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David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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A Glimpse Into the Future of Wallace Studies?

Infinite Wallace Day Two: A Glimpse Into the Future of Wallace Studies?

-Tony McMahon.

After two gruelling 14 plus hour days of nothing but Wallace, Wallace and more Wallace, with still one more to come, please spare a thought for your humble correspondent. The decidedly First World Problem status of the thing notwithstanding, he's still feeling somewhat overwhelmed, so please excuse any inappropriateness, slander, misinterpretations and spelling mistakes that might hitherto ensue…

The dominant reading this scribe takes away from day two of Infinite Wallace is that academic thinking surrounding our fave writer is suddenly in a state of great flux. What I’ll call – with no disrespect whatsoever – ‘old school’ Wallace scholarship (best exemplified by what has recently been called by Kelly ‘the essay-interview nexus’ [interpretations of Wallace’s work revolving around ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction’ and his interview with McCaffery]) seems today to be in wildly interesting conversation with possible new directions.

Some of these potential new pathways include: Wallace and Buddhism, Wallace and music (even if I do say so myself), paratext surrounding Wallace’s work and – possibly most excitingly in my opinion, Wallace and Situationism.

And your fearless reporter can now reveal exclusively for THF that top secret discussions are already under way for a possible volume on this last subject. At least three of the speakers so far have referenced Wallace’s debt to the French ‘ratbag intellectuals’ of the 1950s and 1960s, and two more not in attendance have done the same.

Exciting developments indeed.

Kocela, Ford, Fisher Panel - Post-secular Wallace? I. Photo - T. McMahon

Two or Three Things You Might Not Have Known About the World’s Leading Wallace Scholars

G.W.S.O.A.T (Greatest Wallace Scholar Of All Time) Marshall Boswell is a bit of a vinyl junkie, gave this reporter a high five when told he (this reporter) was blogging for this site and is just about the nicest bloke you could ever hope to meet.

David Hering has the smoothest, most calming voice in all of academia, not to mention one of the biggest and most interesting brains.

Mary K. Holland is the author of probably your correspondent’s two fave Wallace essays, ‘Art’s Heart’s Purpose: Braving the Narcissistic Loop of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest’ and ‘Mediated Immediacy in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’. As such, insufficient saliva, so to speak, has been summoned to approach her, and nothing too interesting can really be reported. Maybe tomorrow.

Adam Kelly plays a lot with that cloth thing in journals that you use to mark what page you’re up to and asks a real lot of super interesting, wildly inspiring questions.

The first thing that Kostas Kaltsas does every morning when he wakes up is, wait for it, checks The Howling Fantods. This is true. This is, like, a direct quote thingo.

Lee Konstantinou, Adam Kelly and David Hering, "Cheers, Nick!" Photo - T. McMahon

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 September 2014 14:20


Via @LettersOfNote:

There is a previously unpublished handwritten list of DFW's in the Lists of Note book, titled 'Midwesternisms'.

Lists of Note


Infinite Wallace 2014 - DFW Reader

Tony and Ariane managed to get some pics of the promotional sampler for The David Foster Wallace Reader (due in November) while at the Infinite Wallace Paris Conference.

Most interesting are the full contents (I know the sampler has been floating around for a couple of months now so this may not be news to all of you):

Additional contributions (introductions and afterwords) from:

  • The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust
  • Kevin Dettmar
  • Gerry Howard
  • Hari Kunzru
  • Nam Le
  • Nick Maniatis
  • Deboarah Treisman
  • Sally Foster Wallace
  • Mark Costello
  • David Ulin
  • Anne Fadiman
  • Jo Ann Beard
  • Sven Birkirts

The David Foster Wallace Reader

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 September 2014 03:03

Day of the Author's Persona's Bandana

11 September 2014 – Day of the Author's Persona's Bandana
from Infinite Wallace 2014, Paris

Photo - A. Mak


-Ariane Mak

-Additional photos by Tony McMahon.


T. McMahon and Bandana

I think anyone who was present at the Infinite Wallace Paris Conference would agree that bandanas were a strangely recurring theme in today’s proceedings. To begin with, a wallacesque white bandana was offered to each of us. (For some reason I couldn’t convince Tony, my fellow reporter-blogger, to wear it for a picture. I am not giving up though.)1 Then Mike Miley mentioned during his paper the bandana’s importance with regards to the DFW persona. The signature bandana worn by Leonard Bankhead in The Marriage Plot was also commented upon by Marshall Boswell as part of Jeffrey Eugenides’ crafting of a DFW doppelgänger (despite Jeffrey Eugenides’ claims that his main source of inspiration was Axl Rose..). During another panel discussion, someone2 pointed out that the famous picture of the bandana-wearing-DFW which was used during IJ’s release had actually been taken more than a decade before, around 1982. It was very interestingly suggested that the photo had been chosen as an attempt to craft a Kurt Cobain echo. 

