Some personalities lend themselves well to biographies and profiles. These lives can be neatly packaged, edited, and bound. They can be organized into chapters, narratives, lists, and an index. And though these biographies might not make great literature, they can be thrilling to read (cf: Richard Burton). But some lives can't be defined by the adventures therein; some possess an intellect so vast and frenetic that, consequently, it's mostly inaccessible to the profiler and, in turn, the reader. See: Wallace, David Foster.
Wallace was the rare literary wunderkind to enjoy renown even outside the literary community. His gargantuan talent (the acclaimed Harper's pieces, the dazzling Infinite Jest, the bestowment of the Genius Award), and to a lesser degree, his life story (Midwestern upbringing, junior tennis whiz, drug and alcohol use, electroconvulsive therapy) propelled him into literary superstardom. On two occasions the spotlight was especially acute: following the publication of his opus Infinite Jest in 1996, and when he took his own life in September 2008.
Even so, I had never heard of Wallace before taking a creative writing seminar freshman year. The professor was confused by a story I had written and urged me to maintain consistency and an internal logic even in surrealist prose; she offered Brief Interviews with Hideous Men as a paradigm. I read that, and proceeded to attack—that's the only appropriate word—the rest of his oeuvre. And when he died, I read all the obituaries, profiles, tributes. They were mostly excellent, heartfelt, superbly written and organized, but nevertheless seemed a little...flat.