web site hit counter The David Foster Wallace Reader: Limited Edition - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The David Foster Wallace Reader: Limited Edition

Availability: Ready to download

Where do you begin with a writer as original and brilliant as David Foster Wallace? Here--with a carefully considered selection of his extraordinary body of work, chosen by a range of great writers, critics, and those who worked with him most closely. This volume presents his most dazzling, funniest, and most heartbreaking work--essays like his famous cruise-ship piece, "A Where do you begin with a writer as original and brilliant as David Foster Wallace? Here--with a carefully considered selection of his extraordinary body of work, chosen by a range of great writers, critics, and those who worked with him most closely. This volume presents his most dazzling, funniest, and most heartbreaking work--essays like his famous cruise-ship piece, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," excerpts from his novels The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King, and legendary stories like "The Depressed Person." Wallace's explorations of morality, self-consciousness, addiction, sports, love, and the many other subjects that occupied him are represented here in both fiction and nonfiction. Collected for the first time are Wallace's first published story, "The View from Planet Trillaphon as Seen In Relation to the Bad Thing" and a selection of his work as a writing instructor, including reading lists, grammar guides, and general guidelines for his students. A dozen writers and critics, including Hari Kunzru, Anne Fadiman, and Nam Le, add afterwords to favorite pieces, expanding our appreciation of the unique pleasures of Wallace's writing. The result is an astonishing volume that shows the breadth and range of "one of America's most daring and talented writers" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) whose work was full of humor, insight, and beauty.


Compare

Where do you begin with a writer as original and brilliant as David Foster Wallace? Here--with a carefully considered selection of his extraordinary body of work, chosen by a range of great writers, critics, and those who worked with him most closely. This volume presents his most dazzling, funniest, and most heartbreaking work--essays like his famous cruise-ship piece, "A Where do you begin with a writer as original and brilliant as David Foster Wallace? Here--with a carefully considered selection of his extraordinary body of work, chosen by a range of great writers, critics, and those who worked with him most closely. This volume presents his most dazzling, funniest, and most heartbreaking work--essays like his famous cruise-ship piece, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," excerpts from his novels The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King, and legendary stories like "The Depressed Person." Wallace's explorations of morality, self-consciousness, addiction, sports, love, and the many other subjects that occupied him are represented here in both fiction and nonfiction. Collected for the first time are Wallace's first published story, "The View from Planet Trillaphon as Seen In Relation to the Bad Thing" and a selection of his work as a writing instructor, including reading lists, grammar guides, and general guidelines for his students. A dozen writers and critics, including Hari Kunzru, Anne Fadiman, and Nam Le, add afterwords to favorite pieces, expanding our appreciation of the unique pleasures of Wallace's writing. The result is an astonishing volume that shows the breadth and range of "one of America's most daring and talented writers" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) whose work was full of humor, insight, and beauty.

30 review for The David Foster Wallace Reader: Limited Edition

  1. 4 out of 5

    KarmA1966

    I'm not a Daniel Foster Wallace fanboy. Save for a few short stories I ran across in literary anthologies years ago, I'd never read anything by him; neither am I one of his savage critics, constantly railing against his excesses. I entered The David Foster Wallace Reader as a blank slate and, The Reader, like most of Wallace's works, is a daunting doorstopper of a book, clocking in at nearly 1,100 pages when including the footnotes (and if you read Wallace, you can't leave off the footnotes). Muc I'm not a Daniel Foster Wallace fanboy. Save for a few short stories I ran across in literary anthologies years ago, I'd never read anything by him; neither am I one of his savage critics, constantly railing against his excesses. I entered The David Foster Wallace Reader as a blank slate and, The Reader, like most of Wallace's works, is a daunting doorstopper of a book, clocking in at nearly 1,100 pages when including the footnotes (and if you read Wallace, you can't leave off the footnotes). Much like how The Portable Faulkner, edited by Malcom Cowley, brought William Faulkner to a wider audience by knitting his stories and novels together as a single piece, The David Foster Wallace Reader can also be viewed as one, albeit weighty, work. Though the players change, the same tone and themes pulse through each entry here with a high-wire performance of verbal jiu-jitsu, intellectual heft and humor. But I would be negligent to not mention Wallace's pain, his battle against the demons of perfection and depression, that pop up throughout his work. This juggling act — between a magisterial control of the English language and a fight to the death against the black spot on his soul — is at once tragic, considering Wallace's eventual suicide, but also awe-inspiring, realizing he could create so much great work while a dark disturbance refused to leave his side. The Reader includes stories, novel excerpts, essays and even the syllabus he used in the English classes he taught for decades at various colleges. The texts he required his students to read is an eclectic lot, a list that fits Wallace’s varied tastes: Renata Adler, Speedboat James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room Djuna Barnes, Nightwood Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America… In Watermelon Sugar Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays Paula Fox, Desperate Characters Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook Walker Percy, The Moviegoer Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children All of the pieces in The Reader are shrewdly chosen from an all-star list of editors, including Sven Birkerts, Deborah Triesman, Anne Fadiman and the author's mother, Sally Foster Wallace, among others. I could write something about every item in here, but then I’d be here all day. So, in typical Wallace fashion, a fellow lover of lists, I give you my thoughts on three of my favorite sections from the book. 1. “E Unibus Pluram Television and U.S. Fiction” -- This essay, about the intersection of the television generation and the "writer's" diminishing role within that growing culture, is nothing short of brilliant. When Wallace wrote the piece in 1990, the digital age was a dim glimmer that had not yet infected mainstream America. We had the boobtube then, but were without our tablets, smartphones and TV binge-watching that was made possible through the advent of Netflix and DVRs. But that doesn’t negate Wallace’s themes of alienation through our digital obsessions and the ironic tones that writers have worn on their sleeves as an act of rebellion to those obsessions. As Wallace writes, “The next real literary ‘rebels' in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.” Clearly, as we continue to bend a knee to a culture made up of reality TV stars, we are not there yet, but we can hope, can’t we? 2. “Getting Away from Already Pretty Much Being Away from It All” — In this wonderful piece about the Illinois State Fair, Wallace is at once the smartest guy in the room, constantly pointing out the flaws and foibles of bovine-like Midwesterners, while also being the biggest punchline: A sad sack outsider who is afraid to take chances, to let loose, to just freakin’ enjoy life. The article, which originally appeared in Harper’s under the title “Ticket to the Fair," is a treasure trove of tips on how to write great nonfiction. The language is alive with multi-sensory descriptions. Every paragraph, it seems, is brimming with the pungent smells, sickly sweet tastes and visual punchlines of a State Fair. Try this random sample on for size: “So along the path there are I.D.C. milkshakes (my lunch), Lemon Shake-Ups, Ice Cold Melon Man booths, Citrus Push-Ups, and Hawaiian Shaved Ice you can suck the syrup out of and then crunch the ice (my dessert). But a lot of what’s getting bought and gobbled is to my mind not hot-weather food at all: bright-yellow popcorn that stinks of salt; onion rings big as leis; Poco Penos Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers; Zorba’s Gyros; shiny fried chicken; Bert’s Burritos—“BIG AS YOU’RE HEAD” (sic); hot Italian beef; hot New York City Beef (?); Jojo’s Quick Fried Donuts (the only booth selling coffee, by the way); pizza by the shingle-sized slice and chitlins and Crab Rangoon and Polish sausage. (Rural Illinois’ complete lack of ethnic identity creates a kind of postmodern embarrassment of riches—foods of every culture and creed become our own, quick-fried and served on cardboard and consumed on foot.) There are towering plates of “Curl Fries,” which are pubic-hair-shaped and make people’s fingers shine in the sun. Cheez-Dip Hot Dogs. Pony Pups. Hot Fritters. Philly Steak. Ribeye BBQ Corral. Joanie’s Original ½-lb Burgers’ booth’s sign says 2 CHOICES—RARE OR MOOIN. I can’t believe people eat this kind of stuff in this kind of heat.” As Anne Fadiman writes in the afterword, “For the past ten years, I have asked my undergraduate nonfiction class at Yale to read three pages from (Wallace’s story). Other readings for English 469 have changed, but not that one… because (it) contains a mind-bending payload of writing lessons (truly mind-bending, as in 'How could that tiny VW hold all those clowns?'). The very next week, the students write better. It sounds impossible, but it’s true.” 3. “Winter B.S. 1960—Tucson Az” — It may be sacrilege to even attempt to make the comparison, but this section from Wallace’s novel, Infinite Jest, should be placed on a shelf of literary sublimity next to Molly Bloom’s monologue from Ulysses. The chapter is an extended speech, almost a rant, from a father who’s speaking to his son about life and the pursuit of tennis greatness. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed while also feeling utter shame so much as I did while reading this selection. “Son, don’t be that way, now. Don’t get all oversensitive on me, son, when all I’m trying to do is help you. Son, Jim, I hate this when you do this. Your chin just disappears into that bow-tie when your big old overhung lower lip quivers like that. You look chinless, son, and big-lipped. And that cape of mucus that’s coming down on your upper lip, the way it shines, don’t, just don’t, it’s revolting, son, you don’t want to revolt people, you have to learn to control this sort of oversensitivity to hard truths… Jim, I know, you know, we’ve been through this before, leave the book alone, boy, it’s not going anywhere... Jim, well pick it up then if you’re afraid of a little dust, Jim, pick the book up if it’s going to make you all goggle-eyed and chinless honestly Jesus why do I try I try and try… my son, my flesh of my flesh, white slumped flesh of my flesh who wanted to embark on what I predict right now will be a tennis career that’ll put his busted-up used-up old Dad back square in his little place, who wanted to maybe for once be a real boy and learn how to play and have fun and frolic and play around in the unrelieved sunshine...” I could go on and on about this and other pieces such as "The Depressed Person,” "Good Old Neon,” "§36 from The Pale King, "Consider the Lobster,” and so many others… but I’ll leave you with just one more item, a selection from Wallace’s nonfiction piece, "Federer Both Flesh and Not.” “There’s also his intelligence, his occult anticipation, his court sense, his ability to read and manipulate opponents, to mix spins and speeds, to misdirect and disguise, to use tactical foresight and peripheral vision and kinesthetic range instead of just rote pace—all this has exposed the limits, and possibilities, of men’s tennis as it’s now played.” As I read that quote, I couldn’t help but think about Wallace writing not only about tennis great Roger Federer, but also, and more importantly, about himself and the way he sought to expand the use of language through his books.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Just had a look at this (new) compilation in my local Waterstones - it looks great. Fun-sized best bits from all his scary books. Exactly right for everyone intimidated by DFW and his enormous brain - people like me, that is.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    Five stars coz this book, contains his teaching materials. The secret of the genius.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book was so long and so worthwhile. The fiction was stunning, but the non-fiction left me in awe. I had read most of it before, but having his writing all in one place and just reading straight through makes you realize just what a uniquely gifted writer he was. Not only that, but he was a gifted noticer of people. His essay about the cruise and the state fair were just remarkable. If you enjoy writing, this will serve as inspiration AND it will make you realize that you will never create a This book was so long and so worthwhile. The fiction was stunning, but the non-fiction left me in awe. I had read most of it before, but having his writing all in one place and just reading straight through makes you realize just what a uniquely gifted writer he was. Not only that, but he was a gifted noticer of people. His essay about the cruise and the state fair were just remarkable. If you enjoy writing, this will serve as inspiration AND it will make you realize that you will never create anything that comes close to DFW.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Collins

