The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Infinite Summer YYC Up and Running

Infinite Summer YYC is into week two of reading Infinite Jest. Seems to be almost an annual thing, inspired by the original Infinite Summer, somewhere in the world now. I love following the various group reads (in winter down here...) as it often brings new joy and insight to the novel.

Join in over at Infinite Summer YYC.


DFW Mention in The Saturday Paper

I'm not in the habit of posting every Wallace reference here any more (those are more likely to be found in my twitter feed) but because The Saturday Paper is my current non-digital Saturday read I'll make an exception.

From Brigid Delaney's (@BrigidWD),The Blunting of the Snark:


NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said Fallon’s brand of “optimistic, enthusiastic, not snarky” comedy is “exactly what America was looking for”.

According to Forbes, “Burke’s comments speak to the rise of likeability, which has in recent years become a basic standard for branding of all kinds. Whether it’s selling a show or a product, a positive tone has become the must-have quality needed to win over younger audiences.”

The late American writer David Foster Wallace, who made his own journey from snark to sincerity, predicted this trend in the early 1990s: “The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in US life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.”

And eschewing it they are.


Continue reading,The Blunting of the Snark.


[From E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, in the Review of Contemporary Fiction Summer 1993 and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.]

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 June 2014 16:24

DFW's Believer Subscription Card

David Foster Wallace's subscription card for The Believer magazine is part of the materials in the McSweeney's archive at the Harry Ransom Center.


Five Facts About the Infinite Summer YYC Book Club

Five Facts About the Infinite Summer YYC Book Club via the Calgary Herald.

Head over to the Infinite Summer YYC page for updates and the schedule for a summer read on Infinite Jest.


Grieving DFW - Boston Review

Nicole Rudick's review of Karen Green's, Bough Down, for the Boston Review. Grieving DFW.



Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 3

If you missed the first two parts make sure you catch up before reading the 3rd and final piece of this interview:

Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare.

Part 2 - Elegant Complexity, Post Publication.


Part 3 - Writing Nature's Nightmare

THF: Nature's Nightmare, how did it all begin? Was SSMG on board from the beginning? I know it had been in the works for a long time...

Greg Carlisle: I truly thought I was done writing about Wallace when Elegant Complexity came out. (By the way, my wife secretly arranged for Matt to ship copies to a friend's house so she could throw a surprise launch party for me, complete with video congratulations from Matt.) But I had been writing obsessively for months, so I just kind of kept going. As Elegant Complexity was germinating in 2002, I was in a production of Hamlet, and I was just as obsessed with Hamlet as I was Infinite Jest, blocking in a notebook a production I want to direct someday and things like that. So with EC done, I spent the first half of 2008 writing a beat-by-beat explication of Hamlet from two points of view. Then I made tentative steps for what I thought was and what now is my next big project: a book outlining and briefly (no, I mean it) analyzing all the plays of Edward Albee.

Oblivion had given me a similar feeling to IJ in that it made me want to figure out what was going on, and I was sure there was some essential quality about Wallace's writing to be discovered there. I knew there was something profound going on in terms of Wallace's mission as an artist, but I couldn't articulate it specifically. In March 2009, in a panicky fit of brainstorming in a hotel lobby at a theatre conference in Birmingham AL, I just indicate to Matt and John via email that I'm sketching out ideas for a book on Oblivion in an effort to be able to articulate something meaningful in Liverpool, and their return emails are worded such that they consider it an actual book that they intend to publish!

The relevant part in my email to them is excerpted below:

> I was hoping to show you a plot (an excel sheet with Albee's plays
> down the side and recurring themes and methods across the top) and
> sample chapter of the Albee book I'm working on at the end of the
> summer, but now with a keynote speech to write and possible paper
> submission to New York I'm thinking of shelving the Albee book to
> start studying Wallace's work more closely again. I was toying with
> the idea of trying to write a book like EC (except really short! like
> 120 pages max, seriously! the Albee book would be short, too) with
> outlines and themes and methods for the stories in Oblivion. Trying to
> craft an introduction to that might help me with the keynote address
> and possible paper. Thoughts or advice or editorial preferences?

I clearly recall that their response treated the book as an actual thing that was happening and that they wanted to publish, not just an idea.

(Click 'Read more' below to continue)

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 01:38

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

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