Tag Archives | David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace on Ambition

“If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” – David Foster Wallace

Interview by Leonard Lopate, WNYC: March 4, 1996

David Foster Wallace: You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in— It’s actually kind of tragic because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is. And there were a couple of years where I really struggled with that.

David Foster Wallace: I played serious tennis when I was a child. I played it enough to start to feel like it was beautiful.

Leonard Lopate: You were 17th in the United States Tennis Association Western Section when you were 14 years old…

David Foster Wallace: That sounds very impressive. That’s a regional ranking and it means that I was probably 4,000th in the nation for my age group.… Read the rest

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The Rewriting of David Foster Wallace

For fans of David Foster Wallace’s writing (Infinite Jest being the main event), the current focus on the man himself rather than his (admittedly challenging) literary legacy is more than a little disturbing, as recounted by Christian Lorentzen at Vulture:

Nobody owns David Foster Wallace anymore. In the seven years since his suicide, he’s slipped out of the hands of those who knew him, and those who read him in his lifetime, and into the cultural maelstrom, which has flattened him. He has become a character, an icon, and in some circles a saint. 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.

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace.

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Furious Fridays: The Redemption of Sisyphus, or: Why Most (All?) of our Beliefs are Religious in Nature


“Black Icarus”
Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

–David Foster Wallace



I used to believe that the old Greek myth that best represented how I experienced life was that of Icarus. That my failings in life were the result of my aiming too high.… Read the rest

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David Foster Wallace Offers a Lesson in Mindfulness to Graduating Class: ‘This Is Water’

“I don’t know who discovered water, but it definitely wasn’t a fish.” – Terence McKenna

Its been well said that familiarity breeds indifference.  It can also breed, or rather lead, to a life lived on auto-pilot.  Enter a helpful reality check from David Foster Wallace:

On a related note, wish I could take credit for the following insight, but it comes from London Real’s Brian Rose after smoking DMT for the first time:

“When we’re in our own consciousness; we don’t know we’re in it – because we’re swimming around in this water all the time.  And when we perturb it, then we get to see the water that we’re in is actually water.  We get to see that what we’re in, what we think is just normal life, is this consciousness.  And it’s nice to perturb it every now and then because it gives you an appreciation of your own consciousness, it allows you to observe yourself outside of your normal day.  

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The Extraordinary Syllabus Of David Foster Wallace

The best people you will ever knowFor fans of Foster-Wallace, the archive of his work at the University of Texas is an absolute treat. Katie Roiphe looks at his teaching syllabus when he was faculty member at Pomona College in the years before his death, for Slate:

Lately David Foster Wallace seems to be in the air: Is his style still influencing bloggers? Is Jeffrey Eugenides’ bandana-wearing depressed character in The Marriage Plot based on him? My own reasons for thinking about him are less high-flown. Like lots of other professors, I am just now sitting down to write the syllabus for a class next semester, and the extraordinary syllabuses of David Foster Wallace are in my head.

I am not generally into the reverential hush that seems to surround any mention of David Foster Wallace’s name by most writers of my generation or remotely proximate to it; I am not enchanted by some fundamental childlike innocence people seem to find in him.

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The Infinite Jest Eschaton Game Video

For all the David Foster Wallace fans out there, a preview of what the Infinite Jest movie may look like comes in the form of a music video by The Decemberists. The book's movie rights have been acquired by Michael Schur, who directed the video for the band's "Calamity Song," incorporating the game "Eschaton" described by Foster Wallace:
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A Novel Starring The IRS? David Foster Wallace’s Posthumous Jest

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace. Photo: Steve Rhodes (CC)

There’s no doubt that The Pale King, the new, posthumous novel by David Foster Wallace about the lives of workers at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, has generated more interest from reviewers than almost anything else of recent vintage. There are reviews in almost every publication that’s ever run a book review.

Foster Wallace’s publishers timed the publication to coincide with the American tax filing date of April 15th, and certainly it’s a good hook for many reviewers. In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review section there are three separate pieces devoted to the book, but the review that’s attracted the most attention from the media, if not necessarily with readers, is Jonathan Franzen’s for The New Yorker.

For some reason it has royally p*ssed off other lit mags and blogs that The New Yorker decided to make the review available only to people who “like” its Facebook fan page.… Read the rest

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