    [N.B.: Goodreads reviews have a word limit. TIL. Read the full review here, or just skip to the bottom for the "Conclusion". Have removed some sections and italicizing for this shorter version of the review. Really short on space here; this thing is like 3,000 words.] Background Here you go: Here is Nicole’s first (and perhaps last) bona fide, full-effort Goodreads review. As just a quick note, I think David Foster Wallace was a talented writer and is an undeniably space-occupying cultural figure. [N.B.: Goodreads reviews have a word limit. TIL. Read the full review here, or just skip to the bottom for the "Conclusion". Have removed some sections and italicizing for this shorter version of the review. Really short on space here; this thing is like 3,000 words.] Background Here you go: Here is Nicole’s first (and perhaps last) bona fide, full-effort Goodreads review. As just a quick note, I think David Foster Wallace was a talented writer and is an undeniably space-occupying cultural figure. I’m not sure I’d go as far to say I love him or his work, but I do think it is captivating to study and read his nonetheless interesting work in the way one might study, say, Ian Curtis or André Gide. He also has interesting takes on mental illness, which is an area of literature in which—and by which—I am both interested and affected. (Just wanted to clarify this for the people who have seen a torrent of DFW on my feed recently.) The Method I’ve listed the parts of the Reader and my brief thoughts on each of them below. For length reasons, I’ve truncated the selections from his novels (Broom, Infinite Jest, and Pale King) and the Teaching Materials” section (I’m sure you don’t care about the difference between his “English 64A First-Day Pop Quiz” vs. his “English 183D, Spring 2008 Syllabus”) into one entry each. I hope this is at least semi-comprehensive, given the whole tome is almost 1,000 pages and comprises over fifty excerpts. Only going to give summaries/premises if the review truly needs it. If you want a Cliff Notes version, skip below to the “Conclusion”. It’s like a couple sentences. The Content Itself Fiction “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (1984): Wallace’s first short story (ever, if I remember correctly), and never really published till now. Really devastating and gut-wrenching little piece. Very Salingerian (and as Kevin J. H. Dettmar notes in the Afterword, inconsistent) voice-wise, upsetting in the context of Wallace’s life. If nothing else, an important precursor to a lot of the content and themes DFW would explore in his later fiction. “Trillaphon”, though, exhibits Wallace’s great skill: communicating beauty and pathos even in (and through) the most upsetting, mortifying situations: suicide attempts, friends dying, face-mutilation… and more, all lit from within by beautiful explanations of mental illness and the state of in-betweenness. One of the strongest pieces in this book. A really strong start. Girl with Curious Hair (1989; henceforth GWCH): “Little Expressionless Animals”: It seems that, at the time of its release, Girl with Curious Hair was largely regarded by critics as sort of a Pynchon/DeLillo ripoff. Which I get, I guess, but what famous writer hasn’t emulated their literary heroes? I do agree with the critics, though, in that this volume is underwhelming in itself (Reader aside). It’s DFW at his most pretentious—and that’s a word I try to employ sparingly. But, truly, most of this book has such a mismatch of content and style it’s almost saddening to read. By that I mean: I don’t personally believe that there is content in this book meaningful or complicated enough to necessitate the neurotic and convoluted narration and voice Wallace employs in almost every story in Girl. (And that’s not to mention his tasteless and often incomprehensible use of dialect; I’m thinking “John Billy” here. None of this, problematicness-wise, augurs particularly well for his future writings.) I think this was the stage in DFW’s life and writing, where he was still stuck in his “self-obsessed MFA grad” persona and not yet at his “snowboarder with a PhD”, as Peter Grier described him in a review of Consider the Lobster. This story, though: It’s fine. I like it more than the other stories in the collection. It doesn’t try as hard and is honest and sincerely emotional in a similar way to “Good Old Neon” and “Trillaphon.” The frequent perspective-switching, though, is symptomatic of that “trying-too-hard”; I just don’t think the story is complex or dense enough to necessitate that narrative gimmick. But queer themes—so, like, cool. He’s also pretty good at describing clouds. (GWCH): “My Appearance”: Much of the same almost-there feeling as “Little Expressionless Animals” above, though this time a different, more yuppie and McInerneyified version of corporate America. Ties in well thematically with “E Unibus Pluram” and is an early (if not the first) full exposition on Wallace’s thoughts on entertainment. Obviously going to become a theme with him. And though I strongly disliked much about GWCH, DFW does really funny and unrealistic portrayals of celebrities in both this story (Letterman) and “Animals” (Alex Trebek, Pat Sajak, and whoever Bert Convy was). Infinite Jest (1996): Don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over. It seems impossible to give any opinion about this book and not come off as cliché. In terms of the selections from the text, I’m glad the eds chose what they did. I’d recommend reading the book first instead of diving into these excerpts—but if you’ve already finished it, these excerpts do serve as nice little thoughtfully curated reminders. Though if you want a good introduction to the book, I’d guess you can read the “If, by the…” excerpt out of context. It runs from pp. 200–211 in IJ and is one of my favorite passages of any book ever. I even have the pages memorized; it’s the reason why I tell people, somewhat facetiously, that “the book really picks up around page 200.” Reminiscent of the best parts of “Trillaphon,” “Good Old Neon,” and “Incarnations of Burned Children,” but there’s truly nothing like it in all of Wallace’s writings. I believe that this is the most crushing section of IJ and also the most unique and moving, perhaps in competition only with some of the sections involving Joelle’s drug history (cf. pp. 234–240, 736–747 in original volume). (BIWHM): “B.I. #14 & #40”: I’ve always been very conflicted when thinking about how I feel about these “interviews.” On one hand, they’re lively and animated and lifelike—almost like a real screenplay, I guess. (John Krasinski made it into a movie in 2009 so I guess that makes sense.) On the other hand, much of what DFW says and illustrates here is symptomatic of the exact kind of thing he’s trying to critique in this collection. (BIWHM): “Forever Overhead”: D. T. Max had noted that this story “received great praise” when Wallace wrote it in grad school at the University of Arizona; though it was later chosen for Best American Short Stories 1992, but Wallace “dismissed it in his contributor note as ‘straining to make a personal trauma sound way deeper and prettier and Big than anything true could ever really be’” (Love Story, p. 90, 313). I think this conflict is representative. “Forever Overhead” is undoubtedly one of DFW’s more candid pieces, not as shrouded in layers of irony as are Girl with Curious Hair and portions