David Foster Wallace

I used to hate David Foster Wallace, when I was in college and he was teaching at "the Illinois State University at Normal" (or did he say "Bloomington"?  I can’t remember) as if there’s any other one and no one calls it "the Illinois State University" anyway, fucker.  Drop the "the" or just call it "State" or run off to Pomona where, had I known you were there, I would have felt compelled to spit on your office door.

Why?

That’s a good question.

I don’t know.  

I haven’t ever read one of his books. 

But I hated how kids would go over to State to take his creative writing class and come back to our class like God himself had breathed right in their mouths.  And I hated how he slouched around town with his stupid bandana being singularly unfriendly and better than us. 

I hated him because he seemed to be ashamed to be some place so ordinary.

Maybe he was just shy. 

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16 thoughts on “David Foster Wallace

  1. I bought one of his books, started reading it, got bored, fell asleep, dropped the heavy fucker on my foot, cursed and never opened it again.Wanna borrow (have?) it?

  2. I have never heard of him. Which is embarrassing, I admit. I mean, I call myself a book person, and he’s apparently a writer. So I googled him. Turns out he isn’t a writer. He’s a WRITER. I think I will skip him.

  3. My experiences were similar – both completely bored and kinda angry. I don’t think I even read 150 pages, and I generally finish a story on principle.

  4. I like his essays, a number of which have been collected into a book titled"A Supposedly Fun Thing That I’ll Never Do Again." The title essay, which is his recounting of his cruise ship experience and his failed attempt at being a travel writer was very funny. It was short enough that he didn’t have room to woodle off into preciousness. I also thought his essay on the Illinos State Fair (which could have been a real sneerfest) was well-done. I haven’t liked his longer works as much, though. Other people do Thomas Pynchon better — like, hey, Pynchon.

  5. I’m with bridgett — his essays are much better. I found Infinite Jest to be unreadable. B – do you still hate him, or does he just not rate anymore?

  6. I thought he just didn’t rate any more, but as I was writing up that post, I found myself wanting to run him over with a wagon full of alligators, so I’d say there’s still some hate in my heart for him.

  7. I am not a big fan. I started skipping words and loosing interest on page one of "A Supposedly Fun Thing That I’ll Never Do Again". Then I got to the sentence:Wind wind etc. etc.it didn’t seem funny or creative or like an attempt to be either to use that instead of a real sentence so I thought, "Dude, stop phoning it in. We aren’t even on page 10 yet." Then I put the book down and never went back to it.

  8. The Infinite Jest made me so angry that I had to force myself to finish it. From around page 100 on it was shear will power that got me through. And I was pissed the whole time I was reading it. I should have known what I was getting myself into, with all those fucking foot notes. I mean, really? Foot notes? In fiction? Sucked.

  9. It’s Illinois State University (and I’m pretty sure most people that attend/have attended just call it Illinois State) and technically it’s in Normal, IL, though the two towns are so close that many people refer to their mashup as Bloomington-Normal. Kind of like the University of Illinois, which is in Urbana-Champaign. God, I’m glad I am from Chicago, not some jacked up city that can’t decide if it’s one or two towns worth of name. :)

  10. I should have known what I was getting myself into, with all those fucking foot notes. I mean, really? Foot notes? In fiction? Sucked.I thought it worked in Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell

  11. Oh, dear. He probably is just somewhat shy. He’s not all arch cooler-than-thou hipster posing. He’s earnest. He’s obsessive, or very nearly. If students liked his class it was probably because he has a deep, deep love for the English language that borders on something diagnosable. Try this essay on dictionaries if you’re curious.You are, of course, welcome to hate on him, just as I hate on sundry authors who’s names shall not be typed.

  12. I’m with everybody on how he’s a good essay writer and a bit overblown fiction writer. I loved the cruise ship essay. Laugh-out-loud funny. And the dictionary essay made me love him just a little. For any tennis fans out there, he also recently wrote a good essay on Roger Federer in the New York Times magazine Play that, although I don’t like Federer (he’s like the Yankees of tennis players), made me respect him a whole lot more.

  13. DFW has some real insight into the tennis world. I guess he was somewhat of a tennis prodigy as a teenager, someone who almost (but not quite) had the chops to go on the pro circuit. Having been almost but not quite good enough at something myself (opera), I know how it can affect one’s approach to one’s other talents. I suspect (without knowing the man at all) that he’s probably just running out as far and as hard as he can to locate the end of his leash. That would account for both the incandescent teaching and the self-indulgently experiments in form.

  14. Yep. I went to college on a voice scholarship. That accounts for the unusually broad European language competence, well at least unusual for a historian of the US. (We’re usually lame at anything but English and judging from our writing, we’re not even very good at that.) I was good enough to perform in supporting roles in small regional companies (in other words, I worked cheap!), but I lacked the combo of talent, drive, and an early start that characterize the voices who make it. (Someone like Sills, for example, began her training at four. I don’t think anyone else realized I could sing until I was sixteen.) I had been taking a core liberal arts curriculum (strong on history, English, and Classics) so I was not totally stuck when I figured out that I was probably not going to be an international diva. I guess I could have continued on with the awareness that I wasn’t ever going to be great or have switched myself over into voice instruction, but I really had been drawn in by the lure of performance and the spectacle of operatic life. It just all seemed so impossibly dramatic and desirable and not something that I was going to get by being just good enough to be a minor player in the Akron-Canton Opera Company. Twenty-two just seemed a little early, in my opinion, to settle for knowing that I would at best be a mediocrity.

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