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Consider the Author: David Foster Wallace

February 21 marked the birthday of David Foster Wallace, acclaimed writer and subject of the upcoming film The End of the Tour. Best known for the bestselling 1996 novel Infinite Jest—selected by Time as one of the 100 best novels published since 1923—Wallace was also a skilled essayist and writer of short fiction with a knack for thoughtfully exploring an unusually broad thematic range.

Wallace's work has influenced several prominent authors, including Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen—who essayed Wallace in Changing My Mind and Farther Away, respectively—as well as George Saunders, Elizabeth Wurtzel and Dave Eggers.

If you'd like to find out what draws these authors to Wallace's work, take a look at the items below.


Fiction

 The Pale King

The character David Foster Wallace is introduced to the banal world of the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, and the host of strange people who work there, in a novel that was unfinished at the time of the author's death.

 

 Infinite Jest

A spoof on our culture featuring a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation house near Boston. The center becomes a hotbed of revolutionary activity by Quebec separatists in revolt against the Organization of North American Nations which now rules the continent.

 

 The Broom of the System

The "dazzling, exhilarating" (San Francisco Chronicle) debut novel from one of this century's most groundbreaking writers, The Broom of the System is an outlandishly funny and fiercely intelligent exploration of the paradoxes of language, storytelling and reality.

 

 Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: Stories

Wallace made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even approaches. The series of stories from which book takes its title is a sequence of imagined interviews with men on the subject of their relations with women. These portraits of men at their most self-justifying, loquacious and benighted explore poignantly and hilariously the agonies of sexual connections.

 Girl with Curious Hair: Stories

From the eerily "real," almost holographic evocations of historical figures like Lyndon Johnson and overtelevised game-show hosts and late-night comedians to the title story, where terminal punk nihilism meets Young Republicanism, Wallace renders the incredible comprehensible, the bizarre normal, the absurd hilarious, the familiar strange.
 


Nonfiction

 Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a funny bone? What is John Updike's deal, anyway? And what happens when adult video starlets meet their fans in person? Wallace answers these questions and more in essays that are also enthralling narrative adventures.

 

 A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays & Arguments

In this collection of seven pieces on subjects ranging from television to tennis, from the Illinois State Fair to the films of David Lynch, from postmodern literary theory to the supposed fun of traveling aboard a Caribbean luxury cruiseliner, Wallace brings to nonfiction the same curiosity, hilarity and exhilarating verbal facility that has delighted readers of his fiction.


About Wallace

 Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace

In this first in-depth biography of Wallace, journalist D.T. Max captures the renowned author's compelling, turbulent life and times—his genius, his struggle to stay sane and happy in a difficult world, his anxiety and loneliness—as well as why he mattered as a writer and a human being.
 

 Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

An indelible portrait of Wallace, by turns funny and inspiring, based on a five-day road trip with award-winning writer David Lipsky during Wallace’s Infinite Jest tour.

 
 

 Gesturing Toward Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy

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.

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