In 1996, shortly after the publication of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace took courses at Harvard University on accounting and federal tax law. He had an idea for a new novel: an exploration of boredom set in an IRS office, which to his credit does seem like the most boring place imaginable. Ever the overeager researcher, Wallace became as fluent in the tax code as any agent. By the time the resulting work was published in 2011, unfinished, under the title The Pale King, Wallace had been dead for three years. Continue reading…
So I want to throw my two cents into this non-conversation and try to elucidate how sleepiness is a regular part of my reading (and thus professional) life, and see what that means, if anything. Of course it’s different for everyone, and I can imagine there are some readers for whom maintaining energy isn’t a problem at all. I’m only talking about my own experience—which from talking to numerous literary types seems at least relatable, if not universal—and I don’t presume to speak for anyone else other than myself.
Here’s the thing: reading and writing exhaust. They expend my intellect, deplete my creative capabilities, and tire my body. These are not, though, inherently bad things; in fact the only reason reading and writing have those effects is because they are both extraordinarily operative—it is difficult, then, to engage with them half-heartedly, because it’s basically the equivalent of not engaging at all. It would be like exercising without a rising heart rate: you may look like you’re doing the same thing as everyone else at Planet Fitness, but you aren’t getting any thinner or any healthier. Continue reading…
Look, I understand that in some fundamental way one’s interest in a biography cannot be completely divorced from one’s interest in the subject. So, unlike other forms of literary art, even biographies of wide acclaim don’t necessarily presume a large readership outside of the already converted. Despite knowing this, I’m just going to say it: for the most part, biographies are really boring—and here’s the kicker—even when the subject is of great importance to me. I’ve picked up lengthy tomes on some of my favorite writers, only to find myself drowning in the banal minutia of ancestors and hometown history and childhood development—and before long I’ll close the book in frustration, muttering something about how I couldn’t give a shit about what my heroes were like as kids, at least not in punishingly comprehensive detail. Get to the part, I think, where they accomplish the things that made me want to read a biography about them in the first place!
The reason I’m complaining at all is because I really love a good biography, and moreover, I really need them to do my work. So when I come across ones that hold my attention—or even rivet it, in some cases—I’m profoundly appreciative of its author for turning what might have been a grueling and tedious chore into a joyous and illuminating experience.
Infinite Jest 20th Anniversary Edition!
I’m quoted and named on the back cover! What an honor! David Foster Wallace is one of my biggest heroes and Infinite Jest was especially influential to me. This is one of the great thrills of my life.
Has Anyone Actually Read Infinite Jest? | Lit Hub
Has Infinite Jest become the kind of book that people own but haven’t read? Is it like War and Peace or The Recognitions or Gravity’s Rainbow or Middlemarch or The Magic Mountain or The Man Without Qualities? 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) actually read the thing?
On the Fine Art of the Footnote | Literary Hub
In fact, what all of these works show—from Nabokov and Wallace to Danielewski and Boully—is that experimentation quickly stops being experimental when it works well, and gives way to progression. Expanding the limits of storytelling is not the job of all storytellers, and some attempts at this have failed to produce worthwhile results, but what the aforementioned artists have proven is that once we accept a new form—i.e., once it’s stripped of its novelty—we allow ourselves to see just how useful and radical and profound it can be.
The David Foster Wallace Reader | The Millions
The argument here is going to be that David Foster Wallace not only wrote about literature, lobsters, cruises, Roger Federer, grammar and John McCain, but he also wrote about writing about literature, lobster, cruises, etc. In nearly every published essay, Wallace first established the parameters of his project, the limitations of his assignment and even the crass, subtextual thesis of all book reviews. He dissected the very idea of reviewing a book, or covering a festival, or interviewing a radio host. In other words, Wallace wrote metanonfiction.
If There’s Any Truth in a Northbound Train by Ryan Werner | PANK
Leyner in My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist relished in pointing to the fabricated nature of fiction. Werner, though, has a different intention: his stories portray a particular group of young people in a particular part of the Midwest in a particular age. These stories are about the moment, and ultimately, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Best of McSweeney’s | The Millions
“McSweeney’s could be called aggressively progressive. Not only are the stories often unconventional, experimental, and unique, so are the issues themselves…”