The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

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

Working Again... I Think

I think we're back. If you notice anything weird or get any strange errors please contact me using this form or via twitter.

Now back to business!

Last Updated on Saturday, 10 October 2015 01:36

Downtime Alert - Server Move

Hi everyone,

Sometime in the next 24 hours a scheduled server move will occur. For the duration The Howling Fantods will be inaccessible, but we should only be down for a few hours.

Keep an eye on my twitter feed (@nick_maniatis) or The Howling Fantods on Facebook for updates.



Last Updated on Friday, 09 October 2015 01:04

The David Foster Wallace Reader - Paperback

The paperback of The David Foster Wallace Reader is due for release on December 1 2015. You can pre-order it over at now.

Check out some reviews of the hardback release last year here and here.


(P.S. / disclosure: The super short afterword for Incarnations of Burned Children was written by me...)


Note: Thanks to @AlexSinclairNFL for pointing out a Penguin imprint of the paper has been available for ages from the UK.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 October 2015 01:08

Sounds Familiar... The Kickback

I like this type of thing. Check out the filmography endnote in Infinite Jest and compare it to the album from The Kickback, Sorry All Over the Place...

From the Huffington Post, The Kickback Gears Up for Their Full-Length Debut, Sorry All Over the Place:

You are a fan of the late, great David Foster Wallace, whose Infinite Jest provided the title for your album. He spoke of contrasts and layers in his book, which influenced contrasts and layers in your music. Could you tell me more about this literary connection to your music?

I went home to work a summer camp job in South Dakota after I had moved to Chicago and brought Infinite Jest with me. My parents wound up getting divorced and I was sort of stuck at home while it all went down. The book weighs, like, three paperweights and a German shepard, so I'm pretty sure that trying to avoid the divorce stuff was about the only thing that helped me get through it.

I'm sure a lot of other people have experienced [that situation], and I sort of became transfixed with Wallace's work. There's this hour-and-a-half interview he did on Youtube where he spends most of his responses either visibly frustrated at his own ability to express himself or mildly annoyed at the questions. He grits his teeth a lot and winces. It's sort of entrancing. He hurt a lot of the time and seemed like kind of a shitty person sometimes and was absolutely brilliant and fought the urge to be recognized for his work. I find a lot of our songs indirectly channel him and try to remember how sick he would be if some band he'd never heard of name-dropped him in their bio.

See also:

The Kickback's debut album Sorry All Over the Place is a tapestry of references.

The Kickback - Sorry All Over the Place - Review

The Kickback - Sorry All Over the Place - Amazon


(Cheers, Billy!)

Last Updated on Monday, 21 September 2015 14:43

IJ Cover Comp Entries

Chris Ayers is collecting and showcasing entries for the official Infinite Jest Cover Competition (previously) on his incredible Poor Yorick Entertainment blog and Facebook page.

Chris has asked for anyone who may have submitted an entry to the comp to contact him via the blog or facebook page so he can showcase as many entries as possible.

Below is Chris Ayers' entry, check out his Poor Yorick Entertainment blog for others!

More Articles...

The Howling Fantods