of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Definitely a weirder one, though. Something something Freud. (BIWHM): “The Depressed Person”: So I only later learned, after reading Max’s biography, that this story is meant to be satire? It seemed sincere enough to me, and—Every Love Story in mind—parallel enough with Wallace’s life to be autobiographical. I don’t know; I enjoyed it, though it felt like a more diluted, somewhat more self-conscious and cagey version of “Good Old Neon”. Oblivion (2004): “Good Old Neon”: D. T. Max was right when he noted that this story “is the most uncomfortable of the stories in an uncomfortable volume” (Love Story, p. 277); it is, and very much so. Usually I’m the first one to lambast DFW’s self-indulgent rambling—but in this story it just works, self-referentially and stylistically. I think it’s one of Wallace’s best pieces, both in terms of personal enjoyment and also in the context of his output. It’s hard-hitting, really funny, cringey, and mind-boggling. Premise: A man writes about taking his own life after he took his own life. (Oblivion): “The Suffering Channel”: In much the same way the consistent and polarizing voice worked with “Neon” and “Incarnations”, it pretty much fell flat (for me!) here. I just don’t think Wallace’s “Dickensian scope” (as Max described it; Love Story p. 279) works in these short stories/novellas. Too much to process, too many people to meet, too little space. Same goes for his “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way” from Girl with Curious Hair, which suffers the same issue. And the story itself felt thinly veiled, which is something I rarely ever feel with DFW. It felt almost like low-hanging fruit. Which is sad. Not a great choice for the Reader, I don’t think. Teaching Materials This was just really fascinating. The whole § contains both a selection of his emails, presumably verbatim, to his mother, Sally Foster Wallace (who also wrote the §’s Introduction) and a listing/transcribing of some of his course syllabi from over the years of his teaching at various colleges. What is, I think, coolest about this is just that it’s a biographical itch that most information with which we try to get a look into DFW’s life (short stories, interviews, biography) can’t scratch. Very interesting to look at what books he’d teach, how he’d teach, what the classroom praxis of his grammar anality looked like. This 36-page stretch of the book is perhaps its best part—both because it’s wholly original material, but also because it’s only interesting to people interested enough in DFW to archive-dig, who are as it happens the only people who’d probably even be interested in buying this huge Reader. Nonfiction “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” (1990): Not a huge tennis fan, as I’ll get into below in the “Federer” essay review, but this one is, at least for me personally, anodized by the tie-in of math. But even then this feels like the disingenuous aw-shucks persona Wallace was known to put on throughout his life. This essay felt just very cutesy and hyperbolized in a way that I: A.) Just don’t enjoy, personally, and B.) Cannot relate to, having been brought up in the Midwest, OK at math, and semi-OK at tennis, and having never thought about any of this. If there is such a thing as unrealistic Midwest fetishization, I’d gander this is it. “E Unibus Pluram” (1990): More the Business District of DFW’s corpus: the body of texts for which he’s most well known. And for this essay, as with Infinite Jest, it’s difficult to come up with anything at all that hasn’t already been said. I mean: What he was is true (or, at least, was true, as David L. Ulin wryly notes in the Afterword). And this piece is definitely where Wallace puts forth his thoughts on entertainment-and-fiction most directly and lucidly (as opposed to his fiction and other, similar, essays, like his 1988 “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”, part of which I guess is also in this essay?). But I’m no real elegant writer, and I don’t possess some fancy cultural-/media-studies degree, so I won’t pretend to be able to comment on the salience of “E Unibus Pluram”. But it surely was riveting, if only just as a window into the world that birthed Infinite Jest. “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (1995): In the introduction to the mass-market edition of David Foster Wallace’s senior philosophy thesis, Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, James Ryerson quotes out of context (of course) a dense line from said thesis, and then quips after doing so: “There are reasons that he’s better known for an essay about a cruise ship” (Fate, p. 2). That, he is: known for that essay, but also known for his relative lucidity within that essay. Though that’s not to say his encyclopedic narrative quality is lost in this piece: Oh it’s there, and with a vengeance. As I noted elsewhere in this review, my lukewarm reaction to a lot of DFW’s nonfiction is just a taste thing. For a lot of people, the human-camera thing is a real kicker. But for me it just works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t. And this is one of those times. Perhaps that’s because I’ve never once in my life wanted to know—nor cared—what cruise ships are like, but also probably because there are other times in Wallace’s writings (I’m thinking “Good Old Neon,” “Trillaphon”) where that voice, that narrative thing he does, works much better. But alas, the essay is a classic, and I do not blame the editors for including the piece. “Authority and American Usage” (1999): Mostly apt and comprehensive overview of the ongoing “Usage Wars,” but begins to fall flat, miss the point, and generally guarantee its own eventual irrelevance once it begins to bring race and AAVE-vs.-SWE into the discussion. No fault of the eds here, though; this essay is also fairly well known. But if you want some more good commentary on DFW, grammar, and race/racism, check out Chapter VIII (“Persuasion and Pretension”) of Cecelia Watson’s Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark (citation below; as an aside, that is my all-time favorite book, and I highly recommend it). In Conclusion (and How the Reader Actually Is) Though at times flawed and slightly misrepresentative, the Reader more or less hits the DFW nail on the head. The selections were across-the-board and wide-ranging, but I think the incorporation of more secondary sources (e.g. Max’s Love Story and Lipsky’s Although of Course…; or even also Wallace’s philosophy senior thesis, which was despite its abstruseness interesting and philosophically significant) would have been worthwhile. Perhaps I wasn’t as claim-making or straightforward as I should have been in a review of this size and ambition. That seems to have been inevitable, though. Maybe I’ll expand this more in the future and add some more thoughts to each review as they come to me. Sources Lipsky, David. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. Max, D. T. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. New York: Penguin, 2012. Wallace, David Foster. The David Foster Wallace Reader. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Wallace, David Foster. Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Watson, Cecelia. Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark. New York: Ecco, 2019.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Samcwright

