The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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DFW's Believer Subscription Card

David Foster Wallace's subscription card for The Believer magazine is part of the materials in the McSweeney's archive at the Harry Ransom Center.


Five Facts About the Infinite Summer YYC Book Club

Five Facts About the Infinite Summer YYC Book Club via the Calgary Herald.

Head over to the Infinite Summer YYC page for updates and the schedule for a summer read on Infinite Jest.


Grieving DFW - Boston Review

Nicole Rudick's review of Karen Green's, Bough Down, for the Boston Review. Grieving DFW.



Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 3

If you missed the first two parts make sure you catch up before reading the 3rd and final piece of this interview:

Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare.

Part 2 - Elegant Complexity, Post Publication.


Part 3 - Writing Nature's Nightmare

THF: Nature's Nightmare, how did it all begin? Was SSMG on board from the beginning? I know it had been in the works for a long time...

Greg Carlisle: I truly thought I was done writing about Wallace when Elegant Complexity came out. (By the way, my wife secretly arranged for Matt to ship copies to a friend's house so she could throw a surprise launch party for me, complete with video congratulations from Matt.) But I had been writing obsessively for months, so I just kind of kept going. As Elegant Complexity was germinating in 2002, I was in a production of Hamlet, and I was just as obsessed with Hamlet as I was Infinite Jest, blocking in a notebook a production I want to direct someday and things like that. So with EC done, I spent the first half of 2008 writing a beat-by-beat explication of Hamlet from two points of view. Then I made tentative steps for what I thought was and what now is my next big project: a book outlining and briefly (no, I mean it) analyzing all the plays of Edward Albee.

Oblivion had given me a similar feeling to IJ in that it made me want to figure out what was going on, and I was sure there was some essential quality about Wallace's writing to be discovered there. I knew there was something profound going on in terms of Wallace's mission as an artist, but I couldn't articulate it specifically. In March 2009, in a panicky fit of brainstorming in a hotel lobby at a theatre conference in Birmingham AL, I just indicate to Matt and John via email that I'm sketching out ideas for a book on Oblivion in an effort to be able to articulate something meaningful in Liverpool, and their return emails are worded such that they consider it an actual book that they intend to publish!

The relevant part in my email to them is excerpted below:

> I was hoping to show you a plot (an excel sheet with Albee's plays
> down the side and recurring themes and methods across the top) and
> sample chapter of the Albee book I'm working on at the end of the
> summer, but now with a keynote speech to write and possible paper
> submission to New York I'm thinking of shelving the Albee book to
> start studying Wallace's work more closely again. I was toying with
> the idea of trying to write a book like EC (except really short! like
> 120 pages max, seriously! the Albee book would be short, too) with
> outlines and themes and methods for the stories in Oblivion. Trying to
> craft an introduction to that might help me with the keynote address
> and possible paper. Thoughts or advice or editorial preferences?

I clearly recall that their response treated the book as an actual thing that was happening and that they wanted to publish, not just an idea.

(Click 'Read more' below to continue)

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 01:38

Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 2

If you missed part one yesterday make sure you read it first here: Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare.

There are some great links to video and audio in Part 2 below. Enjoy.

Part 2 - Elegant Complexity, Post Publication

THF: So Elegant Complexity makes it to publication. I remember reading a sneak peek of it well before publication, I was actually up late at night at my grandparents' house in Adelaide and my mind was racing with just how accessible AND comprehensive it was. What was the response to it when it was publicly available? Were initial sales promising?

Greg Carlisle: In 2008, Michael Sheehan, then student-editor of the Sonora Review (just as Wallace had been 20+ years earlier) invited me to contribute a piece (Wallace's Infinite Fiction) to a Wallace tribute issue (Issue 55/56) that he had been planning even before Wallace's untimely death and to participate in panels to be given when the issue came out.

Sonora Review Issue 55/56 Cover

(I was never in the same room with David Foster Wallace and never attempted to communicate with him. I had reserved seats at a reading he was to give at Butler University in February 2009.) So I'm like, "Wow, yes, that's awesome, thank you". But then of course I needed to write something. With some time away from Elegant Complexity, I was now able to articulate something I wasn't able to articulate fully in Ch. 2 of Elegant Complexity: the analogy of Wallace's writing being like a mathematical function that tends to infinity, which I still think is one of the most useful things I've come up with in my writings on Wallace.

THF: Completely agree. Seeing your graphs/plots of limits as events in Infinite Jest was very much a, "Why didn't I see that moment?" for me.

