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David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 2

If you missed part one yesterday make sure you read it first here: Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare.

There are some great links to video and audio in Part 2 below. Enjoy.

Part 2 - Elegant Complexity, Post Publication

THF: So Elegant Complexity makes it to publication. I remember reading a sneak peek of it well before publication, I was actually up late at night at my grandparents' house in Adelaide and my mind was racing with just how accessible AND comprehensive it was. What was the response to it when it was publicly available? Were initial sales promising?

Greg Carlisle: In 2008, Michael Sheehan, then student-editor of the Sonora Review (just as Wallace had been 20+ years earlier) invited me to contribute a piece (Wallace's Infinite Fiction) to a Wallace tribute issue (Issue 55/56) that he had been planning even before Wallace's untimely death and to participate in panels to be given when the issue came out.

Sonora Review Issue 55/56 Cover

(I was never in the same room with David Foster Wallace and never attempted to communicate with him. I had reserved seats at a reading he was to give at Butler University in February 2009.) So I'm like, "Wow, yes, that's awesome, thank you". But then of course I needed to write something. With some time away from Elegant Complexity, I was now able to articulate something I wasn't able to articulate fully in Ch. 2 of Elegant Complexity: the analogy of Wallace's writing being like a mathematical function that tends to infinity, which I still think is one of the most useful things I've come up with in my writings on Wallace.

THF: Completely agree. Seeing your graphs/plots of limits as events in Infinite Jest was very much a, "Why didn't I see that moment?" for me.

GC: Star-struck aside: At those panels in Tuscon (David Foster Wallace Memorial Tribute, University of Arizona - Video highlights here and full audio here, Greg Carlisle from 22:15) I sat between Bonnie Nadell and Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running about Big Red Son), Wallace's editor at Premiere (and JT Jackson, who also knew Wallace, was in the audience). Amazing writers were sitting at the other end of the table: Marshall Boswell, Charles Bock, and Ken Kalfus (if you are not familiar with Ken Kalfus, you need to be). Aurelie Sheehan was the faculty advisor for the event. Although your readers may not realize this, Michael Sheehan himself is an amazing writer. I guarantee that at least 85% of the Wallace fans reading this will love his chapbook (from another small publisher, Colony Collapse Press) Proposals for the Recovery of the Apparently Drowned.

As I was preparing for that event in Tucson, David Hering invited me to be a keynote speaker at a conference he was putting together at Liverpool University (SSMG published the papers from the Liverpool conference as Consider David Foster Wallace) I was thinking, "Wow this is unbelievable, thank you", but at the same time, "Can I afford this?" and my wife said, "Keynote speaker?! You're going!" It turned out the University of Liverpool was quite generous in helping me get there and my two best friends went with me and it was so great. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had nothing to write.

Matt Bucher: We did a small run of galleys of Elegant Complexity and one of those went to Jason Kottke. He mentioned the book on and said some nice things about it (See point 7 from this 2009 post too: Nick). We are a niche publisher and these are niche books, so for us, getting publicity on was the equivalent of making the New York Times. A huge deal. And of course all the promotions of the book on The Howling Fantods certainly helped. I think our first printing was 1500 copies and it sold out immediately. So, that was promising. I knew the book would have a long afterlife. It continues to sell well. It's been used in university courses and I know that a couple of the translators of Infinite Jest have relied on it for clarification of several plot points.

The first review of the book was by Marie Mundaca on the Hipster Book Club. Another thing that helped was the Infinite Summer group read of Infinite Jest that took place in the summer of 2009. Greg and I (and Nick!) contributed blog posts to that project and to me it felt like the focus was on the text of the novel--so Greg's expertise really helped there.


Part 3: Writing Nature's Nightmare

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 01:35

Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 1

Last year Greg Carlisle (author of Elegant Complexity and Morehead State University Professor) and Matt Bucher (@mattbucher,, Sideshow Media Group and Wallace-l listserv owner) agreed to an email interview about Nature's Nightmare: Analyzing David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, Carlisle's latest critical text about David Foster Wallace's, Oblivion: Stories. It's taken us (me really) a while to get the interview live... but it's worth it.


Below is part one. I'll be posting the rest throughout the week.




Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare

THF: Welcome Greg and Matt! Let's jump back in time a little and discuss the first Carlisle/SSMG publication. Tell us a little about how Elegant Complexity came to be.