Great papers today and engaging discussions – four panels on two topics: “Performance, entertainment, media” and “Wallace the auteur/Questions of reading and writing”. As the whole conference is being recorded (links should be up in a couple of weeks), I’ll only say a few words about each paper.

Photo - A. Mak

Bart Thornton talked about DFW’s vast knowledge of post war European cinema, drawing many interesting parallels between Jim O. Incandenza and French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot and highlighting Guy Debord’s influence. 
Mike Miley explored David Wallace’s struggle against David Foster Wallace (the author’s persona) comparing the annotations in several texts with the “David Wallace chapters” in The Pale King. He emphasized that the plagiarism recounted in The Pale King, being the first instance where the author had to adopt authorial names which were not his own, was the first event in a sequence which would ultimately result in the complete replacement of DW by DFW.

Photo - A. Mak

Tony McMahon suggested many fruitful connections between Wallace’s work, Situationism and Grunge. He also stressed “The Hitherto Criminally Overlooked Importance of Signifying Rappers” particularly with regards to DFW’s political and critical engagement. [More about this one later - Nick]

Jay Johnson examined the Canada-centric arc in Infinite Jest. He drew an interesting typology of three key roles in which Canada is cast in IJ: as a Victim of America and ONANite policy; as the Enemy Other; as the Alternative.

Photo - T. McMahon

Photo - T. McMahon

Marshall Boswells plenary talk was a fascinating exploration of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot as a key text for analysing DFW’s influence on contemporary fiction.
He demonstrated that the “gentle giant” Leonard Bankhead was heavily inspired by DFW: his bandana, chewing tobacco habit, appearance, softness, delicacy of tone and wallacesque language (with almost verbatim quotations of things said by DFW during public readings – “where’s my saliva?”), as well as references to Goethe’s Werther (DFW signing his letters to Mary Karr as “Young Werther”, cf her memoir Lit). The Marriage Plot was described as “a love triangle where DFW and Eugenides fight for the reader’s attention”, with Marshall Boswell highlighting that the book was not a mere homage but a dialogic space for critique.   

Photo - A. Mak

Tim Groenland considered IJ in relation with the death of the auteur debate. He traced the influences of the idea and its consequences with regards to the author’s moral duty, making great use of the material he found in the Harry Ransom Center archives (DFW’s own books and annotations in particular).
Jackie O’Dell tackled the relation between DFW and postmodernism through an interesting reinterpretation of IJ and “E Unibus Pluram”, stressing DFW’s ambiguous stance towards the university world.

Photo - A. Mak

John Roache examined DFW’s complex relationship to scholarship and literary criticism in particular, drawing from “Authority and the American Usage” and a particularly interesting analysis of facetious endnotes in IJ.
Laura Morris showed that DFW’s conflict between his desire to furnish values and his contempt for ideological passion finds its resolution in a radical aesthet(h)ics inspired by Jacques Rancière. In this “new kind of democratic art”, the reader takes up new roles, as evidenced by her analysis of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. 

Laura Kreyder gave a brilliant talk on the use of Québécois French in Infinite Jest.

As the paper was given in French I thought I’d write a bit more about it.

Drawing on an analysis of the Harry Ransom Center archives’ material she started by tracing DFW’s French influence. This showed that DFW had read Rabelais, Stendhal, Chrétien de Troyes and Gide while a student at Amherst; then Duras (The Lover), Nathalie Charraud’s book on Cantor and Olivier Razac’s Barbed wire, an important influence for the Pale King. Camus, Rousseau and Artaud are also among the French authors mentioned in IJ, but Perec was also very appreciated by DFW (cf Luria Perec). 

As to French films, Laura Kreyder contended that DFW seemed to have less seen many of them than read about a lot of them. The only French movie we could be sure DFW had seen was La Sentinelle (1992) by Despleschin. But Laura was able to find precisely when DFW had seen it: on 05/10/1992 in New York (while DFW lived in Syracuse he made frequent week end trips in New York to see Mark Costello).

