Author Topic: School me on David Foster Wallace.  (Read 1440 times)

craiglepaige

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School me on David Foster Wallace.
« on: June 13, 2018, 01:20:18 PM »
I clicked on this article about the suicides of K. Spade and A. Bourdain - https://thefederalist.com/2018/06/13/ultimately-took-kate-spade-anthony-bourdain-wasnt-mental-illness-something-worse/ - and was introduced to David Foster Wallace.

Within the article mentioned above, the writer links to a commencement address by Wallace from 2005. Listening to it, while thinking about the fact he committed suicide, was a rather abnormal experience. It felt as if I wasn't listening to same person.

After watching that video, I read his Wikipedia page. There I learned about him and his acclaimed novel "Infinite Jest". A quick YouTube search led me to the audiobook and a half hour listen to it has made me a total fan.

Now I need to know more about him. I had no idea who he was until about 11am this morning. Now I want to consume everything ever written/said by him because I feel as if I missed on a great opportunity to grow as a human being by not having known about him during my teens.

Any other fans willing to guide me in his work?
Anything specific I should start with? 

I plan on getting his books, in chronological order. But if anyone here recommends a different approach please say.

Thanks!


megaschnauzer

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 01:38:06 PM »
infinite jest is a wild book. i plowed through it one summer a few years ago. the decemberists did a music video based on a scene from the novel. https://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2011/08/22/139033489/first-watch-the-decemberists-calamity-song

craiglepaige

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 01:39:34 PM »
infinite jest is a wild book. i plowed through it one summer a few years ago. the decemberists did a music video based on a scene from the novel. https://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2011/08/22/139033489/first-watch-the-decemberists-calamity-song


No shit. I love that song. Crazy how things just intertwined without one even knowing.

Ichabod

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 01:43:55 PM »
His non-fiction is much more accessible. I'd start with Consider the Lobster.

Infinite Jest is a great book, but most people don't make it through on their first attempt. It took me three or four tries.

I find his short stories hit or miss.

craiglepaige

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 02:06:40 PM »
His non-fiction is much more accessible. I'd start with Consider the Lobster.

Infinite Jest is a great book, but most people don't make it through on their first attempt. It took me three or four tries.

I find his short stories hit or miss.


Reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marques then.

Russ

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 03:39:55 PM »
Start with whatever you're most excited about.
for me that was IJ.
I had one false start, successfully read it through on the PCT (carrying a 3.2 lb book a thousand miles is great motivation to finish it), then read it aloud as a bedtime story to the girl I'm seeing the second time through.
his essays are also excellent.

don't listen to the audiobook; you'll miss the endnotes (which are like 1/5 of the book), and you won't learn as many new words
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 06:23:22 PM by Russ »

Russ

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2018, 03:50:51 PM »
buy it as a real paper book, no kindle, no library imo
more motivation, easier page-flipping (some people suggest using three bookmarks), and a better physical experience.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 04:13:55 PM by Russ »

FiveSigmas

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2018, 04:03:09 PM »
His non-fiction is much more accessible. I'd start with Consider the Lobster.

Infinite Jest is a great book, but most people don't make it through on their first attempt. It took me three or four tries.

I find his short stories hit or miss.

I've really enjoyed his essays * (many of which were published in magazines like The Atlantic, Harpers, etc...). Consider the Lobster is a great compendium, as is A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.

don't listen to the audiobook; you'll miss the endnotes (which are like 1/5 of the book), and you won't learn as many new words
I've never listened to any of the audiobooks, but I agree -- it's hard to imagine winding into and out of the footnotes just by listening. It's challenging enough doing it on paper!

* Well, most of them. Some of them get very caught up in abstruse **, jargon-filled topics of many academic interest.

** And by abstruse I mean totally fucking unintelligible unless you happen already to be working on your Ph.D. in Russian literature.

beattie228

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2018, 04:26:26 PM »
Took me a few tries to get through Infinite Jest. I really liked his collection of essays called "Both Flesh and Not". Pretty good bio-film starring Jason Segel and Jessie Eisenberg called "The End of the Tour" that captured some of his unusual behaviors pretty well, in my opinion.

Fascinating guy with a beautiful outlook on life, not unlike Anthony Bourdain. I've been re-reading Nasty Bits by Bourdain in his memory.


craiglepaige

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2018, 05:59:22 PM »
Thanks for the help.

