Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, in an amended excerpt from David Foster Wallace: Fiction and Form, David Hering shares his attempt at tackling the mammoth, labyrinthine task of schematizing DFW’s archival materials into a coherent history of the project that never quite became The Pale King....more
Posts Tagged: David Foster Wallace
Treatment sometimes looks like hospitalization in an overcrowded psych ward and medication that can dissolve personality.
Over at American Short Fiction, Jenna Kahn writes about the depiction of mental illness in literature—as found particularly in “The Depressed Person” by David Foster Wallace, “Silver Water” by Amy Bloom, and “Monument” by Kevin Barry—as it matches (or doesn’t) with her own experience....more
For The Millions, Philip Hopkins shares what he learned after attempting to co-author a book with a computer program. Through the experience, Hopkins ultimately concludes that “the gap between simple self-awareness and the literary intelligence necessary to compose a worthwhile novel will always be vast.”...more
For The Millions, Mike Broida revisits David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, arguing that the work’s claims about addiction and the media presaged the influence of “television culture” on the digital age:
The final “joke” of Infinite Jest is that the book is intended to be almost as endless and mirthful as the addictions it depicts.
Books live in our collective unconscious as well as our individual imaginations. It’s best to air these stories occasionally so that we may examine the myths we hold dearly. Movies may be messy but they can be viewed en masse, which makes them the perfect medium for this analysis.
Despite its “near-canonical” status in America, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is taking its sweet time in the translation process. So far, it has only been translated into five other languages. At Lit Hub, Scott Esposito spoke to writers and translators to get a feel for how non-English-speaking readers have received Wallace’s opus....more
Understanding tennis as aesthetic phenomenon involves returning to that word Wallace insists on using in his discussion of Federer: beauty.
At Guernica, Greg Chase discusses the new collection of David Foster Wallace’s essays on tennis, String Theory, in which tennis is investigated as an art form in light of Kant’s aesthetic philosophy on words like “beauty” and “genius.”...more
Graduation season is upon us again, and with it comes the vacant, cliché-ridden literary animal that is the graduation speech. Over at Lit Hub, Emily Harnett revisits David Foster Wallace’s famous Kenyon graduation speech, “This Is Water,” and marvels at the insidiousness of the speech’s logic and message:
Tell your audiences that they’re too smart to want a certain thing and give it to them anyway.
The writer, existing only in reflection, is of all beings most excluded from the highest realms.
Over at the New Yorker, John Jeremiah Sullivan writes about the prominence of tennis in the works of David Foster Wallace—in both Wallace’s fiction and nonfiction, tennis is the writer’s most apparently revisited subject, and for good reason, as Sullivan argues: it’s literary....more
Infinite Jest recently turned twenty, a birthday so momentous it merited a new edition of the tome for college students to display on their bedside tables. In light of the renewed discussion about David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus, D.T. Max reminds disciples that he also wrote some other stuff:
Alongside his first collection, “Girl with Curious Hair,” published in 1989, “Brief Interviews” and “Oblivion” cumulatively make the case for Wallace as one of the most interesting short-story writers of our time.
Four days ago, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest turned twenty; if you had been reading a page a day since it came out, by now you could have read it over 6.5 times. Despite its age and length, the novel still enjoys massive cultural relevance....more
The debate has typically been framed around whether it is ever appropriate for a writer to reference Seinfeld, Bright Eyes, or Facebook. What makes more sense is to talk about whether or not doing so is helpful for the specific project at hand.
At the LA Times, Claire Vaye Watkins recounts her realization that she has been writing to appeal to the white male literary establishment:
I am trying to write something urgent, trying to be vulnerable and honest, trying to listen, trying to identify and articulate my innermost feelings, trying to make you feel them too, trying a kind of telepathy.
I stopped putting things in quotation marks because I really wanted the reader to continue to understand or believe or think that he or she was in my head.
Listen up as Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit, talks to NPR’s Terry Gross about the art of memoir, the purpose of prayer, and the ambitions she and David Foster Wallace shared....more
Laura Miller writes in the New Yorker about litchat and legacy:
In fact, litchat has assumed an ever-greater role in criticism because so much of what once happened privately and fleetingly is now public and preserved. Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the main sites where this litchat happens today, and conversations on both spill over into digital and print journalism, which takes remarks made in interviews that generate Twitter responses and then amplifies them, spawning even more Twitter responses.
So why has Infinite Jest, supposedly such an influential novel, become a paper weight, a talking point, a bench-mark of high- and low-brow intellectuality? Why has no one (or, more accurately, why does everyone think that no one) has actually read the thing?
Wallace coined the helpful term “blurbspeak,” which he defined as “a very special subdialect of English that’s partly hyperbole, but it’s also phrases that sound really good and are very compelling in an advertorial sense, but if you think about them, they’re literally meaningless.”
Though David Foster Wallace was somewhat skeptical about book blurbs, he wasn’t unlikely to recommend books himself from time to time....more
But actually, part of what I think Lipsky wanted was to have a good, long, conversation, one of those talks that lift you out of your regular life and into another mode of being, the way a really good book can.
The early skepticism for The End of the Tour may have been misguided. David Poland caught up with James Ponsoldt (the film’s director) and Donald Marguiles (its Pulitzer-winning screenwriter) to touch on Wallaces’s legacy, the Lipsky interview, and the process behind what’s since been deemed a “glorious casting.”...more
On the eve of a new biopic and on the long tail of posthumous publishing and popularization—Christian Lorentzen takes a long, compassionate, critical look at David Foster Wallace and on the ways in which a prolific writer gets written into the public memory—as intellectual behemoth, creative luminary, contemptuous snob, major depressive, motivational speaker:
A writer who courted contradiction and paradox, who could come on as a curmudgeon and a scold, who emerged from an avant-garde tradition and never retreated into conventional realism, he has been reduced to a wisdom-dispensing sage on the one hand and shorthand for the Writer As Tortured Soul on the other.