David Foster Wallace

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TheAmazingRando
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David Foster Wallace

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:50 am UTC

In light of his recent passing, what are your thoughts on David Foster Wallace? My relationship with his works is a bit complicated. On the one hand, I absolutely adored Infinite Jest. On the other hand, I can't say I actually finished it, it's a been a several year work-in-progress for me, defined by months of paying no attention to it and short bursts of reading it voraciously. What I've read, I've truly enjoyed, and I don't think it's possible to read the novel, even if you hate it, and not walk away with the impression that the man was a genius.

He was a role model to me as an aspiring author, a person who lived my dream in a much more competent manner than I could ever hope to achieve, and it's sad to hear that he's gone. Maybe this is the motivation I need to finally finish reading Infinite Jest.

Anyone else here familiar with his work?

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Narsil » Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:50 am UTC

No.

I'm literally devastated. I feel like a friend just died. No, that's what it is. Infinite Jest is probably my favorite book of all time. It meant so much to me when I read it, it was like another world. I've been collecting his stuff ever since, always hoping for more. I felt so lucky to be around in a time with such a great writer.

But I can sympathize. Depression is a nasty beast, that can take the greatest of your successes and make even them seem like failures. It saddens me deeply, as I had hoped to meet him some day, but I take comfort in the fact that he got his masterpiece out in he world first.

Damn. I'm just in shock. I just have a hard time believing it. His writing is so full of vitality, how can he be gone? It's just not right.
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Pathway » Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:45 am UTC

This is not okay. Vonnegut's death didn't hit me nearly as hard as this.Wallace saw so much, so deeply--he was a Goddamn bloody genius and I'd say he made my life very much better than it was, because his writing was just--well, transcendent. Infinite Jest was and still is the best work of fiction I've ever read. The mind behind it was complex, funny, caring, weird, deep, and penetrating. I can't even write about how much it sucks that he's no more without trying to sing his praises and convince you to read his books. I just deleted about half a paragraph of it, in fact. It used to be no big deal. Hell, he might even write something better! I could just wait for that and then badger people about it. But IJ is it, masterpiece-wise, and I think I have to go read it again.

Oh, fuck my life, it's at home and I'm not. I'll just mope instead.
Last edited by Pathway on Tue Sep 16, 2008 5:49 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Narsil » Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:06 am UTC

Hey Pathway, this might sound weird, but thanks. I bought Infinite Jest a while ago on your recommendation, just on a total whim. Totally changed my life.
Spoiler:
EsotericWombat wrote:MORE JUNK THAN YOUR BODY HAS ROOM FOR

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:59 am UTC

I've definitely got to finish it. I feel like a poser talking about a book that I haven't even finished, but I still feel that it's one of the greatest pieces of fiction out there, even if I haven't read it through to the end. I feel like it's broken down into enough parts that you can read a bit and appreciate that. I think I'm going to start over from the beginning even though I'm so far into it, maybe buy a clean copy (mine's quite travel-worn and dirty, I brought it camping) and annotate it because, damn, if there's a piece of fiction that deserves to be read and marked up, it's this one.

I also hoped to meet him. He teaches an English class at a college just north of Los Angeles, if I had somehow had the opportunity to take that, I would have been ecstatic, and his proximity to me means that meeting him wasn't an impossibility. Except now it is. Vonnegut didn't hit me as hard because he was well past his prime. Wallace showed no signs of slowing. I can only hope we get some posthumous releases out of him.

I'm glad I'm not the only person who feels just a bit devastated by this.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Narsil » Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:58 pm UTC

The great thing about Infinite Jest is that it's annular, to borrow Wallace's term. Cyclical. Ring-shaped. Start over at the beginning and you'll learn new stuff. You haven't truly completed the novel until you read that very first segment again, and by then you should have learned enough to see what's going on, and then there's all the Gately stuff which I still have trouble wrapping my head around.
Spoiler:
EsotericWombat wrote:MORE JUNK THAN YOUR BODY HAS ROOM FOR

Mother Superior wrote:What's he got that I dont?
*sees Narsil's sig*
Oh... that.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:01 pm UTC

Yeah. I just restarted last night, and even though I never finished it the first time around, everything is so much better in light of just about everything after it. What seems initially as a bunch of unrelated and mostly rambling pieces of story builds together to form a very cohesive and consistent theme of the disconnect between mind and body, and between intent and perception.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby kitsune9 » Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:09 am UTC

i hadn´t heard anything about this until now. shit.
i don´t have a copy of infinite jest anymore, because i kept pushing it at people with a feverish glint in my eye ("No, really,you haveto read it") then taking it back a few months later when they admitted they weren´t going to. Over and over again, until someone finally did read it and never came back.
What about his other stuff? i´ve always really loved ´Brief Interviews with Hideous Men´ and ´A supposedly fun thing i´ll never do again´.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Narsil » Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

Most of "the girl with curious hair" is pretty great, though the novella "westward the course of empire takes it's way" was either over my head or crap. Out of the collection, I enjoyed most the story "lyndon", as it was surprisingly heartfelt and genuine. I've been meaning to read his essays, though.
Spoiler:
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Mother Superior wrote:What's he got that I dont?
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby ewige » Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:58 pm UTC

Narsil wrote:No.

