In case you're wondering -- no, you do not have to be a super fan of DFW to enjoy this movie. In fact, it's almost dangerous if you are. Case in point... after The End of the Tour, I stayed up late obsessively watching interview footage of DFW and weeping into my pillow.
Although he was smart, patient and playful in these interviews, DFW was also twitchy, apologetic and defensive, painfully uncomfortable in his own skin. I felt more than just sadness while watching him; I felt guilt. Why did I insist he give so much more of himself to me than he already had in his writing? Why couldn't I back off of his personal life and just let his work speak for itself?
This isn't rational thinking, of course. It couldn't have been the fascination of fans like me or even his canonization by the mainstream that drove him to suicide. Those pressures impacted him, surely, but they must have been mere seedlings in the vast field of his struggle.
But I tend not to think rationally about suicide, not since my friend killed himself a year and a half ago. Actually, I don't think about it as much as feel about it. And what it feels is like my friend's mass has been shifted to me, and his time left on earth too. I feel 180 pounds heavier and 35 years older since he died, so what other explanation is there?
For many people like DFW and my friend, suicide is the end of a trajectory of pain, and they go through with it on one particular day when the conditions are just right. I always wonder, though, what if DFW and my friend just got through that one day? What if they gave themselves the opportunity to wake up tomorrow, to play with the dogs, to eat something extra delicious? Can you cobble a life together like that? A life that consists entirely of the hope that tomorrow will be better?