One of my favorite interviews of his is this one . You can tell just how deeply he thinks about each question.
I am so puzzled that the intersection of People Who Nail David Foster Wallace Satire and People Who Don’t Get It As Hollywood Handbook Guests is non-empty.
From the interview.
Side note: the types of conversation that take place on HN are not surprising when you take into account the lack of photos and emoji as opposed to say FB that has "like" features.
Huh. Never thought about that before.
Wonder what connections to this idea that I am missing in the deeper themes of Infinite Jest. Does anyone know if there are any good websites for this kind of literary analysis? I'd be interested if there's a hub where people go to share the task in putting in the kind of "work" required to understand deep fiction that Wallace talks about. It would be nice to be able to read about the many other deeper symbolic connections that I missed...
Consider the Lobster is a good collection of essays to start with. The essay on Joseph Frank's biography of Dostoevsky is probably my favorite DFW essay.
The collection that hooked me is "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". That essay in particular he wrote for Harpers where they sent him on a 7-day cruise in the Caribbean. The title says it all. It's hilarious.
Or there's this, which is free and also great. Wallace writing about talk radio.
If you like journalism, some of his pieces on tennis are astounding, eg "Federer as religious experience" or the one where he follows some guy who's worked his ass off his whole life and is one click below the top tier and will probably never make it (forgotten that one).
If you like criticism, "E unibus pluram" (on TV) and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young" (about postmodernism, irony and the whole clique of people around Brett Easton Ellis) are both outstanding.
For novels, he only wrote 3 (as far as I know) and they're really great. I personally read "Broom of the System" first because I like reading things in order (I've done this with a number of other authors I like). It's a really cool book, very funny and not quite as huge a commitment as "Infinite Jest". So don't feel you have to start with Infinite Jest, you really don't. It's great though, as is "Pale King". Had he lived to complete "Pale King" I think it would easily have been his greatest novel, but in the state it was published in, it's still outstanding.
FWIW, I've only read the first 1/3 of IJ, and much of it is now burnt into my memory like the scars of a branding iron. Resolved to never pick up the book again.
Where I feel he falls down is telling a story. The longer he tries to string those sentences together into a coherent whole, the more things fall apart. None of his stories really end, they all have this sopranos-esque ending where it all just kind of ends suddenly and then you have to conclude for yourself what the actual ending was, and what the point of all this was.
With that said, I feel his essays are great and enjoyable reads, his shorter stories are ok too, but then his longer fiction stuff... enjoy it for the sentences.
You can find "Consider the Lobster" online very easily with a google search. If you enjoy that, you can google his name and find some other small works of his, but if you want to dive in and get a compilation/distillation of his major works, the David Foster Wallace Reader is something you should buy: https://www.amazon.com/David-Foster-Wallace-Reader/dp/031618... Personally, I would read the non-fiction first, and then go back to the fiction stuff.
Honestly, at $13 for the paperback, I'd say its a no-brainer to pick up if you have even a passing interest.
"I think the sort of work I do falls into an area of American fiction that, yes, that is accessible, but that is designed for people who really like to read and understand reading to be a discipline and to require a certain amount of work."
I can't even skim that sentence.
If you have any interest in tennis (or not, honestly), I'd say start here before buying another book. Read it as a kid and then had a magical revelation years later when I connected this piece to the man itself.
If you like it, then hop onto the rest of his work from nonfiction to short-stories to IJ if you have a spare couple months.
It’s a testament to DFW’s talents as a writer to get so much impact out of so few words but it’s an incredibly tough piece of writing to recommend. Especially if you have young children.
It's a discussion of descriptivist vs prescriptivist grammar and led me to A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, which is a way more fascinating book than its title would imply.
If you like that kind of thing, then the books might be for you. I love DFW's essays. I really cannot get into the books. I know a lot of people like this.
It is then remarkable that an author dared to write a follow-up to this iconic essay... and mostly succeeded.
"Infinite Jest was infinitely boring, a lot of the "edginess" feels dated and the problems the characters deal with feel juvenile. Its also devoid of emotions that feels like the isolation of the American suburbs.
I liked many hard to read books, Joyce for example, as well as postmodernism, but I can't recommend this collection of superficial rants and emotional sterility.
Curiously, the people that liked this book had the same kind of emotional sterility I despise. Mostly, whiny, stuck up English majors from the suburbs. Often with few life experiences."