Greg Carlisle: I'm sure many people reading this felt similar to the the way I did while reading Infinite Jest. It was like I was having a transformative experience while reading it. I wanted to analyze it and chart out facts to try and solve mysteries, but it was just too good. So I said I'd do that later. I finished Infinite Jest in Jan 2001 and it would not leave my head. In December 2001 I sketched an outline of what I wanted to analyze/figure out/map about the book on a bit of stationery paper, and that was the beginning.

Dec 2001 Sketch, G. Carlisle. (Click image to enlarge)



2002 was all teaching, acting, and surgery for me, but I took a few failed stabs at an introduction and could never encompass the scope of what I was trying to do. So I just started making summaries of each section as efficiently as I could and typing out an outline of observation notes to go back and make commentaries for later. Early in 2003, I searched the web to see what Wallace commentary existed. I found The Howling Fantods and wallace-l and thought that what I was doing could add something new to that. When Burn's book (Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide) came out that year, I read it and thought what I was doing was different enough from what he was doing, so I continued. When Dowling and Bell came out with their book in 2005 (A Reader's Companion to Infinite Jest), I still thought I was doing something unique enough to be of interest.


(Click 'Read more' below to continue)

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 00:53

Steven Moore's Memorable Encounter with DFW

In an interview with Andrew Mitchell Davenport for Full Stop, Steven Moore (His essay, The First Draft Version of Infinite Jest, can be found here) recalls a memorable encounter with David Foster Wallace:


Along about then I met David Foster Wallace for the first time (after corresponding with him for a few years), who was very quiet and polite. I saw him a few more times after he moved out to Normal, Illinois: by then I was working for Dalkey Archive Press, which was located there, and he took a teaching position there in 1993. As you probably know, he was a championship-level tennis player when younger; one summer we got together to play, but it was too beastly hot and humid to exert ourselves, so we just volleyed lazily back and forth, and he gave me some tips on my serve. At one point he politely asked if he could play full out, after which he blew me off the court. I could barely see his serves, much less get a racket on them.


Continue reading the interview...


Letters of David Foster Wallace

From Alexis Coe over at The Awl, For Sale: The Private Letters of David Foster Wallace:


On June 3rd, Sotheby’s is auctioning off a small lot of correspondence sent to Jackson by Wallace over the course of a decade or so—four postcards and eight letters—in addition to an unpublished manuscript of “Shorn,” a short story written for a seminar that would eventually be rewritten and included in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and a presentation copy of The Broom of the System. The auction is expected to fetch between twenty and thirty thousand dollars.


Continue reading...

Sotheby's Lot 150 here.

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 May 2014 15:47

ISU DFW Conference Wrap

Rachel Hatch writes about the ISU DFW conference for Stateside, Footnotes from Illinois State’s first David Foster Wallace Conference:

Packed among their conference programs and presenter notes, attendees of the first-ever David Foster Wallace Conference in Normal carried along copies of the behemoth books Infinite Jest and The Pale King as if they weighed nothing at all.

More than 125 people gathered from all over the world on May 22 and 23 to explore, dissect, and digest the works of the author, who has been called one the most influential writers of his generation.


Continue reading...


Reimagining Wallace... In Lego

You can read about the two sessions Ryan M Blanck presented at the ISU Wallace conference last weekend over at his Letters to DFW blog.

(Image from Ryan M Blanck's sessions via ISU)

Reimagining Wallace - Lego sculptures based on some of his favourite scenes in Wallace's stories and essays.


No One Ever Says... About addictions and recovery.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 08:42

Schirn Infinite Jest Exhibition

Infinite Jest exhibition at Schirn in Frankfurt, Germany opens 5 June until 7 September:

Ever faster, ever higher, ever further – the credo of postmodern society does not necessarily lead the human being to Mount Olympus. On the contrary, in the early twenty-first century man wavers between euphoria and depression, and is confronted with the enticing opportunities of a global and virtual world as well as the challenge of using them to optimize his own life on an ongoing basis. The exhibition will propose an image of today’s world with the individual at its center. In analogy to the narrative structure of the eponymous novel “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, the exhibition will spin a web of relationships between the various demands made on individuals today, demands in which the resistances and contradictions of reality – a reality often described as lacking any alternative – make themselves felt. The visually stunning films and installations by the American artist Ryan Trecartin, for instance, create a world that looks like a computergenerated version of itself moving and changing at a tearing speed and zooming in frontally on its permanently nervous, blathering protagonists. The show will feature some twenty artists, including Andrea Fraser, Alicja Kwade, Judith Hopf, Maurizio Cattelan, Kris Martin, and Daniel Richter.

Curator: Matthias Ulrich (SCHIRN)

Info here.

[Thanks, Martin]

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