My plan is to stop at Half Price Books on Saturday and see what I can find.

Mezzie

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2018, 06:16:39 PM »
I love his essays (and the speech you referred to), but I haven't read his fiction yet. That's one of my summer goals.

megaschnauzer

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2018, 08:42:14 AM »
i'm about half way through 'the pale king'. so far it's a lot more readable than infinite jest. there is a great chapter on civics. i love how one whole page will just be on really long sentence.

calimom

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2018, 09:07:05 AM »
Funny, I was just browsing in a bookstore yesterday and they had Infinite Jestprominently displayed. It's definitely on my to-read list.

There was  a bio pic made a few years ago about DFW's last book and lecture tour :

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3416744/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_4

wenchsenior

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2018, 09:41:35 AM »
i'm about half way through 'the pale king'. so far it's a lot more readable than infinite jest. there is a great chapter on civics. i love how one whole page will just be on really long sentence.

I loved that one, but I heard that IJ was so much harder, so I chickened out.

Adventine

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2018, 11:05:54 AM »
I was just thinking about David Foster Wallace the other day. A couple of years back, I made it halfway through Consider the Lobster. I really enjoyed the bio-film The End of the Tour. Now I'm about a third of the way through Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky, which is the source material for the film.

I find David Foster Wallace fascinating, but I'm troubled by the allegations he emotionally and physically abused the writer Mary Karr. Anybody got some factual  and balanced articles about that part of his life?
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 08:32:02 AM by Adventine »

StarBright

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2018, 11:19:58 AM »
He is a great writer but I would like to caution people not to romanticize him: in addition to (because of?) his mental illness, he was abusive and a stalker.

This great recent piece in the atlantic summarizes it well:
https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/05/the-world-still-spins-around-male-genius/559925/

Here is the salient section if you don't want to dig through the whole piece:
"As Karr elaborated, in one tweet that reads, in the #MeToo context, as its own form of starkly tragic poetry: “tried to buy a gun. kicked me. climbed up the side of my house at night. followed my son age 5 home from school. had to change my number twice, and he still got it. months and months it went on.”

The added tragedy of all this—kicked, climbed, son, gun, months—is the fact that Karr was not, specifically, making allegations. As Jezebel’s Whitney Kimball pointed out, “The fact that [Wallace] abused [Karr] is not a revelation; this has been documented and adopted by the literary world as one of Wallace’s character traits.” D.T. Max’s 2012 biography of Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, documented those abuses: Wallace, Max alleges, once pushed Karr from a vehicle. During another fight, he threw a coffee table at her. Karr, in her tweets, was merely repeating the story she has told many times before. A story that has been treated—stop me if this sounds familiar—largely as a complication to another story. In this case, the story of the romantically unruly genius of one David Foster Wallace."

bacchi

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2018, 01:49:51 PM »
i'm about half way through 'the pale king'. so far it's a lot more readable than infinite jest. there is a great chapter on civics. i love how one whole page will just be on really long sentence.

I loved that one, but I heard that IJ was so much harder, so I chickened out.

I think TPK is a harder book than IJ. The Pale King is, after all, a study of boredom. I've started it twice and haven't finished it.

megaschnauzer

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2018, 09:36:37 AM »
i just finished 'the pale king'. apparently there was more going on in the book than i could figure out. the end of the book has a few pages of notes on the story but still...it seems like it was just a bunch of stories that are loosely tied together around the theme of boredom and working at the irs.  there were some good chapters that i'm going to reread.

simonsez

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2018, 10:54:38 AM »
If you wanted to learn more about the dynamics of focus groups, Mister Squishy is for you! haha

dude

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2018, 11:54:13 AM »
I clicked on this article about the suicides of K. Spade and A. Bourdain - https://thefederalist.com/2018/06/13/ultimately-took-kate-spade-anthony-bourdain-wasnt-mental-illness-something-worse/ - and was introduced to David Foster Wallace.

Within the article mentioned above, the writer links to a commencement address by Wallace from 2005. Listening to it, while thinking about the fact he committed suicide, was a rather abnormal experience. It felt as if I wasn't listening to same person.

After watching that video, I read his Wikipedia page. There I learned about him and his acclaimed novel "Infinite Jest". A quick YouTube search led me to the audiobook and a half hour listen to it has made me a total fan.

