One of Green's many fears for the publication of The Pale King is that it will be read as an extended suicide note, as an explanation for the ending that Wallace gave himself. At one point in our conversation I wonder if she thought that the illness and the writing came out of the same place, that you couldn't have had one without the other?
"I don't think that is the case," she says, though she gets the emails from readers who want to believe this stubborn myth of the tormented genius, want the pain to be a prerequisite for the creativity, want to turn Wallace into some literary James Dean. "People don't understand how ill he was. It was a monster that just ate him up. And at that point everything was secondary to the illness. Not just writing. Everything else: food, love, shelter…"