I'm literally devastated. I feel like a friend just died. No, that's what it is. Infinite Jest is probably my favorite book of all time. It meant so much to me when I read it, it was like another world. I've been collecting his stuff ever since, always hoping for more. I felt so lucky to be around in a time with such a great writer.

But I can sympathize. Depression is a nasty beast, that can take the greatest of your successes and make even them seem like failures. It saddens me deeply, as I had hoped to meet him some day, but I take comfort in the fact that he got his masterpiece out in he world first.

Damn. I'm just in shock. I just have a hard time believing it. His writing is so full of vitality, how can he be gone? It's just not right.



I just heard about this today, because I was off the web this weekend, and then at work all week. I am completely useless now, the work day is effectively done. I'm just... It's completely utterly awful. IJ is just about my favorite slab of text ever, I had just started re-reading it Again last week, and recently read the part about Kate Gompert and now this. It's awful.
While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a nay-sayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby ewige » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:01 pm UTC

Narsil wrote:The great thing about Infinite Jest is that it's annular, to borrow Wallace's term. Cyclical. Ring-shaped. Start over at the beginning and you'll learn new stuff. You haven't truly completed the novel until you read that very first segment again, and by then you should have learned enough to see what's going on, and then there's all the Gately stuff which I still have trouble wrapping my head around.



See, I feel the same way, except that when I finished IJ, and re-read the beginning, I felt like the whole thing was a lens, or a parabolic reflector, what with all of the optics talk, the focal point being the actual act of Hal and DG finding the samizdat, and all the lines bending through this brick of paper toward that singular event that actually occurs outside of the stories told.

Augh, I feel so hollow right now.
While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a nay-sayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Narsil » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:20 pm UTC

Wow, I never thought of it like a parabolic lens. That's very possible. But I like the annular idea too because it makes Infinite Jest feel like the titular film, "Infinite Jest", so you read it, start over, and read it again. And repeat. And soil yourself.
Spoiler:
EsotericWombat wrote:MORE JUNK THAN YOUR BODY HAS ROOM FOR

Mother Superior wrote:What's he got that I dont?
*sees Narsil's sig*
Oh... that.

nevskey1
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Sep 21, 2008 3:49 pm UTC

Just thought I'd share this. It's a speech he gave. I think it's very telling, although it covers much the same ground as IJ, and probably other things he's written, too.

I just found out he died today (no TV, graduate work, etc.) and I'm shocked. I don't know anything about Wallace, but this is truly devastating. Despite the many dark moments in IJ, the authorial voice just didn't come off as very "dark and disturbed," as, say, Beckett could. Who knows? Go figure this shit out. It sucks and that's all there is to it.
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby ducknerd » Mon Sep 22, 2008 1:28 am UTC

Another succumbing to the writer's occupational hazard. It's a shame. This could be the kick-off to my (finally) starting Infinite Jest. Every time I'm about to pick it up (got it from the library like two weeks ago) I realize how much it looks like a brick and find a reason to put it off.
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Pathway » Mon Sep 22, 2008 5:29 am UTC

Starting is not the trick. The trick, having started, is to stop.

Oh, I guess that could be taken to refer to a few different things.

Good.
SargeZT wrote:Oh dear no, I love penguins. They're my favorite animal ever besides cows.

The reason I would kill penguins would be, no one ever, ever fucking kills penguins.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby ewige » Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:17 pm UTC

nevskey1 wrote:Just thought I'd share this. It's a speech he gave.


At my alma mater, no less.

We miss you, dfw.

(in memoriam, harper's has made all of his work for them available on their site (google his name with "harper's" to find it quick) and I cannot recommend "Tense Present" enough)
While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a nay-sayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby TheAmazingRando » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:00 am UTC

Thanks for the suggestion, ewige. Tense Present was phenomenal , the perfect blend of being informative and interesting and, of course, beautifully written.

I just got a copy of Oblivion, which I plan on starting shortly.

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Pathway
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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby Pathway » Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:50 am UTC

In Oblivion, I'd skip Mister Squishy at first and move on to the others, then come back to it.
SargeZT wrote:Oh dear no, I love penguins. They're my favorite animal ever besides cows.

The reason I would kill penguins would be, no one ever, ever fucking kills penguins.

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Re: David Foster Wallace

Postby TheAmazingRando » Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:27 pm UTC

I started with Mister Squishy and, though it was a bit of a tedious read, I still managed to get through it all in one sitting and enjoy it. I imagine that, for readers who had never read anything by Wallace before, it would be a terrible introduction that would turn a lot of people off his work.


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