    I generally only read fiction that is at least 100+ years old (history is a filter for great literature). Wallace is an exception. His writing is philosophical and ridiculous. This is a long book but an incredible curated collection of his writings. And his work is so engaging that you don’t really notice it’s length. Wallace provides insight into depression, disconnection and connection, human behavior, meaning, the desire to understand and be understood, and much more. A pleasant surprise is h I generally only read fiction that is at least 100+ years old (history is a filter for great literature). Wallace is an exception. His writing is philosophical and ridiculous. This is a long book but an incredible curated collection of his writings. And his work is so engaging that you don’t really notice it’s length. Wallace provides insight into depression, disconnection and connection, human behavior, meaning, the desire to understand and be understood, and much more. A pleasant surprise is his non-fiction. I need to read his insights again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    April Sanders

    The David Foster Wallace Reader is a distillation of the author's best fiction and nonfiction. It is,simply, the finest writing I have ever encountered in a lifetime of reading. I have included a few of my favourite excerpts here. (These are a small sample.of his brilliance). Incarnations of a Burned Child is not included but is you are interested, look it up. It is a masterpiece. I have included 2 examples from his fiction.The first from his piece, The Suffering Channel where journalist Skip At The David Foster Wallace Reader is a distillation of the author's best fiction and nonfiction. It is,simply, the finest writing I have ever encountered in a lifetime of reading. I have included a few of my favourite excerpts here. (These are a small sample.of his brilliance). Incarnations of a Burned Child is not included but is you are interested, look it up. It is a masterpiece. I have included 2 examples from his fiction.The first from his piece, The Suffering Channel where journalist Skip Atwater from Style Magazine interviews Amber Moltke … Mrs. Amber Moltke, the artist’s young spouse, wore a billowing pastel housedress and was, for better or worse, the sexiest morbidly obese woman Atwater had ever seen. Eastern Indiana was not short on big pretty girls, but this was less a person than a vista, a quarter ton of sheer Midwest pulchritude, and Atwater had already filled several narrow pages of his notebook with descriptions and analogies and abstract encomia to Mrs. Moltke, none of which could be used in the compressed piece he was even then conceiving how to pitch and submit. Some of it was atavistic, he acknowledged. Some was simply contrast, a relief from the sucking cheeks and starved eyes of Manhattan’s women. He had personally seen Style interns weighing their food on small pharmaceutical scales before they consumed it. In one of the more abstract notebook entries, Atwater had theorized that Mrs. Moltke’s was perhaps a sort of negative beauty that consisted mainly in her failure to be repellant. In another, he had compared her face and throat to whatever canids see in the full moon that makes them howl. The next piece is from Good Old Neon ... My whole life I’ve been a fraud. I’m not exaggerating. Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to create a certain impression of me in other people…. In the dream, I was in the town commons in Aurora, over by the Pershing tank memorial by the clock tower, and what I’m doing in the dream is sculpting an enormous marble or granite statue of myself, using a huge iron chisel and a hammer the size of those ones they give you to try to hit the bell at the top of the big thermometer-like thing at carnivals, and when the statue’s finally done I put it up on a big bandstand or platform and spend all my time polishing it and keeping birds from sitting on it or doing their business on it, and cleaning up litter and keeping the grass neat all around the bandstand. And in the dream my whole life flashes by like that, the sun and moon go back and forth across the sky like windshield wipers over and over, and I never seem to sleep or eat or take a shower, meaning I’m condemned to a whole life of being nothing but a sort of custodian to the statue. The non- fiction work is of equal calibre to DFW's fiction. Here is a selection from his article for Harpers Magazine on the Illinois State Fair. The horses are in their own individual stalls, with half half-height doors and owners and grooms on stools by the doors, a lot of them dozing. The horses stand in hay. Billy Ray Cyrus plays loudly on some stable boy’s boom box. The horses have tight hides and apple size eyes that are set on the sides of their heads, like fish. I’ve rarely been this close to fine livestock. The horse’s faces are long and somehow suggestive of coffins. The racers are lanky, velvet over bone. The draft and show horses are mammoth and spotlessly groomed and more or less odorless- the acrid smell in here is just the horse’s pee. All their muscles are beautiful the hides enhance them. Their tails whip around in sophisticated double- jointed ways, keeping the flies from mounting any kind of co- ordinated attack. The horses all make farty noises when they sigh, heads hanging over the short doors. They’re not for petting, though. When you come close they flatten their ears and show big teeth. The grooms laugh to themselves as we jump back. These are special competitive horses, intricately bred, w/high-strung, artistic temperaments. I wish I’d brought carrots: animals can be bought, emotionally. Stall after stall of horses. Standard horse- type colors. They eat the same hay they stand in. Occasional feedbags look like gas masks. A sudden clattering spray-sound like somebody hosing down siding turns out to be a glossy chocolate stallion, peeing. He’s at the back of his stall getting combed, and the door’s wide open, and we watch him pee. The steam’s an inch in diameter and throws up dust and hay and little chips of wood from the floor. We hunker down and have a look upward, and I suddenly for the first time understand a certain expression describing certain human males, an expression I’d heard but never truly understood till just now, prone and gazing upward in some blend of horror and awe. Thank you, David Foster Wallace.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark Schlatter

