David Foster Wallace, “The Depressed Person”

0001A depressed person’s therapist dies.

(from Harper’s Magazine, January, 1998)

The therapist–who was substantially older than the depressed person but still younger than the depressed person’s mother, and who resembled that mother in almost no respects–sometimes annoyed the depressed person with her habit of from time to time glancing very quickly at the large bronze sunburst-design clock on the wall behind the recliner in which the depressed person customarily sat, glancing so quickly and almost furtively at the clock that what bothered the depressed person more and more over time was not the act itself but the therapist’s apparent effort to hide or disguise it.

Someone recommended this story to me on Facebook and attached a link, so I decided to give it a shot. I haven’t read that much Wallace, and mostly haven’t liked what I’ve read (you’re gasping, right?), though I love one story of his, which he published while he was still in college: “The Planet Trillaphon As It Stands In Relation To THE BAD THING.” This site will take you to a pdf of it.

So, anyhow, “The Depressed Person.” I wanted to like it. It seems like the kind of thing I should like, as it’s about a sad aging single woman (I swear I’m not even seeking these stories out anymore; they’re just falling into my lap). I liked moments, like the one above, but found it difficult to connect with this point of view. The depressed woman is never named and, though we know certain things about her, even intimate, revealing things, I don’t ever feel like I knew what she was thinking or feeling, or who she was. In the end, it all felt pretty story-like to me, and I saw the writer above everything. I’m having trouble with the link, but if you Google Wallace “The Depressed Person,” it’s the first thing that comes up. Sorry.

Fun fact: according to Rolling Stone, this story is based on Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation).

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