The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Gesturing Toward Reality First Impressions

Updated 11/6/14 See below for some updated impressions of a few more essays.

Robert K. Bulger and Scott Korb's Gesturing Toward Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy is available now via ahead of its June 19 release date.

I spent part of the weekend past making my way through the first four essays in the collection and I've found much to enjoy and think about so far. Admittedly, I've never been a Wallace reader too interested in overt spiritual or religious angles of his work (which are the focus of a few of these early essays) but in this case there's some really interesting interpretations and cases put forward. Particularly interesting was Bulger's essay, 'A Less "Bullshitty" Way To Live: The Pragmatic Spirituality of David Foster Wallace', which includes numerous examples of Bulger's email correspondence with Wallace on this very topic. Fascinating.

There are more than a few essays in here about philosophy, and more specifically on Wallace's fatalism thesis found in, Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. Durantaye's essay, 'The Subsurface Unity of All Things, or David Foster Wallace's Free Will', considers the parallels between ideas in Wallace's fatalism thesis and his This Is Water address.

Update 11/6:

So this collection has moved from the very interesting to must have.

Andrew Bennet's 'Inside David Foster Wallace's Head: Attention, Loneliness, Suicide, and the Other Side of Boredom' is an absolutely gripping essay about attention, loneliness and boredom throughout Wallace's work. For example, Bennet points out a likely connection between the Infinite Jest minor character, Zoltan Csikszentmihayli and Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihayli whose first book was titled, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety, and whose 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, was owned and annotated by Wallace. The collection is worth it for this essay alone.

In 'The Lobster Considered' Robert C. Jones packs an impressive body of research, detail and thought encompassing human understandings of pain and how we decide/determine if other creatures experience pain. Sentience and pain, what is pain?, insects, spiders, crustaceans, and objections to arguments about pain from multiple perspectives. A wonderful paper that drills deeply into the depths of Wallace's essay, 'Consider the Lobster'.


More as I make my way through the collection.


Available now, also from Bloomsbury, is David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing": New Essays on the Novels. I can't wait to read this one. (I have it and have started reading, first impressions soon!)


Last Updated on Friday, 11 July 2014 11:35

Feb 1996 DFW Radio Interview Uncovered

Wow. Listen to this ASAP. Wonderful.

David Foster Wallace on The Connection with Chris Lydon, February 1996. Kunal Jasty and Max Larkin found an old radio interview in the WBUR archives:

In February 1996, David Foster Wallace came to Boston. He was the not-quite recognized writer of the massive book, Infinite Jest, which was just beginning to capture the attention of reviewers, readers and a generation of writers. Chris interviewed David Foster Wallace on The Connection on WBUR in Boston, and told him he seemed to be living in between a moment of cultish obscurity and international artistic celebrity, perhaps even immortality.

We went to the WBUR archives yesterday to see if we could find the tape. We found it in the dusty basement, nestled between shows about the 1996 presidential primaries and escalating violence in the Middle East. The conversation is almost heartbreaking to hear now in light of Wallace’s suicide in 2008. Back then he was attempting to explain the sadness he saw among the twenty- and thirty-somethings around him; he admitted to feeling lost and lonely himself. But he also spoke of his hope to have children and the prospect of a long career.


Read about the interview and listen to it here.

Apparently there'll be more David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest based content from Radio Open Source this week...

Read, listen and watch many more DFW interviews right here.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 11:38

David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” - Publishers Weekly Review

Coming next month is David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing": New Essays on the Novels.

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.


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.


The Howling Fantods