    I tried reading Infinite Jest about a decade ago and stopped when I got to a passage written out in heavy dialect. I read very quickly, and anything that slows me down tends to put me off the book. (I’m looking at you, text pages in comic books!) By my recollection, the book was interesting but not worth my effort at the time. I picked up the Reader after watching The End of the Tour with a special interest in the non-fiction piece “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, Wallace’s take on c I tried reading Infinite Jest about a decade ago and stopped when I got to a passage written out in heavy dialect. I read very quickly, and anything that slows me down tends to put me off the book. (I’m looking at you, text pages in comic books!) By my recollection, the book was interesting but not worth my effort at the time. I picked up the Reader after watching The End of the Tour with a special interest in the non-fiction piece “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, Wallace’s take on cruise line vacations. The Reader is broken into three portions: fiction, class materials (syllabi, assignments, etc..), and nonfiction essays. I only read the last two sections. The class materials are engaging (for what they are), but mostly show off Wallace’s fanatical devotion to grammar and some interesting reading choices for his classes. Of the nonfiction essays, I appreciated most the aforementioned piece on cruises, “Getting Away from Already Pretty Much Being Away from it All” (a visit to the Illinois State Fair), and “Consider the Lobster” (half travelogue based on the Maine Lobster Festival and half dissertation on whether a boiling lobster feels pain). All the pieces straddle the low brow and high brow parts of American culture --- you have Wallace approaching the events both with his Midwestern upbringing and his East Coast academic eye. What’s engaging is that tension between the two viewpoints is clearly expressed in Wallace himself; he’s an anthropologist clearly uncomfortable with his studies. There’s a great bit at the State Fair where a female friend is ogled by some ride operators, and Wallace throws himself into despair about his response (or, more accurately, his lack of response). Shouldn’t he be doing something? Is his Midwestern friend aware of the sexual harassment? (Quick answers: no (she can handle herself) and yes (aren’t those guys stupid?).) You mix Wallace’s introspection (and sometimes downright paranoia), his baroque writing style (footnotes have footnotes), and a willingness to find the whole thing tragically funny, and the pieces just shine. Not everything is such sweet reading, however. Two pieces, “E Unibus Pluram” and “Authority and American Usage” are densely packed pieces of rhetoric that are alternately enlightening and maddening. The latter masquerades as a review of a usage guide, but really explicates Wallace’s take on grammar wars --- it’s worth a read for language fans. The former is an exposition on the impact of television (and the phenemenon of us watching television, knowing we are watching television, and coming to grips with knowing we are watching television) on recent (pre-1990, the time the piece was written) American fiction. I would read pages of this, despairing to get anything out of it, and then hit paragraphs that blew me out of the water. There’s a take on irony as an overly dominant part of our national culture (find page 695 and start reading at the last paragraph). Wallace also has an extremely presicent response to those who believe that new technology will make television viewers less “passive” as he describes what we now think of as Web 2.0. “Make no mistake: we are dependent on image-technology; and the better the tech, the harder we’re hooked.” [page 702] So, what’s the takeaway? I can see myself trying Wallace’s fiction at some point, although his detailed style is exhausting even in small chunks. Thrashing about on the internet, I see that Wallace is now associated with the “New Sincerity” movement, and I’m intrigued by what types of postmodern literary fiction can move beyond the ironic. And, the Reader is a great exposure to Wallace's philosophy and distinctive style.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Re-reading these shorts stories and excepts from DFW's books reminds me of what a unique voice he had and how much I enjoyed reading his work. Of course it also makes me sad that he is dead. The notes from his teaching days were incredibly interesting and showed how strict he was as a professor.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    According to the publisher and contributors, the purpose of this collection is to “delight readers” and provide teachers “an ideal introduction for students.” The criteria for selections were most celebrated, most enjoyable, funniest, and most remarkable. The only new selections I hadn’t read prior were “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (1984), Teaching Materials (with a beautiful introduction by David’s mother, Sally), as well selected Afterwards coinciding with According to the publisher and contributors, the purpose of this collection is to “delight readers” and provide teachers “an ideal introduction for students.” The criteria for selections were most celebrated, most enjoyable, funniest, and most remarkable. The only new selections I hadn’t read prior were “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (1984), Teaching Materials (with a beautiful introduction by David’s mother, Sally), as well selected Afterwards coinciding with the selections. Gerald Howard, the editor of THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM was 36 at the time. “So I left the brainy big-picture stuff to David’s big brain and concentrated on the intense local pleasures to be experiences in his virtuoso deployment of linguistic facility and narrative velocity, of which this tree toad episode is such an outstanding example.” (63) “David once told me that one of his favorite movies was the 1989 cult film How to Get Ahead in Advertising, starring Richard Grant as an advertising copywriter blocked on an ad for pimple cream.” (63-64) Selections from INFINITE JEST are: 3-17, 17-27, 38-39, 49-54, 55-60, 63-65, 157-169, 172-176, 176-181, 200-211, 234-240, 299-306, 343-367, 491-503, 538-547, 601-619, 692-698, 736-747, 755-774, and 809-827. The corresponding Notes and Errata span pages 362-380. According to Nam Le, Mario is “searching for the real” (339) and “Mario exists without irony or self-consciousness; his notion of realness reflects this.” (340) Nick Maniatis’ favorite Wallace story is the short, “Incarnations of Burned Children.” In reference to THE PALE KING, Maniatis writes, “I’ll leave it to you to figure out which character this burned child may have grown up to be…)” (455) THE PALE KING samples sections 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 33, and 36. Without a doubt, the most interesting and unique section of this whole book is the TEACHING MATERIALS. According to his mother, “David seldom met a word he didn’t enjoy playing with, making it jump through flaming hoops and perform feats of derring-do. (Or, as he might have said, daring-don’t).” (601) She also describes her son as an “engaging, appreciative, bandanna-wearing magpie.” (601) SFW’s mantra is: “CLARITY, COURTESY, CONSCIOUSNESS.” “David adopted this practice and read each student three times, too, but he made marginal comments each time through, using different colored pens to differentiate.” (601) “His syllabi and teaching materials offer insight into a thoughtful, caring, funny, generous teacher who probably felt a bit guilty about doing something he so enjoyed.” (602) In a letter to his mother, Wallace writes: “On the East Coast, stilted, and phonily formal prose is more a problem than aint’s and where-at’s, it seems, so I am adopting the personal of the minimalist, which is a hoot.” (602) David starts an e-mail to his mother with “Yo.” And calls her “Queen of R”, signing off with /dw/. She responds with “However, your question triggered these synapses” and sends her love as the “Scullery Maid of R” Wallace’s mother took yoga classes in 2007 (perhaps a true key to maintaining?). David uses fun phrases such as “LYL, Ma” (love you lots) and “har d har” (604). Sally maintains in e-mail, “Italics don’t often make it through cyberspace successfully, so I’ve capitalized instead.” (605) As Professor DW, his e-mail address was: [email protected] (622), a definite nod to Whitman. “Schedules and energies vary: please drop this course if you anticipate having difficulty keeping up when things get heavy.” (610) “This class operates on the belief that you’ll improve as a writer not just by writing a lot and receiving detailed criticism but also by becoming a more sophisticated and articulate critic of other writer’s work.” (624) Wallace’s specs and guides (“YOUR LIBERAL-ARTS $ AT WORK”) are now a valued resource. The NONFICTION section offers valuable responses. David L. Ulin on “E Unibus Pluram,” “Make no mistake, indeed, for we now live the world that Wallace, and not Gilder, envisioned, in which ‘image technology,’ better and more ubiquitous screens, has transformed how we interact. It has become our water (to borrow a metaphor from Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement address), interchangeably medium and message. Even our language is degraded: What do friend and like mean anymore?” (708) David was kind with his time and generous with his words. Anne Fadiman, a Writer-In-Residence at Yale establishes that “Creative nonfiction has no one-size-fits-all template.” (759) “You can imagine what it was like for a nineteen-year-old DFW fan to get a response- and not just a line or two but a 645-word mini-essay that opened with ‘Dear Mr. Fromson et al.’ and close with ‘Tally Ho, David Wallace.’” (761) On the subject of criticism, Wallace writes, “Still, I must also admit that I got some pissed-off letters indeed from Midwesterners, along with some aggrieved press mentions in the Midwest-” (761) while also establishing the concept of “The Asshole Problem,” a now common term in Fadiman’s classes. “The Asshole Problem! What a magnificent concept! If you make fun of other people, you’ll sound like an asshole unless you also make fun of yourself.” (761) “They use self-deprecation to avoid the Asshole Problem- a term they employ so frequently one might assume it was a staple of literary criticism.” (762) “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s,” Wallace nonfiction account of 9/11 (“the Horror”) begins on page 910. I wonder if this was a coincidence or intentional. The fact that David had to display a homemade flag of the United States because he couldn’t find one to buy is humbling. He was also listening to Sports Radio in Chicago regarding the Bear’s football team while he was in the shower the morning of the tragedy. “Most of the people I know well enough to ask if I can come over and watch their TV are members of my church. It’s not one of those churches where people throw Jesus’ name around a lot or talk about the End Times, but it’s fairly serious, and people in the congregation get to know each other well and to be pretty tight.” (915) “Something called SLIPNOT” (918) is a band with members that wear masks on stage. Wallace was certainly proud to be American. Americana echoes throughout his writing as he exercised his First Amendment rights to the fullest. “I’m trying, rather, to explain how some part of the horror of the Horror was knowing, deep in my heart, that whatever America the men in those planes hated so much was far more my America, and F—‘s and poor loathsome Duane’s, than it was these ladies.” (919) I still can’t help but notice some sort of synaptic connection between Wallace’s Broom novel, his college philosophy thesis, this account, and the day he finally decided to take his own life. I wish D.T. Max had delved further into this in his biography on Wallace, EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY. “The Planet Trillaphon,” may be at the beginning of this collection, but it was a fitting way to end my reading and bring everything full circle, I suppose. Wallace truly was gifted at a young age and this story demonstrates his deep interest in the human condition. “This noise was sort of a high, glittery, metallic, spangly hum that really for some reason scared the living daylights out of me and just about drove me crazy when I heard it, the way a mosquito in your ear in bed at night in summer will just about drive you crazy when you hear it.” (8) sounds like something that could have been in THE PALE KING. “A really lovely poet named Sylvia Plath, who unfortunately isn’t living anymore, said that it’s like having a jar covering you and having all the air pumped out of the jar, so you can’t breathe any good air (and imagine the moment when your movement is invisibly stopped by the glass and you realize you’re under the glass…).” (10) could possibly have germinated into the image of Orin and the roaches in INFINITE JEST. “Now imagine that every single atom in every single cell in your body is sick like that, sick, intolerably sick…” (11) “I’ve called it ‘Trillaphon’ instead of ‘Toffanil’ because “Trillaphon’ is more trilly and electrical, and it just sounds more like what it’s like to be there. But the electricalness of the planet Trillaphon is not just a noise. I guess if I were all glib like May is I’d say that ‘the planet Trillaphon is simply characterized by a more electrical way of life.’” (18) “It is very hard to read on the planet Trillaphon, but that is not too inconvenient, because I hardly ever read anymore, except for ‘Newsweek’ magazine, a subscription which I got for my birthday.” (18) The radio waves of “the brain” at MIT is a powerful metaphor in INFINITE JEST, but this collection doesn't reproduce the CHRONOLOGY OF ORGANIZATION OF NORTH AMERICAN NATIONS’ REVENUE ENHANCING SUBSIDIZED TIME™, BY YEAR. Could Wallace perhaps communicate electronically beyond the grave? Would he choose to be a wraith or a ghost? THE DAVID FOSTER WALLACE READER is the type of book that collects dust on wooden shelves made of rich mahogany, just to give the allusion of intelligence. Crack open one of his books and don’t be afraid to play. The pen is mightier than the-

