The New Yorker reviews Bough Down: “Green has the eye of a novelist”

News Section, Reviews

August 22nd, 2013


(Review) Bough Down by Karen Green


Books in Brief

Originally published August 26, 2013.


Grief emphatic, grief redeeming, grief protracted, grief abraded all intertwine in this funny, prickly memoir. Green, an artist, was the wife of David Foster Wallace, whom she met in 2002, just after he moved to Southern California. Through her, he hoped to conclude his long bachelorhood, and when he hanged himself, five years ago, he left a predictable vast hole. “I worry that I broke your kneecaps when I cut you down,” she writers. “I keep hearing that sound.” And “I want him pissed off at politicians, ill at ease, trying to manipulate me into doing favors for him and I would do anyway . . . I don’t want him at peace.” The book intersperses its vignettes with tiny sepia collages of text, fingerprints, and crime-scene-like shots that function as peepholes into grief. The result would be too painful if not for its insistence on humor as a palliative. Green has the eye of a novelist and, like her late husband, rejects the easy ending. She writes, “Ultimately, the loss becomes immortal and hole is more familiar than tooth.”