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Posts tagged "Infinite Jest"

The Word Within the Fracture: 20 Years of Infinite Jest, pt 2

The Word Within the Fracture: 20 Years of Infinite Jest, pt 2

To read part one, click here.

(End)notes From Underground

As much as Wallace’s bottoming out (and subsequent halfway house rehabilitation) contributed to the figure we now recognize as DFW, what proved decisive for the transformation of his moral imagination was his discovery of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky modeled earnest engagement with moral matters without succumbing to stale, propagandistic kitsch. As with any icon, Wallace grew to resemble Dostoevsky the more he fixed his gaze upon him and identified his experience with Dostoevsky’s. Both were authors of promise who experienced imprisonments, brushes with death, and nearly complete losses of hope before the gift of…

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The World Within the Fracture: 20 Years of Infinite Jest, Pt. 1

The World Within the Fracture: 20 Years of Infinite Jest, Pt. 1

Demythologizing St. Dave

It’s funny thinking about the sheer number of people who count reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest the first time as a hinge-point in their lives with the same sort of breathless awe others would fall into when remembering September 11th or Kurt Cobain’s death: funny, in part, because most (appreciators and detractors alike) admit to having no idea how to construe its plot; primarily, though, because it’s so unmistakably a product of the mid-1990s. The wonder of it is how it nevertheless confronts the predicaments of existence in the Twitter age with such eerie and yet comforting prescience….

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How to be Hip and Cool According to Infinite Jest

How to be Hip and Cool According to Infinite Jest

I have a strong hunch that I’m a cynic, and I don’t like it. So whenever people I respect sound off about cynicism, I’m all ears. If you spot it, you got it and if you got it, you spot it, after all. David Foster Wallace offers a piercing insight into cynicism and the human condition in this passage from Infinite Jest:

It’s of some interest that the lively arts of the millennial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool. It’s maybe the vestiges of the Romantic glorification of Weltschmerz, which means world weariness or hip ennui. Maybe…

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Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

This month’s edition of Christianity Today features a cover story, “The Return of Shame,” that draws a clear, causative link between the prevalence of social media and its corollary stripping of privacy with the emergence of a shame-fame culture. I couldn’t help but relate this to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (and Billy Idol’s “Eyes without a Face”).

n contrast to a guilt culture wherein morality is evaluated on the basis on individual conscience, a shame culture’s efficacy rests on community’s conception of your behavior. According to Crouch, “you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you.” This…

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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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David Foster Wallace on Addiction, America and Any Book Later Than Dostoyevsky

David Foster Wallace on Addiction, America and Any Book Later Than Dostoyevsky

Perhaps the high point of Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, David Lipsky’s book-length interview with author David Foster Wallace (quoted here, here and here), finds Wallace coming clean about how the G-O-D question relates to his work. Once again, addiction serves as his preferred point of access to the subject of personal happiness/emptiness and, therefore, religion. It’s worth noting how this line of thinking, recorded in 1996 in reference to the then-brand new Infinite Jest, would find full expression later nine years later in his commencement address at Kenyon College.

“The only thing that I knew for sure,…

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David Foster Wallace, R.I.P.

David Foster Wallace, R.I.P.

I was gutted to find out that my favorite living author, David Foster Wallace, committed suicide this past Friday. He was 46. This is a real tragedy and a serious loss. His gifts were enormous, perhaps even genius-level. It didn’t matter what subject caught his interest – tennis or cruise lines or depression or talk radio or addiction or math – he imbued them all with the same dazzling insight and wisdom and humor. I credit his book Infinite Jest with getting me through my year abroad in Vienna.

Everything he published is fantastic, but if you’re a newcomer, I suggest…

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