GC: Star-struck aside: At those panels in Tuscon (David Foster Wallace Memorial Tribute, University of Arizona - Video highlights here and full audio here, Greg Carlisle from 22:15) I sat between Bonnie Nadell and Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running about Big Red Son), Wallace's editor at Premiere (and JT Jackson, who also knew Wallace, was in the audience). Amazing writers were sitting at the other end of the table: Marshall Boswell, Charles Bock, and Ken Kalfus (if you are not familiar with Ken Kalfus, you need to be). Aurelie Sheehan was the faculty advisor for the event. Although your readers may not realize this, Michael Sheehan himself is an amazing writer. I guarantee that at least 85% of the Wallace fans reading this will love his chapbook (from another small publisher, Colony Collapse Press) Proposals for the Recovery of the Apparently Drowned.

As I was preparing for that event in Tucson, David Hering invited me to be a keynote speaker at a conference he was putting together at Liverpool University (SSMG published the papers from the Liverpool conference as Consider David Foster Wallace) I was thinking, "Wow this is unbelievable, thank you", but at the same time, "Can I afford this?" and my wife said, "Keynote speaker?! You're going!" It turned out the University of Liverpool was quite generous in helping me get there and my two best friends went with me and it was so great. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had nothing to write.

Matt Bucher: We did a small run of galleys of Elegant Complexity and one of those went to Jason Kottke. He mentioned the book on and said some nice things about it (See point 7 from this 2009 post too: Nick). We are a niche publisher and these are niche books, so for us, getting publicity on was the equivalent of making the New York Times. A huge deal. And of course all the promotions of the book on The Howling Fantods certainly helped. I think our first printing was 1500 copies and it sold out immediately. So, that was promising. I knew the book would have a long afterlife. It continues to sell well. It's been used in university courses and I know that a couple of the translators of Infinite Jest have relied on it for clarification of several plot points.

The first review of the book was by Marie Mundaca on the Hipster Book Club. Another thing that helped was the Infinite Summer group read of Infinite Jest that took place in the summer of 2009. Greg and I (and Nick!) contributed blog posts to that project and to me it felt like the focus was on the text of the novel--so Greg's expertise really helped there.


Part 3: Writing Nature's Nightmare

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 01:35

Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 1

Last year Greg Carlisle (author of Elegant Complexity and Morehead State University Professor) and Matt Bucher (@mattbucher,, Sideshow Media Group and Wallace-l listserv owner) agreed to an email interview about Nature's Nightmare: Analyzing David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, Carlisle's latest critical text about David Foster Wallace's, Oblivion: Stories. It's taken us (me really) a while to get the interview live... but it's worth it.


Below is part one. I'll be posting the rest throughout the week.




Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare

THF: Welcome Greg and Matt! Let's jump back in time a little and discuss the first Carlisle/SSMG publication. Tell us a little about how Elegant Complexity came to be.

Greg Carlisle: I'm sure many people reading this felt similar to the the way I did while reading Infinite Jest. It was like I was having a transformative experience while reading it. I wanted to analyze it and chart out facts to try and solve mysteries, but it was just too good. So I said I'd do that later. I finished Infinite Jest in Jan 2001 and it would not leave my head. In December 2001 I sketched an outline of what I wanted to analyze/figure out/map about the book on a bit of stationery paper, and that was the beginning.

Dec 2001 Sketch, G. Carlisle. (Click image to enlarge)



2002 was all teaching, acting, and surgery for me, but I took a few failed stabs at an introduction and could never encompass the scope of what I was trying to do. So I just started making summaries of each section as efficiently as I could and typing out an outline of observation notes to go back and make commentaries for later. Early in 2003, I searched the web to see what Wallace commentary existed. I found The Howling Fantods and wallace-l and thought that what I was doing could add something new to that. When Burn's book (Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide) came out that year, I read it and thought what I was doing was different enough from what he was doing, so I continued. When Dowling and Bell came out with their book in 2005 (A Reader's Companion to Infinite Jest), I still thought I was doing something unique enough to be of interest.


(Click 'Read more' below to continue)

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 00:53

Steven Moore's Memorable Encounter with DFW

In an interview with Andrew Mitchell Davenport for Full Stop, Steven Moore (His essay, The First Draft Version of Infinite Jest, can be found here) recalls a memorable encounter with David Foster Wallace:


Along about then I met David Foster Wallace for the first time (after corresponding with him for a few years), who was very quiet and polite. I saw him a few more times after he moved out to Normal, Illinois: by then I was working for Dalkey Archive Press, which was located there, and he took a teaching position there in 1993. As you probably know, he was a championship-level tennis player when younger; one summer we got together to play, but it was too beastly hot and humid to exert ourselves, so we just volleyed lazily back and forth, and he gave me some tips on my serve. At one point he politely asked if he could play full out, after which he blew me off the court. I could barely see his serves, much less get a racket on them.


Continue reading the interview...


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