Now I need to know more about him. I had no idea who he was until about 11am this morning. Now I want to consume everything ever written/said by him because I feel as if I missed on a great opportunity to grow as a human being by not having known about him during my teens.

Any other fans willing to guide me in his work?
Anything specific I should start with? 

I plan on getting his books, in chronological order. But if anyone here recommends a different approach please say.

Thanks!

Read his magazine/short story pieces, like "Consider the Lobster," and "Shipping Out."  His writing is amazing.  Infinite Jest is mind-blowing in its virtuosity, complexity and sheer entertainment (which is, after all, what the book is putatively about). It is well, well worth the effort.  I'd suggest getting the Cliff's Notes (seriously) to help keep the book in chronological context (it jumps around from name-brand year to year a lot). But DON'T read the blogs and websites until AFTER you've read the book!  It might spoil some of the fun. DFW was a true master and the world is a darker place without him. Speaking of darkness, my god that man describes a bout of depression that is so visceral, so profound that you may actually fall into a temporary depression after reading it -- it's THAT masterful.

dude

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2018, 11:56:17 AM »
His non-fiction is much more accessible. I'd start with Consider the Lobster.

Infinite Jest is a great book, but most people don't make it through on their first attempt. It took me three or four tries.

I find his short stories hit or miss.

I've really enjoyed his essays * (many of which were published in magazines like The Atlantic, Harpers, etc...). Consider the Lobster is a great compendium, as is A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.

don't listen to the audiobook; you'll miss the endnotes (which are like 1/5 of the book), and you won't learn as many new words
I've never listened to any of the audiobooks, but I agree -- it's hard to imagine winding into and out of the footnotes just by listening. It's challenging enough doing it on paper!

* Well, most of them. Some of them get very caught up in abstruse **, jargon-filled topics of many academic interest.

** And by abstruse I mean totally fucking unintelligible unless you happen already to be working on your Ph.D. in Russian literature.

Challenging and absolutely worth the effort!  The footnotes are integral to experiencing IJ in all its glory!

Bicycle_B

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2018, 12:32:12 PM »
I read Infinite Jest, not most of the other stuff. Received stories and info re the man himself from various channels, some public, some insider-ish. The insider-ish parts tended to confirm the public statements of stalking/abuse, with emphasis on the Foster Wallace's personal anguish in living.

If his work appeals to you emotionally, I say drink as deeply as you like, but take it with a grain of salt on three levels:

1. It can have powerful depressive effects. Sometimes they sneak up on you. Get on the roller coaster ride, but don't get stuck at the bottom.

2. Some of it is super super male centric. If that's you, fine (hey, I'm male too), but remember Ye Generic Male does usually have big blind spots that cause us to do unintentional mistreatment of others. Binge on David Foster Wallace, but do something else over time to balance things out in your personal growth.

3. My personal opinion from Infinite Jest is that the book is very good at expressing pained genius and esoteric loneliness, less so at humility. As someone who wanted to think my pain is genius but it isn't, and I actually needed more humility, just bear that in mind. If you're nice to people and thoughtful about them after reading, great.

Obviously, just one person's opinion.  :)   Anyway, enjoy your journey!
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 12:34:51 PM by Bicycle_B »

megaschnauzer

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2018, 12:37:43 PM »
i think james franco should male ij into a netflix series.

craiglepaige

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2018, 01:22:12 PM »
I think I mentioned it above, but I did score both "Infinite Jest" and "A supposedly..." from Half Priced Books after starting this thread. Unfortunately I have yet to have time to read since I'm currently working on 3 different stories of my own.

One thing I have done is listen to his interviews while at work, which are extremely informative as to how he viewed the world and his writing style.

I also listen to a few of his own readings but decided to stop because I didn't want to spoil the fun of having listened to a piece I haven't read yet. 

Needless to say, I'm a big fan. Although it's really demoralizing knowing about his darker side, I think that definitely takes away from my admiration towards him. Is a weird sentiment because until I started this thread, I had no idea who he was, now I feel as if I was duped into liking a rather shitty person, who, on the other hand, I absolutely respect as I feel he talked directly to me and was capable of reading my own mind.  Definitely strange...

sheepstache

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Re: School me on David Foster Wallace.
« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2018, 08:00:28 PM »
Jonathan Franzen was friends with him and had a great essay about him if his psychology and the psychology of writing is what interests you.