Posts tagged "David Foster Wallace"
Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

The time has come to post four rather astounding quotes from the 1993 interview that Larry McCaffery conducted with David Foster Wallace. It first appeared in Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the second paragraph will be familiar to those who attended last week’s conference:

I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves….

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Another Week Ends: Francis I and God as Love, Llewyn Davis Is a Failure, More Brene Brown, Questing Against the Wind, the Horror of Breakfast Meetings, Christmas Is Alright, and the Death of the Funeral

Another Week Ends: Francis I and God as Love, Llewyn Davis Is a Failure, More Brene Brown, Questing Against the Wind, the Horror of Breakfast Meetings, Christmas Is Alright, and the Death of the Funeral

1. Reflections on Pope Francis continue, with the increasingly-familiar tension between acclamation for the Pope’s compassionate, grace-focused tone and suspicion, from another camp, concerning his lack of doctrinal rigidity. Enter Rod Dreher, the prolific ex-Catholic writer, who published a while back in Time an essay saying the following:

I fear his merciful words will be received not as love but license. The “spirit of Pope Francis” will replace the “spirit of Vatican II” as the rationalization people will use to ignore the difficult teachings of the faith. If so, this Pope will turn out to be like his predecessor John XXIII: a dear man,…

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A Wheelchair Assassin Argues About Freedom

A Wheelchair Assassin Argues About Freedom

We promised there would be more excerpts from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest! This one comes from a clandestine mountain-top conversation between a Quebecois nationalist/”Wheelchair Assassin” named Marathe and the US undercover agent Hugh/Helen Steeply. Some people consider their (lengthy) sparring matches to be the lowpoints of book, real momentum killers (pun intended), and I’m not sure I’d disagree. Still, taken out of context, DFW packed quite a bit of beauty and weight and humor into them. Their standing disagreement about the nature of freedom sticks out as particularly quotable–and lest you think DFW is being overly didactic, be sure…

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When Don Gately’s Spider Started to Starve

When Don Gately’s Spider Started to Starve

For as much burn as we’ve given David Foster Wallace on this site, I was surprised and a bit embarrassed to realize that we’ve never quoted from his opus Infinite Jest. Well, no longer! Here’s a favorite: the stunning passage where Wallace recounts one of his “protagonists”, Don Gately, praying for the first time. It doubles as a memorable description of what it looks like for a person to turn to God in a meaningful way (in something resembling our context). Gately spends much of the narrative as a resident and employee of Ennet House, a halfway house in Boston,…

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We’ve Only Just Begun? The Law of Legacy and the Club of Hundred

We’ve Only Just Begun? The Law of Legacy and the Club of Hundred

The other day, I was asked a question that I dread. We were talking about Mockingbird, but the query would have inspired just as much trepidation if it had been concerned with my parenting or marriage. I was asked what success might look like. I’ll spare you my answer (which wasn’t really an answer). The exchange brought to mind an enlightening and brief essay that appeared in The NY Times a couple of weeks ago, Phillip Lopate’s “Midlist Crisis”, in which he laments his station as good-but-not-great writer, someone who has experienced a fair amount success but never that one…

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Perfect Tennis, Clever Students, and Mozartesque Semi-Colons (Plus)

I Know This Moment To Be True: Some Thoughts on DT Max’s Reading of His Biography of David Foster Wallace

I Know This Moment To Be True: Some Thoughts on DT Max’s Reading of His Biography of David Foster Wallace

We could not possibly be happier to bring you the following essay from Daniel Matthew Varley on one of our absolute favorite subjects. Please note: If you don’t feel like wading through the whole thing but would like to garner some nuggets about David Foster Wallace not found in the biography or elsewhere on the Internet nor probably anywhere else other than in DT Max’s head, skip to section three.

 

1. There were a handful of “David Foster Wallace moments” (DFWm) at the discussion of DT Max’s biography of said deceased author held on January 23rd at the 92Y Tribeca, which…

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Another Week Ends: Gucci Addictions, Narcissism Epidemics, DFW, Phone vs. Heart, PZ on Drones (on CNN), R. Crumb, Tale of Two Suedes, and Kung Fu Grandpa

Another Week Ends: Gucci Addictions, Narcissism Epidemics, DFW, Phone vs. Heart, PZ on Drones (on CNN), R. Crumb, Tale of Two Suedes, and Kung Fu Grandpa

1. The author of the original Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, dropped as offbeat and not-quite-repentant a tale of addiction on GQ this month as I have ever come across. A convergence of shopping and sex addiction rooted in Law-induced despair (never being able to measure up to initial success) and plain old powerlessness, the circumstances are so outrageous you almost wonder if it’s a prank. Like many an addict/human being, Bissinger is peculiar mix of self-loathing and self-indulgence, both fearful and proud at the same time, his smatterings of wisdom covered up by layers of misanthropic confusion and a…

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Is Contemporary Literature Post-Christian?

