The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Recovery - Practically Painless English

Practically Painless English, by Sally Foster Wallace recovered by Diego Báez.

Octopus recovery projects are brief essays celebrating a single book that you feel people should be reading but are not reading:


According to its preface, Practically Painless English “strives to convey some of the fun and excitement that working with language can offer [and] to involve students in the beauty, logic, pizzazz, and joy of English.” Keywords “fun” and “logic” will raise flags in the minds of diehard loyalists to the cult of St. Dave. For the uninitiated, it may be interesting to begin with a remedial primer that seems almost to premonish the emergence of DFW’s preternatural talent. From its unconventional title to its quirky sample sentences to its stated concern with readerly comprehension, Ms. Wallace’s instructional prose smacks at times of DFW’s own writerly conventions (she even signs the preface: S.F.W.), at others it’s more than mere familial likeness; seems like DFW himself could’ve penned it. And even a cursory read-through of Practically Painless yields a great many similarities and remarkable moments.


Continue reading...

[Thanks, Diego]

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 January 2014 10:49

The End of the Tour - Opinion Round-Up

I've been collecting links of opinions about The End of the Tour in a text file while I've been away from home. Things seem to have settled down a bit, so it seems to be a good time to post them.

What do I think about all this? None of you will be particularly surprised that I'm sitting on the fence... interested in what this might become, nervous about what it might end up being.

Read up below and comment if you care to share your thoughts - there's certainly significant difference of opinion in the pieces below.

Have I missed any? Let me know.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 December 2013 18:04

December 2013 Holiday Update

I'm on holidays and thus mostly away from a full sized computer. So here's another one of those this-time-of-year holiday updates because I have brief access to a pc.


Erasing Infinite’s erasure poems based on Infinite Jest.

New Orleans Review - Both Flesh and Not.

The Paris Review, Karen Green's Bough Down.

A Way With Words (Dec 14) contains a review of Quack This Way.

9 Most Dysfunctional Families In Literature, Huffington Post.

You Are Loved: Reflexivity, Recursion and Realism in the Work of David Foster Wallace.

Via The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog and D. T. Max, David Foster Wallace and Rap, Circa 1989.

John McGowan over at Ethos Review asks, "What Am I Missing?: Infinite Jest and Its Cult Following." If you have time have your say in the comments.


You might like to follow me for DFW updates via @nick_maniatis on Twitter or visit the Facebook page for more frequent updates while I’m away (easy to retweet on a smart phone).


In need of something to read? There's always The Book Store.


(Yes, the bullets are all messed up. Old browser doesn't like the wysiwyg editor.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 January 2014 11:01

Pale Winter - Reading The Pale King

Today is day 1 of the group read of David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, check out the blog page for more info - Pale Winter.

If you've not read The Pale King and you'd like to read along with others this is the perfect opportunity.

Here's the (loose) reading schedule:

Week 1 (12/21–28) – Sections 1-9, pp. 3-85 [82 pages]
Week 2 (12/29–1/4) – Sections 10-21, pp. 86-153 [67 pages]
Week 3 (1/5–11) – Section 22, pp. 154-252 [98 pages]
Week 4 (1/12–18) – Sections 23-27, pp. 253-345 [92 pages]
Week 5 (1/19–25) – Sections 28-45, pp. 346-443 [97 pages] 
Week 6 (1/26–2/2) – Sections 46-50, pp. 444-538 [94 pages]
+ Notes & Asides pp. 539-547 [8 pages]


The End of the Tour - Movie

An adaptation of David Lipsky's, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. (!)

Via The Wrap:

James Ponsoldt will direct from a script by playwright Donald Margulies, who adapted Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky’s book.

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel are attached to star in Anonymous Content’s “The End of the Tour,” multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap.

Segel will play David Foster Wallace, the author of “Infinite Jest” who committed suicide in 2008, while Eisenberg will play Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 15:26

D. T. Max Reviews Quack This Way

There's a fine post by D. T. Max about/reviewing Quack This Way over at the New Yorker Page-Turner Blog, D.F.W.’s Favorite Grammarian:

For readers, I think it’s almost entirely a good thing. Our worries are not D.F.W.’s. He was a brilliant conversationalist, whose best stuff often didn’t make it to the page—our Coleridge, if you like. Ask anyone who knew him, and what they remember is his glorious, discursive, impassioned talk.

And it’s true that even in this new, slender volume, there is always something absorbing, something distinctive, some agitated motion of the inner being that is distinctly Wallace.

Read the rest of D.F.W.’s Favorite Grammarian, here.

Quack This Way at


Revisiting All Things Shining

Update: Great comment thread for this one. See futher down for two new links originating from the comments.

This post is completely motivated by the comment Terrence Blake added to an old news update about the Wallace chapter in All Things Shining Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (2011). I recall reading criticisms that the chapter was a misreading (my words) of Wallace so it's nice to have some critical discussion around this issue.

Terrence posted three links to clarify just why Dreyfus and Kelly were so off the mark and I've reproduced the comment in full below. I love how the third link refers to the recent Quack this Way interview as evidence to counter the take on Wallace (it's worth reading).

Over to Terrence Blake:

All Things Shining is a great book in many ways, but it gets DFW totally wrong. I have tried to discuss its chapter on DFW productively here, DAVID FOSTER WALLACE (1): individuation beyond the individual.

Adam S. Miller takes a similar view here, All Things Shining: Maps on Fire but he takes a very critical view not just of the chapter on Wallace but of the whole project of the book.

I try to reconcile both our views here, GRACE, SHINING, AND INDIVIDUATION: Adam Miller, Hubert Dreyfus, and Sean Kelly on David Foster Wallace.


New Additions:

Recent interview with Sean Kelly where he talks about ALL THING SHINING and the projected sequel, to be called The Lofty Sway of the Dark . He mentions Wallace on the sadness of our culture and on the need to cultivate our attention instead of letting it be controlled.

Review of All Things Shining with special reference to their treatment of David Foster Wallace.

(Thanks, Terrence!)

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 10:07

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