David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97
A big hello to Wallace scholars and fans attending the University Of Liverpool - Consider David Foster Wallace conference (previously) over the next two days. Feel free to hit us with any observations, responses, photos etc and we'll put them up here for all to see. I wish I was there. Enjoy!
A special, "Hello and good luck!", to the amazing Greg Carlisle (author of Elegant Complexity ) who will soon be delivering his keynote at the conference... more on this later.
This is probably a good time to mention that the call for papers for the November DFW conference in New York, Footnotes: New Directions in David Foster Wallace Studies closes on August 15th. (My tickets to New York are booked for this one)
One of DFW's earliest short stories has been officially published in the latest issue of Tin House [order issue #40 here ]. The Planet Trillaphon As It Stands In Relation To The Bad Thing is worthy of purchase and every second of your time, but it is also painfully difficult to read in light of Wallace's death last year. That is the most I can bear to write about it.
Stefan got back to me super quickly with a translation of the German audio in the ZDF DFW Interview posted yesterday, and another kind person transcribed DFW's bits. Thanks so much both of you.
I'm working on a subtitle file to go with the interview.
Splicing the work of the two together we get the following:
(It is 12:45am here and I have to get to bed. Post any corrections in the comments, or hit the contact us link.)
ZDF David Foster Wallace Interview (video stream)
ZDF: California can be pretty depressing, especially if you're on your way to David Foster Wallace, a literary genius, no matter how strange that may sound. He lives somewhere in a less populated area of California. How he looks like? Who could answer that question? He still has this picture from his youth printed on his books.
ZDF: Wallace hates interviews. Two days ago he was actually planning to cancel on us. To visit him at home? Impossible. His two dogs are supposed to be feared for their fierceness.
ZDF: (Elevator-scene) Against all expectation, on 3 a.m. sharp David Foster Wallace leaves the elevator of the hotel he had suggested for our meeting. Accepting the harsh fate of being interviewed by us now. Somehow, we had pictured him differently. Wilder. Less timid. Despite the grotesque and vulgar way in which he paints the world, Wallace is no cynic. One almost never experiences anyone wearing himself down for the truth.
ZDF: (TV-sequence) That's the universe of many of his characters. Old and desperate people, who give anything to distract themselves from their mortality, thus in effect truly failing their lives.
DFW: This is one enormous engine and temple of self-gratification and self-advancement, and in some ways it works very well. In other ways it doesn’t work all that well, because it, at least for me, it seems as if there are whole other parts…of me that need to worry about things larger than me, that don’t get nourished in that system.
ZDF: Suffering people populate Wallace's short stories and novels. Depressed and narcissist, hurt and reckless, unhappy, dying to be liked. Everyone is beyond salvation.
DFW: American economic and cultural systems that work very well, um, in terms of, in terms of selling people products and keeping the economy thriving, do not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live…and to be happy… if that word means anything. That feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire, is, it seems to me to be a strange kind of slavery. Nobody talks about it as such, though. [Everyone] talks about it as freedom of choice, and you have the right to have things.
ZDF: The stars as ego-monsters keep the entertainment-machine running, and keep looking down on all the others and their mediocre lives.
DFW: Here’s what’s really interesting, and I don’t know if you can translate this, talking about this now, I feel ashamed, because my saying all this sounds to me like an older person saying all this, like a person lecturing, which, in American culture, sets me up to be ridiculed. It’d be very easy to make fun of what I’m saying…, you know, be very easy to make fun of what I’m saying, and I can hear in my head a voice making fun of this as I’m saying it.
ZDF: The United States are a in a state of war. Cinematically, it stages its readiness. You're either with something or against something. There is no in-between in U.S. politics. Almost childish are their reactions to threats.
DFW: The country’s reaction to feeling frightened and insecure is to buy Sports Utility Vehicles that are large and massive and tank-like and make individual people feel safer.
DFW: And yet are voting for people who are deciding to go over and very possibly… kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in order to kill a few enemies. The speed with which it’s become, um, those bad people, those bad fanatics, they’re evil, what they really hate is our freedom, and our way of life, which is just hard to swallow, right, like who hates freedom? People hate people, not freedom. Not since I was a little boy and I worried about the US and the Soviet Union having an intercontinental, [Makes gesture indicating…rocket’s arc?] I remember…And this is totally personally, but I’m more scared of us.
ZDF: Wallace is writing at a time in which language has descended into banality and emotion into cliché. Wallace overcomes all this. And he has no illusions. Not even about himself.
DFW: Imagine this show were running on American TV and I were sitting in this hotel watching it, OK, and you’ve got this pointy-headed nerdy guy talking about this stuff, or I’ve got Pamela Anderson running on a beach or a hilarious comedy, which one am I gonna watch?
Fantods reader, Lefteris (thank you!), let me know about this DFW interview on German TV. It is mostly in German, with DFW's responses overdubbed, but thankfully you can hear the English in the backgroud if you listen carefully.
DFW's responses are fascinating. He comments on consumption, impulse, war, freedom, choice and American culture.
If any German readers out there keen to do a translation contact me here. If you are also able to provide timings in minutes and seconds (just for each main block of text) I can whip up a subtitle file for it.
One of the most amusing descriptions of Infinite Jest I've read appears in John Barber's article about Infinite Summer over at Globe and Mail arts.
Like Nabokov, on ecstasy, while downing a goat, contains this piece of gold:
How to reduce such an awesome thing to a phrase? Given its illicit-substance-soaked content, I toy with “Nabokov on ecstasy.” Nabokov naked and wailing, with blood in his eyes. But funny, so outrageously funny. I am disturbing the sleep of my children with the yelps, gasps and guffaws that emit from my bedroom at night. More quietly, I am shuddering and crying. Reading Infinite Jest is like trying to swallow a goat and discovering it is the most stimulating experience imaginable.
|The Broom of the System|
|Girl with Curious Hair|
|Supposedly Fun Thing|
|Everything and More|
|Consider the Lobster|
|This is Water|
|The Pale King|
|Both Flesh and Not|
|New to DFW?|
|Interviews and Audio|
|The B.I. Project|