The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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DFW and The Long Thing - Out Now

Out now  - David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing": New Essays on the Novels.

My copy arrived a couple of weeks ago and I've been slowly making my way through the essays and thoroughly enjoying them. As Marshall Boswell mentions in his introduction, the essays originally appeared (in slightly different form) across two special issues of Studies in the Novel, although in this collection they've been organised differently. Having read both of the Studies in the Novel issues I knew what to expect and I'm not disappointed to have all of these essays focusing specifically on Wallace's novels all in the one place.

The opening essay, Adam Kelly's, 'David Foster Wallace and the Novel of Ideas', is a fantastic start to the collection that considers all three of Wallace's novels. Kelly delves deeply into select scenes in each novel to highlight how Wallace uses dialogue to get to the very core of the ideas he is exploring in each book. It sets the scene and tone for the collection perfectly.

I've been taking notes while reading and I'll post some highlights once I'm a bit further in.

Order it via Amazon here :David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing": New Essays on the Novels.


Here's a positive review via Publishers Weekly:

The book succeeds because the essays are not only substantial and provocative, but also because they are, like Wallace’s novels, in conversation with each other. It will lead the conversation about Wallace in exciting new directions.

Read the rest of the review.


This is just one of two Wallace related collections released by Bloomsbury recently, the other, Robert K. Bulger and Scott Korb's Gesturing Toward Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy, is also worth picking up. Read some of my first impressions here.


DFW and BEE Continued

Bret Easton Ellis was interviewed by Vice back in Feb (Bret Easton Ellis says we're all a bunch of cry-babies) and had a little bit more to say about his opinion of DFW:

Is this one of the problems you had with David Foster Wallace—that he played up to the almighty author thing?

I think David Foster Wallace is a complete fraud. I’m really shocked that people take him seriously. People say the same thing about me, of course, and I’ve been criticized for saying these things about Wallace due to the very sentimental narrative attached to him since he killed himself.

But it all ties into Generation Wuss and its wussy influence on social media to a degree; if you have a snarky opinion about anything, you’re a douche. To me, that’s problematic. It limits discourse. If you just like everything, what are we going to talk about? How great everything is? How often I’ve pushed the Like button on my Facebook page?

A bit of history if you want to catch up:

Bret Easton Ellis on DFW (2010)

Bret Easton Ellis on DFW Part II (2010)

Biblioklept - Bret Easton Ellis vs David Foster Wallace (2011)

I know why Bret Easton Ellis hates David Foster Wallace - By Gerald Howard who edited them both (2012)

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:37

Entropy - Letter to DFW

Dennis James Sweeney's, Letter to David Foster Wallace: Love Letter Series 4, for Entropy:

Dear David Foster Wallace,

Hi. Sorry to bother you. I know you probably get a lot of these.

But listen. This is not just your typical I-read-Consider-the-Lobster-and-thought-it-was-really-funny letter. This is not your standard my-friend-reposted-your-Kenyon-commencement-speech-and-it-changed-my-life letter.

No: this is an I-read-everything-David-Foster-Wallace-ever-wrote-and-that-changed-my-life letter. Yeah, one of those.

I remember reclining on my extra-long twin bed in college holding Brief Interviews with Hideous Men over my head, reading “Octet” and flipping out at the sheer meta-ness of it. I read “Forever Overhead” and couldn’t believe you knew.

And OK. I’ll admit it: I wrote my undergraduate thesis about you. It was called “Post-postmodernism and Fiction’s Front-end: Reader-orientation and -reformulation in the work of David Foster Wallace.”

It was 110 pages. There were 224 footnotes.

Good God.

...continue reading Letter to David Foster Wallace: Love Letter Series 4 here.



IJ Inspired Album Nears Release

Fiction's latest album, (At Least) Three Cheers for Cause and Effect, is inspired by Infinite Jest and is due for release on 29 July 2014. You can listen the to first single, Found Drama, over at their website right now.

Found Drama Lyrics:

listen, I’m not sure if you’re at home, or if your sister’s there
or if you have one at all...

victimless crime this neo-realist, anti-confluential mind
or just an artist who has become numb

after the holidays the loneliness sets in, another restless hour
and you know that you should go lie down
but the bedroom’s so far...

Listen to the track over at Fiction's web page right here.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 03:43

Pale Summer Begins - Week 1

Need/want an excuse to read/re-read The Pale King?

Wallace-l, the David Foster Wallace mailing list, is undertaking an 8 week read of The Pale King and it kicks off today(-ish).

