The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Upcoming 2014 Collections

It's shaping up to be another great year for Wallace criticism!

"Asked in 2006 about the philosophical nature of his fiction, the late American writer David Foster Wallace replied, "If some people read my fiction and see it as fundamentally about philosophical ideas, what it probably means is that these are pieces where the characters are not as alive and interesting as I meant them to be."

Gesturing Toward Reality looks into this quality of Wallace's work—when the writer dons the philosopher's cap—and sees something else. With essays offering a careful perusal of Wallace's extensive and heavily annotated self-help library, re-considerations of Wittgenstein's influence on his fiction, and serious explorations into the moral and spiritual landscape where Wallace lived and wrote, this collection offers a perspective on Wallace that even he was not always ready to see. Since so much has been said in specifically literary circles about Wallace's philosophical acumen, it seems natural to have those with an interest in both philosophy and Wallace's writing address how these two areas come together."

Of the twelve books David Foster Wallace published both during his lifetime and posthumously, only three were novels. Nevertheless, Wallace always thought of himself primarily as a novelist. From his college years at Amherst, when he wrote his first novel as part of a creative honors thesis, to his final days, Wallace was buried in a novel project, which he often referred to as "the Long Thing." Meanwhile, the short stories and journalistic assignments he worked on during those years he characterized as "playing hooky from a certain Larger Thing." Wallace was also a specific kind of novelist, devoted to producing a specific kind of novel, namely the omnivorous, culture-consuming "encyclopedic" novel, as described in 1976 by Edward Mendelson in a ground-breaking essay on Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing" is a state-of-the art guide through Wallace's three major works, including the generation-defining Infinite Jest. These essays provide fresh new readings of each of Wallace's novels as well as thematic essays that trace out patterns and connections across the three works. Most importantly, the collection includes six chapters on Wallace's unfinished novel, The Pale King, that will prove to be foundational for future scholars of this important text.



May DFW Conference CFP Extension

Update: The call for papers submission deadline has been extended until Sun March 23 at Noon. Get those proposals in!


Download the updated call for papers for Illinois State University's First Annual David Foster Wallace Conference. Friday, May 23, 2014 at The Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel & Conference  Center, 201 Broadway Street, Normal, Illinois 61761.



Featured presenters may be selected from early submissions.

Submissions will be considered in three categories: Scholarship of David Foster Wallace; Scholarship of Contemporary Literature, Publishing, or Culture that considers issues including, but not limited to: innovative/experimental literature; the future of literature and/or publishing; digital vs. traditional publishing/literature; the field of publishing in relation to contemporary literature and/or culture; literature, publishing, or scholarship as art; etc.; and the presentation of Original Creative Work exemplified by any of the above issues and/or that engages its subject from an original, committed, and human perspective.


Download the updated call for papers now.


Registration for the conference is now open


[Thanks Jane and Shelly]


Jason Segel as DFW

Update: More pics

[Via mlive]


Browsing Reddit when I discovered this pic posted of Jason Segel apparently as DFW for The End of the Tour which is currently filming in Grand Rapids:

[via Peanutkid over at Reddit]

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 01:25

DFW Notebooks - 2014 Whitney Museum Biennial

Last year it was announced that David Foster Wallace would "be recognized posthumously" at the 2014 Whitney Museum Biennial. Here are some collected bits and pieces about the Wallace notebooks on display.

The New York Times - A Guide to the 2014 Whitney Museum Biennial:

The “Midwesternism” notebook, from “The Pale King” materials by David Foster Wallace.

"Also on view are the spiral notebooks with sketches that the writer David Foster Wallace kept while researching “The Pale King,” his last novel. (His biographer, D. T. Max, called them “an improvised bulletin board.”)"

[via A Guide to the 2014 Whitney Museum Biennial]


Hyperallergic - Whitney Biennial 2014: Michelle Grabner on the Fourth Floor:

A view of the display of various notebooks and materials by David Foster Wallace.

Detail of David Foster Wallace’s “Interview notes for ‘Federer as Religious Experience’ (New York Times, August 20, 2006)” (nd), two-page manuscript.

"If Grabner’s decision to include rather lackluster notebooks of author David Foster Wallace seemed odd, her general exploration of who is an artist nowadays was quite fascinating. Do Wallace’s scribblings offer us a largely ignored visual dimension to his writings or are they simply the relics of his literary output?"

