The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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October 2013 DFW Links

Bits and pieces from the past few weeks you may not have seen. Have I missed any? Let me know.

Oh, and I updated the DFW Bookstore.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:02

Nature's Nightmare - Magnificent Diagrams

So I've been reading Greg Carlisle's, Nature's Nightmare: Analyzing David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, and it's all that I expected. What I absolutely love about it is the way it guides the reader through the nested narratives of all the stories in my favourite collection of Wallace's short-fiction.

It begins with a concise introduction that orients the reader to Oblivion's position among Wallace's fiction and then presents the structure and method of analysis. Carlisle states that subsequent chapters, "summarize and comment on each of the eight stories in Oblivion section by section. In some cases Wallace has already divided his stories; in others I infer divisions."

Like Carlisle's Elegant Complexity the structure of Nature's Nightmare is clearly defined and allows for cross-reference between sections and stories. I like it. It's accessible for new readers, easily searchable for those familiar with the stories (the sub-headings throughout are logically drawn from the text of the stories), and delivers enough theory and analysis to point readers in the direction for further study of the kinds of literary, philosophical and intertextual references we're used to finding in Wallace's writing.

Added value comes from tracking of thematic motifs, and the ongoing comparisons and "assessment of content in relation to Infinite Jest and The Pale King" that map the changes of focus, development and maturation of Wallace's writing between IJ and TPK.

All of this is supported by magnificent diagrams. These detail the meticulous reading Carlisle has undertaken for each of the stories and reveal the astounding underlying narrative structure of the stories in this collection: team organisational charts and nested test diagrams for Mister Squishy; classroom seating plans forThe Soul is Not a Smithy; nested tellings within Another Pioneer; a mind-blowing denial chart for Oblivion and, "A partial diagram of David Wallace's flash of thoughts representing nested flashes of realization and moments of significance for Neal all the way back to age 4" from The Soul is Not a Smithy [Check out the snapshot posted over at Biblioklept that I've also posted below].

If you liked Elegant Complexity (or love the Oblivion collection) I've no doubt you'll like Nature's Nightmare. If you found Elegant Complexity a little too expansive and unwieldy (it did, after all, attempt to guide readers through one of the most complicated narratives of the 20th century... without spoilers!) then I think you'll happily find this volume to be a more concise and focused distillation of Carlisle's analytical perceptiveness.

Nature's Nightmare is a more-than-worthy addition to your Wallace collection. I'm glad I own it.


Purchase it from Amazon right here. Visit the DFW Book Store.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 11:28

Updated Book Store

Another task complete!

The DFW Book Store is now updated and (finally) embedded in the site. Hopefully it is a better place to browse for new Wallace material.

Check out the store here.


(If you're new, commission via my Amazon referrals supports the hosting of this site.)


Students Find Poetry in The Pale King

Check out the guest post from Ryan Blanck (@RyanMBlanck) over at The Found Poetry Review, High School Students Find Poetry in David Foster Wallace's "The Pale King":

I came across the DFW / The Pale King tribute found poetry prompt on a Saturday morning not too long ago, and quickly threw out my regular lesson plans for the week and rewrote them to include this project. In my senior English classes we will be reading The Pale King later in the year, so I thought this could be an excellent introduction to the work. I chose a few statements from the text to serve as titles or thematic guidance for my students. Then I photocopied a number of passages from the book, and turned my students loose with very few creative restrictions.

I had no idea what I’d end up with. I’ve seen these things go horribly wrong, and being in a brand new school with students I still don’t know too well, I feared this was a recipe for disaster.

Now, there have been very few instances in my teaching career when I have been truly impressed with students’ work. This project turned into one of those instances.  These students infused Wallace’s words with perception and creativity that gave them new life.

High School Students Find Poetry in David Foster Wallace's "The Pale King"


Quack This Way Full Cover

Update 11/10/13: And it's out now. You can order it from Amazon now!

Update 5/10/13: Via a tweet from @BryanAGarner publication date is "Looking like Nov. 1."


Bryan A. Garner tweeted a picture of the cover of his upcoming DFW interview book, "Quack this Way".

[Previously here and here]

Last Updated on Monday, 14 October 2013 12:40

Theories of Everything and More: Infinity is not the End

In the previous post I mentioned two collections of Wallace criticism due next year. To give you a bit of a preview of the content of Gesturing Toward Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy, edited by Robert K. Bolger and Scott Korb, you can read Ryan David Mullins', Theories of Everything and More: Infinity is not the End over at

Ryan let me know that the version linked above will appear in the collection and is ' a penultimate version' and that 'the printed version contains substantial improvements'. Looking forward to it!

Click through to read Theories of Everything and More: Infinity is not the End over at

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 October 2013 01:05

DFW Criticism Due 2014

Looks like it is time to start a list about upcoming collections of David Foster Wallace criticism!

"Asked in 2006 about the philosophical nature of his fiction, the late American writer David Foster Wallace replied, "If some people read my fiction and see it as fundamentally about philosophical ideas, what it probably means is that these are pieces where the characters are not as alive and interesting as I meant them to be."

Gesturing Toward Reality looks into this quality of Wallace's work—when the writer dons the philosopher's cap—and sees something else. With essays offering a careful perusal of Wallace's extensive and heavily annotated self-help library, re-considerations of Wittgenstein's influence on his fiction, and serious explorations into the moral and spiritual landscape where Wallace lived and wrote, this collection offers a perspective on Wallace that even he was not always ready to see. Since so much has been said in specifically literary circles about Wallace's philosophical acumen, it seems natural to have those with an interest in both philosophy and Wallace's writing address how these two areas come together."
Of the twelve books David Foster Wallace published both during his lifetime and posthumously, only three were novels. Nevertheless, Wallace always thought of himself primarily as a novelist. From his college years at Amherst, when he wrote his first novel as part of a creative honors thesis, to his final days, Wallace was buried in a novel project, which he often referred to as "the Long Thing." Meanwhile, the short stories and journalistic assignments he worked on during those years he characterized as "playing hooky from a certain Larger Thing." Wallace was also a specific kind of novelist, devoted to producing a specific kind of novel, namely the omnivorous, culture-consuming "encyclopedic" novel, as described in 1976 by Edward Mendelson in a ground-breaking essay on Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing" is a state-of-the art guide through Wallace's three major works, including the generation-defining Infinite Jest. These essays provide fresh new readings of each of Wallace's novels as well as thematic essays that trace out patterns and connections across the three works. Most importantly, the collection includes six chapters on Wallace's unfinished novel, The Pale King, that will prove to be foundational for future scholars of this important text.


Please let me know if I've missed any - or if you're working on one that needs mentioning!

[Big thanks to Jeff for drawing my attention to these.]


The Howling Fantods