Laura Kreyder then explained how shocking IJ’s Québécois French was to many French readers and proceeded to show that many apparent mistakes were intentional and had been designed by DFW as puns. She brilliantly analysed for instance the evolution of the term used to describe the A.F.R.:

- Step 1 (in one of the first manuscripts, circa 1990): They were called A.V.M. for “Assassins des Voitures de Malade” (which could be clumsily translated by “The Crazy Cars Assassins”)

- Step 2 (Moore version): “Les Assassins des Fauteuils Roulents”. Which, interestingly, is almost perfect, very close to the French correct version which would be “Les Assassins des Fauteuils Roulants”.

- Step 3 (IJ): “Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents”. This last version is less correct than the 2nd one but Laura contended that it was changed by DFW in order to created a pun with “rolling” and better mimic the French language to an Anglophone reader.    

She gave more examples of these bilingual puns in IJ:
“toot sweet” sounds like “tout de suite” in French (right away)
“Minister of Environment and Resources Development Enterprise” = M.E.R.D.E. (S.H.I.T.)

Laura Kreyder’s final remark was that in IJ knowing French was a sign that you were a positive person but was also fatal (as all the characters who couldn’t speak French in IJ were positive characters who ended up dead).

Photo - A. Mak

The day ended up on a cocktail, but I left early [What?! - Nick]. This required considerable will as I’ve never seen champagne and such fancy petits fours at a French conference before, but I thought this report would already be full of grammar mistakes as it is without adding champagne to the equation.

-Ariane Mak


1. To SNOOTs out there please excuse your (French) blogger-reporter for the many mistakes and Gallicisms this text most probably includes.
2. There actually are some situations where one would rather have people wearing name badges on their back.

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 September 2014 00:02

Remembering David Foster Wallace 2014

Thoughts, as always, to David Foster Wallace's family and friends.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009

Thoughts Elsewhere (refresh throughout the day - I'll add more as I find/hear about them or let me know here)

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 September 2014 00:06

Introducing Your Conference Bloggers

Earlier this year I put the call out to readers to help report/blog about the David Foster Wallace conference Infinite Wallace / Wallace infini (that I wanted to attend but knew wouldn't be possible). Thankfully Ariane Mak and Tony McMahon (you've heard from Tony already, see the previous couple of pre-conference posts) offered to help out. Posted below are the bios/intors I asked them both to write at the last minute (i.e. yesterday). Welcome to the conference blogging team Ariane and Tony!


Ariane Mak

Ariane Mak is a slightly obsessive reader of David Foster Wallace. She is currently writing a paper on musical patterns in Infinite Jest and the reason why it is precisely 1079 pages long. While doing so she sometimes forgets that she has a PhD thesis in British history to write (EHESS, Paris).

She’s not allowed to talk about David Foster Wallace with her friends any more so she has decided to track down fellow enthusiasts at the Infinite Wallace Paris Conference.

She will tweet about the #infinitewallace2014 Paris conference as @HollyShafrazi.

Tony McMahon

Hi Fantods readers,

I'm Tony McMahon, creative writing PhD student at RMIT, sometime music journalist, DFW freak and now, it seems, blogger.

At first I thought it was some kind of hellish clerical error, but it turned out that - about three months ago - I was invited by the organisers of the Infinite Wallace Conference to deliver a paper entitled 'David Foster Wallace and Music: the Grunge Writer and the Hitherto Criminally Overlooked Importance of Signifying Rappers', part of which makes up the exegetical component of my thesis.

So, in theory, that's exactly what I'm going to be doing. This is all predicated on the (highly contentious) notion that I don't do a runner five minutes before I'm due to take the podium. We'll just see how all that goes, I suppose.

I'll also be blogging on other panels and little happenings at regular intervals throughout the conference exclusively for this site, so stay tuned...


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:49

More Pre-Conference Stuff

So I'm running with the email subject Tony sent me. More Pre-Conference Stuff, over to Tony:

Paris, September 9 2014.

The 'Australian Contingent' (Mitch Cunningham from Deakin and Tony McMahon from RMIT, aided and abetted by Matilda Knowles and Priscilla Davies) got together today to scope out just what was going on with the Infinite Wallace Conference. The idea was to formulate our plans for the Land Down Under becoming the new hot spot for Wallace scholarship.

The first thing we thought we'd do is just have a good look at where we'd be speaking:

Pretty unimpressive huh?

Not sure we could work in such shabby environs, we decided to wander down the Rue to what appeared to be a philosophy shop:

Then it was back to the section of The Sorbonne where the conference is being held. The posters are up, it's actually happening. No Mitch, no Tony, it wasn't a dream, you really do have to deliver your papers at the conference.

So we thought the thing to do then would be to get a good look at the inside of the room.

And effect our best Wallace scholar poses...

(I had nothing to do with this photo and I love it - Nick)



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