  11. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Here's a conversation I had with my good book buddy, RAC: RAC: "I'm not saying Harold is gospel.... He detests one of my favorite writers, but his is an interesting opinion on DFW, worth something or nothing: http://wwd.com/eye/people/the-full-bl..." ... so I go and read that, and excerpt some of it below, and respond: ND: A few thoughts that came up while reading The DFW Reader, with reflection on your linked article: "Whitman, he notes, “reinvented poetry, not so much the outer form, which doesn’ Here's a conversation I had with my good book buddy, RAC: RAC: "I'm not saying Harold is gospel.... He detests one of my favorite writers, but his is an interesting opinion on DFW, worth something or nothing: http://wwd.com/eye/people/the-full-bl..." ... so I go and read that, and excerpt some of it below, and respond: ND: A few thoughts that came up while reading The DFW Reader, with reflection on your linked article: "Whitman, he notes, “reinvented poetry, not so much the outer form, which doesn’t count for much, but the way he puts himself into the poem. The tactile intensity of it is astonishing. In his poem, ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,’ he all but literally reaches out to you and hugs you.”" ND:... I THINK THIS is exactly what DFW does, he puts himself inexorably IN. Only he isn't hugging. He's sidling, sideways looking, and shying away with his corporeal body, while boldface opining with his words. Then: "But ‘Infinite Jest’ [regarded by many as Wallace’s masterpiece] is just awful. It seems ridiculous to have to say it. He can’t think, he can’t write. There’s no discernible talent.” "It’s all a clear indication, Bloom notes, of the decline of literary standards. He was upset in 2003 when the National Book Award gave a special award to Stephen King. “But Stephen King is Cervantes compared with David Foster Wallace. We have no standards left. [Wallace] seems to have been a very sincere and troubled person, but that doesn’t mean I have to endure reading him. I even resented the use of the term from Shakespeare, when Hamlet calls the king’s jester Yorick, ‘a fellow of infinite jest.’" ND: HARSH!!! No talent - DFW was technically very much above - that may be what bugs HB, the art is lost sometimes in the grammar and perfect word choice. Not enough holes in the work for HB to put himself into... AND I see why Harold is saying this - the problem with DFW is he can't edit. And he knew it - his editor for Infinite Jest says that was his primary ask of him (the editor) when they worked on IJ together. It is clear that everything said editor wanted to cut was argued against, vehemently, except one thing. The chapter that introduces three main characters and lays out the plot. THAT went. I know this because I'm obsessed with DFW right now and watched a YouTube on this. Crazy. THINKING, in Harold's case, means (I have found) a kind of elegance - like in math - of being able to say more with less, and DFW doesn't do that, so it assaults Harold's sensibilities. I mean, he loves Dickinson! That alone says it. He wants clarity and no jumble. For a person of this generation, the cacophonic confusion of DFW's work is a sort of testament to who he was in THIS milieu, which I appreciate and can sort through and even find sort of deep-gut hilarious. It is sad, wrenchingly so, to *see* someone so well through and in his (DFWs) work, he IS ALLOWING HIMSELF TO BE SEEN, doesn't edit himself out for aesthetic cleanliness. And he is and is not posturing - when he is, he acknowledges he is. (I feel Harold is ALWAYS posturing and will not own up... or I could just not be as smart as him). I mean, look at this: “I’m tired of being accused of being an elitist, which simply means that one wants people to read what’s worth reading and write in a proper response to it,” he adds. “I thought that the function of a critic was to read accurately and plainly to propound what one had apprehended. I wasn’t aware that there was going to be this cultural inundation.” ND: DFW would *think* and maybe decide to write (probably, unedited) something this outrageous, then double back on it and globally realize how it would sound to others, caring deeply, then revise his position for you, fully and owningly (word?), cagily, self-loathingly, and you don't hate him for actually yes being elitist... you identify that he doesn't set himself above (or if he does, feels bad about it, humanly) which I think Harold does (set himself above), and therefore ignores something very very important to me at least, that piece of connection we all share whether he likes it or not. Yeah, so be a critic Harold, but being an accessible human being may be worthwhile for at least some of your time too. But I do love love love Harold - he's the best, THE BEST, and funny, and I resonate with his political views. He makes sense and is pitch perfect in so many ways. And I can't leave *him* alone either. Obsessed. I think what it comes down to is, what artist touches you? Who do you share sensibility with? "...the poet Hart Crane, of whom he says, “In terms of sheer gift, sheer endowment, I’m not sure that any poet in Europe or America is his equal.” ND: and that's because Hart Crane touched HB at a formative age. That's really what it is about. His JOB is to be a critic so he has to publicly weigh and announce and be critical but I don't think his pronouncements are anything more than deeply held invitations to imbibe the wine he savors. To share, evangelically, the word that touches(d) him searingly. When I'm hit that way be being outside with my plants, I am reinvigorated to help my clients see what 'nature' has for them, and to try to get them out in it, to invite plants into their lives more fully, to see, smell, taste them, EXPERIENCE them. That's what I imagine HB is about with his favorites.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rissy

    This is a fine collection any fans of David Foster Wallace fan would be remiss to not keep a highly visible copy of on their shelf next to Infinite Jest for the express purpose of impressing undergrad girls. Joking, but I wouldn’t recommend this to a casual reader or someone getting into DFW for the first time since a large part is dedicated to his teaching materials (just imagining being in his classroom on syllabus day, by the way, makes me start sweating and shoving gobs of hair between my ra This is a fine collection any fans of David Foster Wallace fan would be remiss to not keep a highly visible copy of on their shelf next to Infinite Jest for the express purpose of impressing undergrad girls. Joking, but I wouldn’t recommend this to a casual reader or someone getting into DFW for the first time since a large part is dedicated to his teaching materials (just imagining being in his classroom on syllabus day, by the way, makes me start sweating and shoving gobs of hair between my rattling teeth - PLEASE NAME TWO NOVELS THAT REALLY MEAN SOMETHING TO YOU AND EXPLAIN WHY also I only award A’s to performance ranging from “Very, very good” to “Mind-blowingly good” - God, what an asshole. For comparison, I just took a creative writing course in which the professor begged her students not to submit fanfiction and by finals week I was peer-editing a classmate’s thinly veiled Supernatural sex scene the whole time eager to go home and hang myself) So while that section runs a touch too long, the nonfiction section is killer, really well-curated for something like this. It’s nice to have some of the best essays confined to one volume. I wish my favorite work Big Red Son made it in, but its omission makes sense for length. Overall a really great collection, hits all the right notes for burgeoning armchair scholars: looks sexy on my shelf, validates my enormous ego, and makes girls practically leap into my bed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Darcysmom

    The David Foster Wallace Reader was the best introduction to DFW that I could imagine. The reader gets a taste of his fiction and non fiction in a nicely curated volume. I was surprised how much I liked the email correspondence with his mother and the syllabi for courses he taught. I was equally surprised that the excerpt from The Infinite Jest didn't excite me as much as I had expected it to. This is a book worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lee Gingras

