Fun for Nerds: David Foster Wallace

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This morning, Newsweek posted something that caught my eye instantly because of the author it involved: David Foster Wallace. I had never heard of David Foster Wallace a year ago. Last fall, I was a student in Dr. Kennedy’s Advanced Writing class where we read copious amounts of David Foster Wallace’s work.

I remember being so filled with trepidation as I printed out Wallace’s articles from Harper’s Magazine because of their length. But as soon as I dove into Wallace’s “Tennis, trigonometry, tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood,” I was in love. I loved Wallace’s style, the way he dealt with the topic and his conversational, but slightly pretentious, tone.

This past summer, I read Wallace’s confusing, yet awesome, novel entitled The Broom of the System. I could go on forever about that novel, but I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say that I marveled at the way Wallace made the readers grow along with his characters in that novel.

In short: I love David Foster Wallace.

So, imagine my excitement when I saw Newsweek’s headline: “From the Mixed-Up Files of David Foster Wallace.

Amazing reference to the E.L. Konigsburg book that I adored as a child aside, this article is really interesting. Apparently, Wallace’s mixed-up files, unearthed by Bonnie Nadell, the executor of Wallace’s  literary estate, and now reside at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. Among Wallace’s files is an unfinished novel called The Pale King, which is going to be published next spring (Newsweek reveals that the novel is about “IRS agents trying to make moral sense of the bureaucratized life” — sign me up!).  There are also annotated novels and short stories that Wallace had read.

To some, this might seem like obsession with an author gone awry, or taking voyeurism just a step too far. I can understand that point of view, I can respect it, but I want to see how David Foster Wallace annotated his books and what he found interesting. Here’s what Newsweek had to say:

These papers give us perspective on the writer-as-teacher, a persona not many of his peers developed. Even readers who aren’t devoted fans of Wallace’s fiction have shown an interest in his mind; witness the popularity of Wallace’s essay collections, and the packaging of his commencement address, “This Is Water” as a stand-alone book. To the casual fan as well as the devotee, then, this archive offers a chance to take a sort of disembodied, intro-to-literature class from Wallace. For a man who regarded the written word as synonymous with nourishment, this is no small promise of intimacy.

If you’re a fan of David Foster Wallace, or just find it interesting that the files of a deceased author have been released, check out Newsweek’s article. Then come back here and we can talk about how amazing Wallace is in the comments.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

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