Remembering David Foster Wallace

August 7, 2015

David Foster Wallace changed the landscape of American writing. His novels dissect our media-saturated culture in unflinching detail. And his essays are passed around to friends with the words, “You have to read this.” He became a literary rock star in his early thirties for his sprawling novel “Infinite Jest,” which introduced the world to his looping, verbose, cerebral style. Time Magazine later named it one of the “All Time 100 Greatest Novels.” When Wallace committed suicide in 2008, the Internet exploded with tributes and memories that might be surprised you if you weren’t paying attention to his career all along. And now, there’s a new Hollywood movie about David Foster Wallace, starring Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg.

Today, we celebrate the life and work of David Foster Wallace.

  1. How To Live Authentically In An Inauthentic World: Laura Miller on David Foster Wallace

    His writing explodes with manic, high-octane verbal energy, and he wrote about everything under the sun. Verbal pyrotechnics aside,Salon book critic Laura Miller says David Foster Wallace was the most important writer of his time because he was obsessed with the question of how to live authentically in a media-saturated culture of hype. 

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  2. David Foster Wallace Discusses Infinite Jest

    David Foster Wallace catapulted to literary celebrity with Infinite Jest, a sprawling, 1,000-page masterpiece packed with multiple storylines, digressions, footnotes and page-long sentences.  He talked with us back in 1996, when the book was just out.  What he had to say then is just as relevant now.

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  3. The Cult of DFW: How David Foster Wallace Became A Literary Icon

    What turned David Foster Wallace into a cult icon?  He’s more famous today than when he committed suicide 7 years ago. Stephen Burn is editing Wallace's letters. He says there are two kinds of DFW fans.

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  4. "Life Can Become This Incredibly Funny, Sharp, Alive Thing" - David Lipsky Remembers David Foster Wallace

    David Lipsky is the journalist portrayed in “The End of the Tour,” the new film about his 5-day road trip with David Foster Wallace.  The two hit it off, sharing a wide-ranging conversation about fame, depression, pop culture and junk food. Here, he remembers Wallace and traces the evolution of the depression that ultimately claimed his life.

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  5. David Foster Wallace: Our Last Interview

    Steve Paulson interviewed David Foster Wallace on several occasions.  The last time was in 2004, when Wallace was on tour for his short story collection Oblivion.  In this brilliant, funny, poetic conversation, Wallace ranged over many of the central themes in his life and work:  identity, authenticity, fear, boredom, and his discomfort with his own celebrity.  The interview has been anthologized multiple times and is considered among the best Wallace ever gave.

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  6. "He Made You Love The Way Americans Talk" - Lev Grossman Reflects on David Foster Wallace

    TIME magazine's book critic calls David Foster Wallace a literary ventriloquist who captured the spoken speech of Americans more accurately, hilariously and lovingly than any other writer. 

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  7. A Supposedly Fun Thing: Hear David Foster Wallace Deliver An Anti-Cruise Diatribe

    David Foster Wallace's famous essay, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, mercilessly mocked cruise ship vacations.  The essay even inspired a Simpson's episode: "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again."  Here, we revisit the original and hear Wallace talk about the nightmarish trip that inspired it.

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  8. "I Can Still Hear His Voice" - Amy Wallace-Havens Remembers Her Brother, David Foster Wallace

    As a kid growing up in Illinois, David Foster Wallace invented a game called "Captain Phlegm and his trusty sidekick, Goat Bile," which he refused to let his little sister play.  Amy Wallace-Havens remembers her big brother as "benevolently sadistic" and "the best listener I have ever met in my life."

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  9. David Foster Wallace's Famous Commencement Address, "This is Water"

    In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave the commencement speech at Kenyon College in Ohio. An audience member later transcribed it from videotape and it lived a second life on the Internet.  Eventually published under the title This is Water, it is one of his most widely shared and beloved pieces of writing.

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