    I was already a DFW fan, but after listening to audiobook versions of numerous of his stories, I’m even more impressed. His works sound incredibly, impossibly natural read out loud. The dialogue is spot on. Even the five-dollar-words don’t seem out of place. The downside is that his subject matter is famously depressing, and holy shit, when read aloud it really hits home. I didn’t listen to the entire 48 hours or whatever of this volume all at once; I could keep picking off this for years. The a I was already a DFW fan, but after listening to audiobook versions of numerous of his stories, I’m even more impressed. His works sound incredibly, impossibly natural read out loud. The dialogue is spot on. Even the five-dollar-words don’t seem out of place. The downside is that his subject matter is famously depressing, and holy shit, when read aloud it really hits home. I didn’t listen to the entire 48 hours or whatever of this volume all at once; I could keep picking off this for years. The audiobook format, however, suuuuuuucks in chapter naming. It’s all numbers. Numbers! There’s no table of contents for the audiobook at all. I had to find a table of contents for the print edition to be able to navigate this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The fact that the "Reader" will leave you wanting more is a testament to both the collected works and Wallace's talent as a writer. It's fantastic.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    The whole idea of a " Reader " is a bit foreign to me but, that said, I do understand the merit in a circumstance such as one encounters with DFW. His work is so well spoken of, or, at least, very spoken of, that it can seem a bit overwhelming knowing where to jump in. Looming over the horizon is always the monstrous " Infinite Jest." It's my thought that the latter is this generations " Ulysses ", that is a book on many more shelves as unread than read. I'm not criticizing, it has sat in my que The whole idea of a " Reader " is a bit foreign to me but, that said, I do understand the merit in a circumstance such as one encounters with DFW. His work is so well spoken of, or, at least, very spoken of, that it can seem a bit overwhelming knowing where to jump in. Looming over the horizon is always the monstrous " Infinite Jest." It's my thought that the latter is this generations " Ulysses ", that is a book on many more shelves as unread than read. I'm not criticizing, it has sat in my queue for onto two years at least. Wallace was brilliant. His death was a tragedy. His work also was, if you will pardon the pun, " Infinitely " challenging. For me he is readable and in some cases enjoyable, he is not Pynchon, ( thank God ) but nor is he Graham Greene. For those few souls who read my reviews regularly you will note I have given some of his collections a pretty harsh review. This collection opens with a story described as one of his earliest works. " The Planet Trillaphon as it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing " was written in 1984 while the author was at Amherst and published in that student paper. In this writing Wallace describes a young man battling with depression. He has experimented with self harm, had hallucinations, and worse. He now is on a prescription antidepressant and his writing is his attempt to describe the difference in living in that state ( that planet ) as opposed to the unmediated Earth that he had been struggling in. It is, simply put, a stunning piece of work. When you consider the age and experience of the writer it should blow you away. It reeks of genius. It also emits a level of pain and danger that one can feel. It is a masterpiece of feeling and conflict and, we now know, foreshadowing. The author's first published novel was " The Broom of the System. " The excerpts published here center on a young woman named Lenore. We first meet her as a young teenager visiting her older sister at college on a rowdy weekend. Later we watch her in her later life. I think the writing is solid and the story interesting. The research I did in the story in total, however, does not seem to describe the story I read. It's described as all abut language and wordplay. Perhaps the excerpt avoided that, I'm not sure. But, from what I read the story is worth pursuing. As I have described the collections of the author's I have read earlier I will not do so here. Needless to say, his writing swings from brilliant in the extreme to infuriatingly annoying for no apparent purpose other than to so on purpose. A couple of stories from the collection titled Oblivion I did read for the first time and are worth comment. " Good Old Neon " again visits the therapist, patient relationship, and we discover it is written with the patient/narrator already deceased from suicide. " The Suffering Channel " is an almost novella length piece about an Indiana man that seems to produce great replicas of famous artwork from his, well, his intestines. Yes, he shits out artwork. One can imagine the silliness this story could sink to. DFW does, however, play it straight, the main character is not the artist but the Style magazine writer tasked with preparing and verifying the facts of the story. An interesting section is added showing some of the classroom materials from some of the writing classes Wallace had taught. I, myself,have taken note of a few obscure short stories that he felt worthwhile and always used in his classes. The book ends with a selection of his non fiction essays. This might be the most consistently strong writing the author did in his career. But, being David Foster Wallace, it still was not " normal." His extensive use of footnotes, for example, prompt the reader to understand both the facts presented but also those being debated by the author with himself. The best examples of this writing in this book include " Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley " , a story in which the author visits his experiences as a ranked junior tennis player growing up in Indiana, and particularly a match he engaged in one day at his local court whilst a storm approached. " Getting Away From Already Being Pretty Much Away From It All. " is the author's visit to the Illinois State Fair. It is, at times, a brutal assessment of the average Midwestern person who partakes of these events. It is also is a strong travel log of what actually occurs. Surely any love the average flyover state citizen had for Wallace was long gone when this story published. Also included is a title essay from a later collection entitled " Consider the Lobster " Wallace continues in much the same vein of his anthropological studies of the Midwest, only now he is examining those who gather on a particular summer weekend at the Rockland, Maine annual lobster festival. Shining a light on these people hits a little closer to home for this writer but I can't say anything he writes is incorrect. Just a bit vicious. This story, being about lobster though, also features a large scale deviation into the ethics of how lobsters are prepared for eating. That is they are boiled alive. Trust me after reading his description of how a lobster reacts to his first few moments in the pot and comparing it to how you might act we're you placed in a boiling vat of water, let's just say it gives one pause. What might be the most remarkable thing about this piece is he was writing it for a culinary magazine. One suspects those readers might have been a bit surprised. The Master story, perhaps the best piece of writing I have seen from Wallace is " The View From Mrs. Thompson's ." On 9/11 the author woke as he always did, to a house with no television. Wanting to keep abreast of the news he knocked on the door of an elderly neighbor lady who with Midwestern solicitude welcomed him in to watch the unfolding tragedy. As the morning progresses he sees the rest of the neighborhood congregate at this woman's house. Consoling, worrying, praying, and while he feels isolated from it and more conflicted in his emotions than he suspects they do he does not praise himself for it. He is clearly admiring if their simple black and whit feelings in a day of such evil. His ending line about being sure that those who drove the planes into those buildings had much more grievance with people like him than these solid, stolid, Indiana citizens rings true, devastatingly so. A solid introduction to a challenging author.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    The book whose title describes you as you read it. There was very little here I haven't read before, and even the big one I hadn't (Planet Trillaphon) I'd possessed (like many other DFW obsessives) for years. I just never wanted to read through that last little bit, you know? Now it's all been read. But not used up. That's the good part. So much of his work rewards multiple readings. Oblivion yields up new treasures every time through, as does, of course, the monster Infinite Jest. The various intr The book whose title describes you as you read it. There was very little here I haven't read before, and even the big one I hadn't (Planet Trillaphon) I'd possessed (like many other DFW obsessives) for years. I just never wanted to read through that last little bit, you know? Now it's all been read. But not used up. That's the good part. So much of his work rewards multiple readings. Oblivion yields up new treasures every time through, as does, of course, the monster Infinite Jest. The various introductory notes and afterwords to pieces here are worth checking out. The short piece by Wallace's mother, Sally, and the emails between the two of them are also wonderful. And though the "teaching materials" too had circulated the internet, it's nice to have them here for perusal. (You'll even learn what "to peruse" means, and it might not be what you think.) It was one of those Saturdays where you need to read something that's really going to get you there, you know? He can usually do the trick, still, even now. But now what?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Friedman

    David Foster Wallace was a brilliant writer. His command of English is as good as it gets and this tome (48 hours and 45 minutes in Audible) is often difficult but in the end rewarding. The fiction is particularly strange and the theme of characters who are deeply psychologically flawed is both ironic and at times tedious. He is a great fan of irony, the ultimate being his struggles with psychiatric issues that plagued and ultimately ended his life. That being said, it is mentioned that at some David Foster Wallace was a brilliant writer. His command of English is as good as it gets and this tome (48 hours and 45 minutes in Audible) is often difficult but in the end rewarding. The fiction is particularly strange and the theme of characters who are deeply psychologically flawed is both ironic and at times tedious. He is a great fan of irony, the ultimate being his struggles with psychiatric issues that plagued and ultimately ended his life. That being said, it is mentioned that at some point Mr. Wallace decided he could no longer write fiction. That is when he really shines. His essays on the Illinois State Fair and taking a seven day luxury cruise are hilarious. His writing on English and literature is superb. His essay on Roger Federer at the end is perhaps the best piece of writing about tennis or any sport. It is unfortunate that the editors decided not to use his other fascinating ruminations on tennis. Yes, this is way too much for an "introduction" to David Foster Wallace, but is a pleasure to hear (or read) a master wordsmith at the top of his game.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Knox

    A truly fantastic and representative overview of DFW and his lasting legacy for newcomers and long-time fans. The real gem is the previously unpublished short story on depression (written in college; The Planet Trillaphon), which gets top billing and lead placement in the collection. Simply put: it's perhaps the best writing on depression and what it is to be depressed as I've read anywhere (and I'm not exactly a depressive myself). Then there's selections from all of his published books and som A truly fantastic and representative overview of DFW and his lasting legacy for newcomers and long-time fans. The real gem is the previously unpublished short story on depression (written in college; The Planet Trillaphon), which gets top billing and lead placement in the collection. Simply put: it's perhaps the best writing on depression and what it is to be depressed as I've read anywhere (and I'm not exactly a depressive myself). Then there's selections from all of his published books and some essays, often accompanied by after-thoughts by Wallace scholars/writers/enthusiasts - which add so much to the reading experience and should draw veteran fans to the collection alone. Finally, his syllabus + classroom materials made me deeply regret having never taken one of his classes (and made me miss college level english courses in general) and had me adding lots to my to-read list on his recommendation/assignment. If I were to teach, anything, I would consult his approach and take as much inspiration from it as possible.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Krein

