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Archive for the ‘David Foster Wallace’ Category

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Last month the New Yorker ran a new short story by the late David Foster Wallace entitled, “All That”. The story concerns childhood, and that not knowing how certain things work, seems magical as a kid (OK, I’m simplifying the story). (Reading it I was reminded of another short story by Wallace, Oblivion, from a collection of the same name, which concerns, among other things, a man trying to prove to himself and others that he doesn’t snore.) “All That” has many of the Wallace hallmarks: a dense conversational tone, hyper-attention to detail, digressions within digressions and a deep sense of humanity that is often lacking in other writers that are considered “postmodern” (which, as a label, has pretty much run its course by now).

According to the Howling Fantods site, “All That” is indeed another excerpt from the forthcoming Pale King, David Foster Wallace’s unfinished final novel about IRS agents and boredom (to be released in April 2011 (OK, I’m oversimplifying again; nothing is that straightforward when in comes to Wallace’s writing)). Knowing that this will be the last published novel by someone as immensely talented as Wallace makes the anticipation all the greater, and the excerpts that have been published so far (Good People, Wiggle Room) hint at something that could very well live up to all of the expectations or completely derail them. I guess that’s the beauty of Wallace’s writing: you never really know what you’re going to get, all you know is that it will be worth reading.

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This news is truly awful. David Foster Wallace was a brilliant writer who could pack humanity, nuance and humor into the description of a single moment. His writing was inspiring, thoughtful, deeply personal, amazingly complex at times, but always, always, engaging. He imagined everyday people in completely new ways. Wallace’s humanity, the humanity that he bestowed upon the page was perhaps his greatest gift. Unlike many writers, he carried no identifiable agenda, either politically or morally, he simply tried to bring to life a range of characters that in “real” world would have been marginalized and forgotten about. 

Like Donald Barthelme, David Foster Wallace’s writing had a great impact on how I write and how I view the act of writing itself. I reread a few of his shorter pieces this morning and was reminded again why his writing carried such profound weight for me. 

McSweeny’s is devoting it’s website for the forseeable to remembering this great author. The David Foster Wallace fansite, The Howling Fantods, also has many relevant links and disscusions.

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