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David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Infinite Jest's Typographical Circles


Casey Henry's (@caseymhenry) just published article in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction Volume 56, Issue 5, 2015, “Sudden Awakening to the Fact That the Mischief Is Irretrievably Done”: Epiphanic Structure in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, is incredible.

Not only does he pose an interesting consideration of the role of epiphanies in Infinite Jest, but Henry draws from some fascinating correspondence between Wallace and his editor Michael Pietsch about the typographical circle (a symbol very close to my heart):

Wallace explains these typographical markers in a clarifying letter to Pietsch: “They’re just supposed to be circles. Decoration. Maybe suggesting tennis balls, heads,annular defloration cycles, etc. Maybe just me amusing myself” (Letter to Pietsch, emphasis added).Due to the circles’ lacking any identification marks as heads, or tennis balls, and given the evidence to follow, I believe the most accurate and charged interpretation is of “annular defloration cycles” and the implied process of annulation. Wallace was obsessive about the circles, modifying them when they appeared too bouncing and comic, restricting their number from several to one, and settling on the half-shaded, hangnail-moon–looking glyph that appears in the book (Infinite Jest Typescript, Copyedited). Wallace meticulously stipulated the final annular cycle that appears semieclipsed on the last page of the main narrative, yet to be fully analyzed by Wallace critics. The partially occluded circle, lying just beyond Gately’s final breakdown, is essential to understanding the forward motion and means of breaking the self-enclosed annular rings that we might understand the novel’s arrangement prompts. Wallace was fastidious about this terminating symbol; he corrects a typesetter at Little, Brown in late proofs on a circle incorrectly placed in the middle of the page— whited out and X’d with pen—and another mildly obscured on the middle-right margin, jutting more bulbously (Infinite Jest Typescript, Copyedited). On a near-final proof with the circle in the proper lower-right position, marking the circle’s full, arc-like passage, he instructs further: “No— you have only 1/3 of circle protruding from bottom right, as if rest of circle has been cut off by margin” (IJ Proof Set 6-22). Wallace includes with the note his own marking of his intended eclipsed circle, far more off-page, and of a more unique shape, than the typesetter’s mark (IJ Proof Set 6-22). 

Apart from reading Wallace's take first hand, I was taken by surprise by the part I emphasised above (in bold). The partially occluded circle exists in my first edition hardcover of Infinite Jest (see the photo above), but not in my Abacus paperback or the 10 year anniversary edition. What about your copy? Comment below.

The omission of the p. 981 circle in some editions seems to me to be a MAJOR oversight. I hope it's there in the Infinite Jest Deluxe 20th Anniversary edition due in Feb 2016. (Update: Yep, it's there on p. 981 of the U.S. 20th Anniversary edition - not quite the same though.)

If you have access, I encourage you to read Casey Henry's article. Either directly if you have a subscription, via Google Scholar if you have access, or through your university or library.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 July 2016 21:36

The Great Concavity - DFW Podcast Ep 2

Episode 2 of the The Great Concavity is available now. (Follow the show on twitter @ConcavityShow and subscribe to the podcast here)

Today's episode is a discussion about The End of the Tour.

The podcast is hosted by Dave Laird (@DaveLaird2) and Matt Bucher (@mattbucher, wallace-l,, Simple Ranger, Side Show Media Group) two Wallace enthusiasts with a wealth of Wallace knowledge to share.

Listen to The Great Concavity episode 2.

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 May 2016 17:36

The French are (finally) Discovering Infinite Jest

Welcome back to occasional Howling Fantods guest blogger, Ariane Mak. This time she's writing for us about the release of Infinite Jest in French.


L’Infinie Comédie

The French are (finally) Discovering Infinite Jest

-Ariane Mak

Almost twenty years after its publication, Infinite Jest has been translated into French. L’Infinie Comédie and its 1488 pages have indeed been published in August by Les Éditions de l’Olivier. Thanks to Francis Kerline and Charles Recoursé, who translated the endnotes, a remarkable translation of Wallace’s magnum opus is now available to French readers.

During the past two months, Wallace was everywhere – in all the major national newspapers, in literary magazines, and even in fashion magazines. The French press seems to have (re)discovered Wallace and French readers have enthusiastically followed. L’Infinie Comédie is amongst the best-selling novels right now and has been republished twice already. In French bookstores, whole shelves are now being dedicated to the “Wallace galaxy”:

Why has the French translation of Infinite Jest taken so long? A Slate article by Titiou Lecoq explains this at length. It’s summarised and translated into English here.

[Continue reading here after the break]

Last Updated on Monday, 26 October 2015 15:22

The End of the Tour - Digital Download

The End of the Tour is now available on itunes for digital download.