    well, i did it. i finally finished this epic tome. i split it up between sections, taking a break to read something else every once in a while, which is why it took me from november until april to do this. the reason i couldn't give this five stars is because as a "reader," it's a little subjective to the people that selected which pieces are included. it's like- maybe i would have chose different things from "Infinite Jest" or different selections from "The Pale King," you know? but overall, it well, i did it. i finally finished this epic tome. i split it up between sections, taking a break to read something else every once in a while, which is why it took me from november until april to do this. the reason i couldn't give this five stars is because as a "reader," it's a little subjective to the people that selected which pieces are included. it's like- maybe i would have chose different things from "Infinite Jest" or different selections from "The Pale King," you know? but overall, it's a really good "best of" collection of a tremendous talent. the downside was that i guess i was hoping for more afterwards from the people that selected the pieces included. those were few and far between and i would have liked to have heard more from those people on why they selected the specific pieces, of what DFW meant to them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well the novel excerpts came together given how they are, after all, snippets of a broader cohesive work. But then a lot of times you get the sense that you could drop in at any point in a David Foster Wallace work and know what's happening. There's a sort of pleasant wandering that almost approaches recursiveness, like going around a park that has many paths and not backtracking on any path but ending up at the same starting/ending point. Maybe this is I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well the novel excerpts came together given how they are, after all, snippets of a broader cohesive work. But then a lot of times you get the sense that you could drop in at any point in a David Foster Wallace work and know what's happening. There's a sort of pleasant wandering that almost approaches recursiveness, like going around a park that has many paths and not backtracking on any path but ending up at the same starting/ending point. Maybe this is just my pretentious but sloppy way of defending my interest in DFW (though the footnotes get to be too much at a point) but oh well.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Media

    This book only contains samples from multiple works and collections of David Foster Wallace's novels, short stories and non-fiction essays. There is only one short story in this by David Foster Wallace that you won't find in his other books, but there are several afterwords by different people and teaching materials by Sally Wallace. I personally wouldn't read his work in this form. This seems like it would be a great book for teaching a class about his work. That being said, it is still David F This book only contains samples from multiple works and collections of David Foster Wallace's novels, short stories and non-fiction essays. There is only one short story in this by David Foster Wallace that you won't find in his other books, but there are several afterwords by different people and teaching materials by Sally Wallace. I personally wouldn't read his work in this form. This seems like it would be a great book for teaching a class about his work. That being said, it is still David Foster Wallace's writing and it is still exellent. I can't recommend it if you have already read all of his other books because that would be kind of redundant.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    Picked it up so i could read the super depressing,"The Planet Trillaphon as it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing",the afterwards & the part in this collection that his mother wrote...i have already read everything else DFW published except Everything and More & McCain's Promise...& but so,the selections they chose for "The David Foster Wallace Reader" are great pieces of writing. One more thing: "The Planet Trillaphon as it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing" is about as depressing as the rece Picked it up so i could read the super depressing,"The Planet Trillaphon as it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing",the afterwards & the part in this collection that his mother wrote...i have already read everything else DFW published except Everything and More & McCain's Promise...& but so,the selections they chose for "The David Foster Wallace Reader" are great pieces of writing. One more thing: "The Planet Trillaphon as it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing" is about as depressing as the recent movie "Still Alice" & i feel the need to re-watch the new SpongeBob movie now.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Really bought this just for the Chapters from "The Pale King", though I found his correspondence with his mother, students, and faculty most interesting -- and useful. Along with his class schedule and syllabi. Though I must say, the first Chapter of TPK is perhaps the best thing I have ever read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Such a delight. I loved reading new things of his I'd never read, and re-reading - the Infinite Jest excerpts included some of my favorite parts. And his teaching materials are gold, especially his email discussions with his mother over fine points of grammar.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Wallace's use of language is brilliant. There is no other way to put it. I enjoy his non-fiction immensely. I get lost in his fiction at times. Still a pleasure though. I will return to this reader again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean O'Brien

    Wonderful. Topical references in non-fiction but always insightful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Wonderful wonderful excerpts from Wallace's writing: both short stories, essays and novels. Must read Infinite Jest at some stage.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Rowe

    The David Foster Wallace Reader is an interesting concept that I’m not sure I totally agree with. I see the idea of providing ready access to some of David Foster Wallace's (DFW) more obscure work and the unique insight that the book provides in the area of his teaching materials (although I admit that I found this section to be of no interest). But I don’t get the idea of putting in only selected chapters of his larger works, primarily Infinite Jest (IJ), although I will admit that the chosen s The David Foster Wallace Reader is an interesting concept that I’m not sure I totally agree with. I see the idea of providing ready access to some of David Foster Wallace's (DFW) more obscure work and the unique insight that the book provides in the area of his teaching materials (although I admit that I found this section to be of no interest). But I don’t get the idea of putting in only selected chapters of his larger works, primarily Infinite Jest (IJ), although I will admit that the chosen selections of IJ were some of the best. I appreciated the non-fiction section of the book, as I had not had a chance to track down most of these works on my own. (Warning: E Unibus Plurum is overly showy and didn’t age well and “Authority and American Usage” seems to just be a list of writing style no-no’s.) I think the problem for most curious outsiders to DFW’s work is that DFW is synonymous with his best work (and perhaps the most daring book of the 1990’s) – IJ. Outsiders are more than a little afraid to strap on that giant doorstop of a book. Aside from its sheer size, there is a perception that DFW’s writing is impenetrable. This explains The David Foster Wallace Reader as a way for people to sneak up on IJ without actually diving in. But the sheer size of The David Foster Wallace Reader, coupled with its significant number of less-than-stellar pieces could actually serve to put readers off of DFW’s work. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for someone wondering if they should make the IJ leap: You don’t really need to waste your time with the DFW reader. Instead, Google two fiction works from the book (they are available online): 1. “The Planet Trillaphon as it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (The Amherst Review) I believe this is DFW’s earliest published work and serves as a nice introduction to his style and dominant theme of mental illness. 2. “Incarnations of Burned Children” (Esquire Magazine) A haunting, very short story that is different from DFW’ typical hyper-realistic style, but really shows off his writing chops. I would also search on YouTube for the video of his Kenyon College commencement address entitled, “This is Water”. And while you’re at it, check out the movie, “The End of the Tour” (on Netflix last I checked). This is a small gem about a Rolling Stone writer who tagged along with DFW on the last stop of his IJ book tour. Jason Segal does a phenomenal job of capturing DFW’s fragile humanity. If you like what you’ve seen so far, it’s time to jump into IJ. In my opinion, audiobook format is best for the first exposure to the work. (I know, the footnotes are awkward, but don’t worry – you’ll probably read it again at some point.) Once you finish IJ, explore DFW’s work forward and backwards from that point depending on your level of addiction. Unfortunately though, from what I’ve seen from The David Foster Wallace Reader, you won’t catch a better high than IJ in the rest of DFW’s body of work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

    David Foster Wallace is quite possibly the most overrated of all American postmodern writers. And like his greatest non-effort, The David Foster Wallace Reader is bloated and overwrought. His style is so incredibly academic, it's no wonder his teaching materials are included in this collection. Otherwise there's a bit of everything here: fiction, non-fiction, essays, and short stories. The first story, "Planet Trillaphon," is one of the only reasons to get this. It has an interesting voice not s David Foster Wallace is quite possibly the most overrated of all American postmodern writers. And like his greatest non-effort, The David Foster Wallace Reader is bloated and overwrought. His style is so incredibly academic, it's no wonder his teaching materials are included in this collection. Otherwise there's a bit of everything here: fiction, non-fiction, essays, and short stories. The first story, "Planet Trillaphon," is one of the only reasons to get this. It has an interesting voice not seen in later Wallace fiction, with autobiographical moments thrown in. There are excerpts from his novels: The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest and The Pale King. It is unknown to me exactly why these excerpts were chosen; 200 pgs.+ of Jest alone? The short stories I can understand, though I think what's chosen here are the worst from his oeuvre. The essays are the best-written of Wallace's work; they employ a certain cogency and clarity not found in his fiction, and the diversity of topics is welcome. I might blame the so-called "advisers" for their choices (Franzen, Saunders, Kunzru, etc.), but then that would also include his own mother. I can only imagine the possibility he surrounded himself with people who didn't really know him well enough. The best of the essays is easily E Unibus Pluram, though the very "image fiction" Wallace derides in Mark Leyner is the very same he distorts in works such as Infinite Jest and the collections Oblivion & Girl With Curious Hair. The others are easy enough to distinguish - and dismiss - outright: an autobiographical explanation of Wallace as a young tennis prodigy; various trite explanations of cruises, and state fairs, and an amusing essay about lobsters.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.