If you would like to join in on the conversation (or lurk and read what often ends up to be heaps of insightful and thoughtful discussion) and you're not already subscribed to Wallace-l... join now! (If you get a security certificate error following the link, ignore it. I can assure you there is not a security issue with the sign-up page. The rest will be via email).

Pale Summer Schedule:

July 14: Sections 1-9, pp. 3-85
July  21: Sections 10-21, pp. 86-153 [67 pages]
July 28: Section 22, pp. 154-252 [98 pages]
August 4: Sections 23-26, pp. 253-316 [63 pages]
August 11: Sections 27-34, pp. 317-386 [69 pages]
August 18: Sections 35-45, pp. 387-443 [56 pages]
August 25: Sections 46-47, pp. 444-516 [72 pages]
September 1: Sections 48-50 plus, pp. 516-575 (end) [59 pages]

There are pagination differences between the hardback and paper editions of The Pale King but it shouldn't be too much of an issue (except for the addition material added to the paperback...).

Just like during other group reads Paul Debraski is blogging his progress over at I Just Read About That... I encourage you to keep an eye over there as well. He always has interesting things to say (and he's covered so much Wallace).


If you're blogging your read let me know so I can put together a list. Is there a hash tag? #palesummer14?


Infinite vocabulary: the language of David Foster Wallace

From Oxford Dictionaries: Language Matters, Infinite vocabulary: the language of David Foster Wallace:

Though the late David Foster Wallace was an internationally renowned author of fiction and non-fiction, many of his readers and even some of his most ardent fans may not know about Wallace’s love of language and the work he contributed to the modern American English lexicon. Wallace could take even the most unassuming or simple topic and turn it into something mind-blowing and entertaining, and the English language is no exception. Wallace not only wrote about language and usage, he brought strange and unknown words out of obscurity and even helped invent a few of his own.


Among the most well-known of these is the phrase the howling fantods, which refers to an intense feeling of fear of or repulsion for something. This is an extension of the original meaning of fantods as “a state of uneasiness or unreasonableness”. While Wallace did not coin the phrase entirely, as the term fantods already had a similar meaning, Wallace took the word and made it his own; indeed, the phrase “the howling fantods” is perhaps the closest thing Wallace has to a catchphrase.

Ironically, Wallace often used this phrase to describe members of the main characters’ family in Infinite Jest: one of the members of the fictional “Incandenza” family featured in the novel refuses to go to parts of the Boston Metro infested with bugs because roaches “give him the howling fantods”.


...continue reading here.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 July 2014 22:39

Posthegemony - Reading Infinite Jest

Jon Beasley-Murray, author of Posthegemony Political Theory and Latin America, has blogged his read of Infinite Jest over at Posthegemony.

Having the opportunity to experience anyone else's read of Infinite Jest is the closest one can get to that experience of reading it for the first time again. Jon Beasley-Murray's commentary is rewarding and well worth checking out:


For some time I have been wanting to teach a course on long books. In the first instance, this is a response to the common student complaint that the books I set are “too long.” I want them to think, then, about what it means for a book to be “too long.” I want them to reflect first on the irony that many of the books that are popular among people their age are long, and increasingly so: think of the ever-expanding length of the successive Harry Potter installments, for instance, though more generally much young adult fiction comes in weighty tomes, often a whole series of them. And yet they start to complain as soon as a novel set for class is more than a couple of hundred pages, grumbling that such longer books are “wordy” or boring. Is it really length then that is at issue? Why are some books too long, while others, no shorter, are not? Or to put this in more general terms: why are long books long? What can or does a long book do that a shorter one can’t?


David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is undoubtedly a long book, one of the longest of its kind in recent times. Its title already raises the notion of boundlessness (though a book can never quite be “infinite,” can it?) as well as the possibility that its very length may be a joke, perhaps at the reader’s expense. Is this a long-form shaggy dog story? Does its effect then depend upon the extended build-up to a punchline that will never quite feel just reward for the patience its delayed arrival has enforced upon us? Perhaps the most famous such shaggy dog novel in twentieth-century US literature is Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, but that comes in at a breezy 275 pages, compared to Infinite Jest’s 1079 (footnotes included). At present, I’m only a hundred pages in, and whatever follows I can already attest to the playfulness of Wallace’s novel: it is often funny, sometimes quite absurd. And it is also clear that its author is playing with us, teasing his readers with allusions that are obscure at present but that will (we hope and expect) become clear in the future.


Continue reading the first post here.

Index to all the Posthegemony Infinite Jest posts.

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The Howling Fantods