I'm not an Apple or iTunes user so I'm not sure if this is US only or worldwide. Let me know in the comments below.

Hopefully there'll be an Australian screening I can make it to sometime soon...


Regardless, I've got my Amazon Blu-ray pre-order sorted.

DVD/Blu-ray release is set for November 3, 2015. Pre-order the DVD or Blu-ray over at Amazon now.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 16:18

The Great Concavity - New DFW Podcast


Today marks the release of the first podcast dedicated solely to David Foster Wallace, The Great Concavity. (Follow the show on twitter @ConcavityShow and subscribe to the podcast here)

Hosted by Dave Laird (@DaveLaird2) and Matt Bucher (@mattbucher, wallace-l,, Simple Ranger, Side Show Media Group) two Wallace enthusiasts with a wealth of Wallace knowledge and enthusiasm.

I got an early listen in yesterday and Dave and Matt have a great dynamic and a clear plan for the show. It's lovely to listen to two people discussing an author whose work they so obviously admire. I'm very much looking forward to the next episode.


Listen to The Great Concavity episode 1.




Last Updated on Sunday, 22 May 2016 17:35

DT Max On David Foster Wallace - 2015

Two very interesting contributions about the current cultural status of David Foster Wallace in the world right now have appeared from D T Max, author of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, in the last week or so.

The first is an almost hour long interview with Robert Wright on The Wright Show via

Watch / listen to it here. There are way too many topics that Wright and Max touch upon for me to summarise, but the whole thing is worth watching and/or listening to. Wright asks some very searching questions and directs the conversation from D Max's biography, to 'This is Water', Infinite Jest, Wallace's depression, world view and the impact and influence of his suicide on his cultural reception today. I particularly enjoyed the second half.

The second is today's Guardian piece by DT Max, Why David Foster Wallace should not be worshipped as a secular saint, where DT Max expands on some of the thoughts and reflections he shares in the Wright interview, and explores some of the increasingly problematic and conflicting perceptions of David Foster Wallace:

One way or another, DFW now sits securely at the centre of culture. To know about him is a badge of awareness. It would be easy to dismiss this sort of renown as trivial. People have always wanted to seem smart by admiring what people they think are smart admire (Mindy Kaling has just announced she needs to read more DFW). But I think this misses the point. Wallace is not famous for being famous; he’s famous for being moral. A great many of those who care about him have had struggles of their own – whether depression or addiction or just a sense that the world is spinning more and more insanely away from the bearable.


But really the canonisation of St Dave is not my main issue. There are worse things than to simplify or purify the life of a well-known person in search of our own wisdom, comfort, security. I have more than once used DFW in this way myself during an uncomfortable night of the soul. The more problematic part for me is where all the hero worship leaves his books and us as readers for them. Wallace’s books and the public perception of his personality have seemed for some time headed in opposite directions: one reaching for a spiritual purity, the other deeply enmeshed in the problematic and human.

It's a great read.

Continue reading Why David Foster Wallace should not be worshipped as a secular saint

Last Updated on Saturday, 10 October 2015 03:38

Toni Ware - Trailer Park Queen


Check out this great article by Matt Bucher, The Pale King’s Trailer Park Queen, over at Medium about Toni Ware from David Foster Wallace's The Pale King.

Wallace tells her story in an oblique, strained style that he reserves for especially sensitive or damaged human beings. The result, in Toni Ware’s case, is a hybrid Cormac McCarthyesque opening aria that begins with a 289-word sentence featuring words like “stridulation,” “anfractuous,” and “agnate.” Yet, I believe Wallace was not parodying McCarthy’s style here but searching for a way to appropriately write about a character he truly admired. And there is some evidence that Wallace based the character of Toni Ware on a real person. As Lucas Thompson points out in a recent article (“Books Are Made Out of Books”: David Foster Wallace and Cormac McCarthy), Wallace described just such a character in his 1998 interview with Gus Van Sant.

Continue reading The Pale King’s Trailer Park Queen.

If you have Project Muse access it is also worth checking out the article Matt mentions, “Books Are Made out of Books”: David Foster Wallace and Cormac McCarthy. (In Australia if you don't have access through your university or educational institution you can access it for free, online, if you have a National Library of Australia reader card)

While you're over at Medium have a look at Matt's other recent piece, Why David Foster Wallace Matters:

His works matter today because readers who connect with his writing still find an unmatched intellectual prowess clinging to an emotional tidal wave. So many novels attempt to marry a highbrow storytelling technique with a heart-rending, sincere connection, but so few succeed.

Continue reading Why David Foster Wallace Matters.

Last Updated on Saturday, 10 October 2015 02:51
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