[via Whitney Biennial 2014: Michelle Grabner on the Fourth Floor]


Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 08:44

Ethos - Infinite Jest

In December 2013 John McGowan asked Ethos readers, What Am I Missing?: Infinite Jest and Its Cult Following. He had finally finished Infinite Jest, but did not experience the pleasure that many readers experience while reading the novel. It's interesting in that it is such a different reading to mine. I keep finding things to love about it after all these years (and that's not because I've refused to read anything by any other author... far from it!). There are a few detailed, passionate and articulate responses in the comments at the end. Have a look.

Three months later David Andrew Tow has responded with, Missing the Point is Part of It: An Apologia for Infinite Jest:


Recently on Ethos, John McGowan wrote a fair and well-reasoned indictment of Wallace’s opus. In sum, it is an overwrought, hostile, meandering, self-serious, and deliberately disorganized novel whose “pieces,” McGowan writes, “are far more than the whole.” These complaints, and the half-dozen others often leveled at Wallace, hold water. Infinite Jest has problems. And yet, despite these objections and criticisms, Infinite Jest is still a work of art, functions as one, and does so because of, not despite, its problems.


I just don't see that the complaints in McGowan's piece are problems in the first place.

Continue reading over at Ethos, What Am I Missing?: Infinite Jest and Its Cult Following and Missing the Point is Part of It: An Apologia for Infinite Jest.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 21:18

These Words Will Appear Across the Front of My English Classroom.

My good friend Matt Barry [previously] sent me numerous enthusiastic texts and emails while he was reading Quack This Way so I asked him to write something brief about it for me:

Quack This Way is an excellent book.

Adroitness, precision, economy and clarity. These words will appear in heavily bolded font on posters across the front of my English classroom. These are the terms Wallace discusses with Garner that makes for impactful writing. Throughout the interview Wallace attempts to explain his frustrations at the differences between what is good writing against what is perceived as good writing. His annoyance on the over reliance of abstraction, wordiness, over complication and jargon, particularly in the professional sector, is refreshingly clear.

And this is what comes through the entire interview. Wallace’s directness and clarity, not always found in his writing, when discussing the writing process and the ideas of writing as communication rather than expression allows you to better understand his work and even identify flaws or successes immediately in your own writing. Wallace and Garner have an obvious respect for each other which allows the conversation to be both natural and technical. This IS Wallace’s voice, relaxed, humorous and direct, something which was seemingly difficult to capture in an interview.  It does sadly, in a way, make Wallace seem as if he is alive again. It certainly made me wish he was my teacher.

As an English Teacher, I have made a page of instructions Wallace gives throughout the interview to share with my students, which if heeded, will make their writing and my reading improve dramatically. Understanding at 15 that the reader doesn’t want to read about me, rather than communicate with me, would have saved many of my teachers and lecturers from reading what Wallace calls “almost well-structured diary entries which say this is me, this is me!”

Garner’s Quack This Way is a book about Wallace, the teacher and student. Easy to read, easy to process. Simple and clean. He would have appreciated that.


Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 10:42

Reading DFW Led Me Back to Studying the Talmud

Interesting. Joesph Winkler's essay for Tablet, Reading David Foster Wallace Led Me Back to Studying the Talmud:

David Foster Wallace rekindled my love of Talmud.

To be more exact, the realization of the Talmudic nature of David Foster Wallace let me see that I never truly left the world of the Talmud; I’d just transmuted that experience into an obsession with literature, and specifically with him.

As an obsessive fanboy of the deceased author, I was asked to speak at a meeting of the David Foster Wallace Appreciation Society at the WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn last February about how I first came to love him. In preparing for this small shiur on Wallace, I came to the sudden and convincing realization of the Talmudic nature of his works and thought: Like the commentaries on commentaries in the Talmud, Wallace wrote footnotes on footnotes. In his works, ideas lead to more and stranger, seemingly digressive ideas; and like the Talmud, Wallace finds meaning in the apparently irrelevant and idiosyncratic particulars of life. (The comparisons could go on. Just look at the layout of this Wallace essay and compare its appearance to this page of Talmud.) I realized how, in my religious development, I’d simply gone from one Talmud to the next. Appreciating this comparison reopened the wound I’d had since leaving Talmud behind, and I could no longer shake the ache of longing for a life of Talmudic study.

(Continue reading)




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