Is Contemporary Literature Post-Christian?

An essay in last week’s NYTimes written by Paul Elie grabbed my attention, prodded me in the gut, and provoked some mixed reactions on my behalf. Written with a sensitivity to the oft-referenced ‘post-Christian society,’ Elie surmises that contemporary American fiction lacks the believer: “In American fiction, belief is like that. Belief as upbringing, belief as social fact, belief as a species of American weirdness: our literary fiction has all of these things. All that is missing is the believer.”

His argument and epistolatory tone largely stem from an understanding that a large swath of American literature has been overtly rooted in…

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Another Week Ends: Exceptional Children, Holiness Holes, AA Slogans, Reformation Sincerity, Online Niceness, Grateful Dead, Aimee Mann and Seinfeld-ized Game of Thrones

Another Week Ends: Exceptional Children, Holiness Holes, AA Slogans, Reformation Sincerity, Online Niceness, Grateful Dead, Aimee Mann and Seinfeld-ized Game of Thrones

1. An encouraging number of signs of life in the bibliosphere this week. First, over at The New Statesman, much to my surprise (and much to his credit), renowned atheist Alain de Botton selected Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense as his favorite book of the year. For a profound little excerpt from the book, go here. Can’t wait for it to come out in the States. Second, there’s the arresting depth of understanding and engagement in From Exile, Grow Man’s review of PZ’s Grace in Practice. Probably the most honest review I’ve…

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On the Comfort of Bad Books; or, What You and David Foster Wallace Have in Common

On the Comfort of Bad Books; or, What You and David Foster Wallace Have in Common

How does David Foster Wallace pass the time during a 1600-mile trip across America? With a Dean Koontz novel, of course. The Rumpus, a site for literary commentary, recently published an unsettling little article on “The Comfort of Bad Books”, exploring the attraction and validity of bad books. Way more of us than we’d care to admit have spent hours upon hours with supposedly lowbrow or ‘pop’ books, along the lines of Koontz or Danielle Steel or James Patterson, and all of us are secretly thrilled by the plots, ashamed at how quickly and wholly we absorb ourselves in them,…

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David Foster Wallace on Love, Identity and the Numbness of Achievement

David Foster Wallace on Love, Identity and the Numbness of Achievement

From the modern bard’s short story collection, Oblivion, specifically the beginning to the stream of consciousness tour-de-force, “Good Old Neon”, ht DJ:

My whole life I’ve been a fraud.  I’m not exaggerating.  Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to create a certain impression of me in other people.  Mostly to be liked or admired.  It’s a little more complicated than that, maybe.  But when you come right down to it it’s to be liked, loved. Admired, approved of, applauded, whatever.  You get the idea.  I did well in school, but deep down the whole thing’s motive wasn’t to learn or improve myself but just to…

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Another Week Ends: Incarnational Kerouac, Lutheran Austerity, Dream Identities, Rev, Arrested Development, Mormon Sci Fi, Foodie Piety and Daytrotter

Another Week Ends: Incarnational Kerouac, Lutheran Austerity, Dream Identities, Rev, Arrested Development, Mormon Sci Fi, Foodie Piety and Daytrotter

1. Newsweek published an excerpt of D.T. Max’s forthcoming Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace and what an excerpt! It concerns Wallace’s relationship with Mary Karr, and the genus of Infinite Jest. Almost enough to dispel the reservations we voiced earlier this week. It also makes for a great lead-in to another literary find, the blog for The Library of America’ amazing interview with Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell, the editor of the forthcoming Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems. Asked why she thinks Kerouac’s poems still speak to us, she gave the following (jaw-dropping) answer, which gets…

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David Foster Wallace Went to Church Constantly?

David Foster Wallace Went to Church Constantly?

The next few months are shaping up to be eventful and exciting ones for devotees of David Foster Wallace. At the end of August the first major biography of Wallace, D.T. Max’s Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, hits the shelves. And then in November, a long-awaited volume of uncollected essays arrives, Both Flesh and Not. Can you say “pre-ordered”?! Well, last week blogger Daniel Silliman posted an eye-catching report on a recent panel given at the UT Austin Wallace archives that included the biographer in question, Mr. Max. According to Mr. Silliman, there is reason to believe that…

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“The Way of People” from DFW’s The Pale King

“The Way of People” from DFW’s The Pale King

The fifth effect has more to do with you, how you’re perceived. It’s powerful although its use is more restricted.  Pay attention, boy. The next suitable person you’re in light conversation with, you stop suddenly in the middle of the conversation and look at the person closely and say, “What’s wrong?” You say it in a concerned way. He’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. What is it?” And he’ll look stunned and say, “How did you know?” He doesn’t realize something’s always wrong, with everybody. Often more than one thing. He doesn’t know…

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