The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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What are you doing on this side of the dark?

Facedown by Mary Karr in the Sep 22 issue of The New Yorker [via @marykarrlit]


Seven New Directions for Wallace Studies

Seven New Directions for Wallace Studies (Infinite Wallace 2014 Day 3)

Photo - T. McMahon

-Ariane Mak

At the end of this thrilling three day conference, seven new directions seem to have emerged in the study of David Foster Wallace’s work, whether sketched during the conference or called for. Tony’s brilliant post started to evoke some of them, and today’s concluding discussion have pointed towards more stimulating new avenues for Wallace scholarship.

1. As already mentioned, the scope of Wallace studies have clearly broadened and are deeply connected with new explorations of DFW’s nonfiction work, particularly Signifying Rappers and Everything and More

2. Adam Kelly pointed the potential of the opposite process, asking what Wallace has to say and bring to other disciplines (what Wallace has to say to Buddhism, etc.).

3. The archives at the Harry Ransom Centre have been a crucial step in opening up Wallace studies. As Lee Konstantinou highlighted, they allow for an analysis of the process of thought in DFW’s works, and are particularly vital in relations with The Pale King.

4. Mary Holland addressed the possibility for Wallace scholars today to examine the limits of DFW’s works.

5. She remarked on the curious absence of any thorough analysis of DFW’s work in terms of race, class and gender.

6. Mary Holland also suggested that the affect dimension might be particularly fruitful to Wallace studies.

7. Finally, Ralph Clare pointed at the interest of analysing DFW’s work in relation to animal studies.

During the conference, Adam Kelly addressed the conception of Wallace studies as group mind undertaking a collective work towards a better understanding of David Foster Wallace and his work. There is no doubt that the Paris conference revealed promising new horizons to this community of readers and Wallace scholars.

-Ariane Mak

(Point 1. Updated 15/9/14)

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 12:26

Wallace Scholarship: The Second Wave?

Wallace Scholarship: The Second Wave? (Infinite Wallace 2014 Day 3)

-Tony McMahon.

As you may be aware, the Infinite Wallace conference changed location for its final day. Apparently, some philosopher strangled his wife in this place, but I haven't been able to confirm the veracity or otherwise of this just yet.

And don't worry, a strongly worded letter to the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University is being drafted as we blog, expressing my bemusement at how exactly I'm expected to work in such conditions.

In a remarkable and moving address that closed the Infinite Wallace Conference, Adam Kelly today spoke of Wallace scholarship as a group mind. Kelly then went on to make what amounted to a call for an expansion of this mind by suggesting that new avenues for exploration of Wallace – many of them proposed by the conference speakers themselves – signalled an exciting and dynamic future for the discipline.

Without disparaging in the slightest the fine work that has been done so far, Kelly acknowledged – pretty much – that the times they were a-changin’. The upcoming dialogue, he appeared to intimate, between established Wallace scholarship and new voices, would make for a rich and innovative discourse.

Kelly’s talk was preceded by one from Mary K Holland, who made the sorely needed point that issues surrounding Wallace and gender had been spectacularly under-examined by Wallace scholars in the past and, well, sorry, but this, sadly, continues to be the case.

Holland appeared slightly ill at ease making this point in a largely male setting, but this reporter, for one, thought she was spot on in her appraisal of what is – let’s not mince words here – a wildly imbalanced state of affairs.

And Ralph Clare’s talk, on neuro atypical characterisations in Wallace’s work, further underlined that differing or under represented approaches to familiar subjects can often bear the most interesting fruit.

This prompted questions on the idea of reading Wallace through the lenses of race, queerness, whiteness studies and continental philosophy, exciting developments indeed for a room dominated by white, male voices.

As Kelly remarked: “I think it would be really exciting to hear what Queer Theory, for example, might have to say to Wallace Studies, and vice versa.”

It’s probably too early to be calling this the second wave of Wallace scholarship, and your reporter will openly admit that, well, he’s been out at the post-conference dinner and, yeah, got on the piss maybe a little more that he should have and possibly is getting slightly excited and all that.

Perhaps the second wave hasn’t started, not just yet. If you look closely, though, there seems to be little doubt that the water is definitely on the rise.

-Tony McMahon


Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 02:57

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

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