to examine the contours of my own living space, in case the view from above was more than tar. The temptation is deep to explore what you already know, as if an undiscovered screen image were just as harrowing and foreboding as an undiscovered country. But professional travelers have begun exploiting Google Earth, both to find new sites for exploration and to enrich their knowledge of places they’ve already visited. Nathaniel Waring, president of the high-end tour outfit Cox & Kings, scouts potential adventure-tour locations by prowling Google Earth obsessively. Scouring coastlines for surfing destinations, for example, he points out the wispily serrated shore of Scorpion Bay, in Baja California. The wisps suggest “a very good point break,” he says, something no atlas can convey.