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Well, duh

Dale Peck, 18 July 1996

Infinite Jest 
by David FosterWallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... essay in Harper’s magazine the young novelist Jonathan Franzen declares Pynchon a personal hero. David FosterWallace moves beyond admiration to adulation – if not, to put it more plainly, outright imitation. It is, in fact, a virtuoso performance that has eclipsed its progenitor: ...

Illuminating, horrible etc

Jenny Turner: David FosterWallace, 14 April 2011

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David FosterWallace 
by David Lipsky.
Broadway, 320 pp., $16.99, 9780307592439
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The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel 
by David FosterWallace.
Hamish Hamilton, 547 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 241 14480 0
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... gratifying that people die while watching it, round and round for ever, in an endless loop. David FosterWallace always had trouble finishing his novels. And yet he put in this one a thought so absorbing and delightful that you could easily imagine yourself, like the rat in the experiment, pressing the lever over ...

How to Catch a Tortoise

A.W. Moore: Infinity, 18 December 2003

Everything and More: A Compact History of ∞ 
by David FosterWallace.
Weidenfeld, 319 pp., £14.99, November 2003, 0 297 64567 6
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A Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable 
by Brian Clegg.
Constable, 255 pp., £8.99, September 2003, 1 84119 650 9
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The Art of the Infinite: Our Lost Language of Numbers 
by Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan.
Allen Lane, 324 pp., £20, August 2003, 0 7139 9629 3
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... As you’ve probably begun to see,’ David FosterWallace writes in Everything and More, ‘Aristotle manages to be sort of grandly and breathtakingly wrong, always and everywhere, when it comes to infinity.’ A much milder version of this antagonism towards Aristotle appears in both Brian Clegg’s Brief History of Infinity and Robert and Ellen Kaplan’s The Art of the Infinite ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: I'll eat my modem, 10 August 2000

... renders most other fiction meaningless. One can imagine Pynchon and Ballard and Stephen King and David FosterWallace bowing at Mark Danielewski’s feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter and awe. I feel privileged to be among its first readers. Will I ever recover?’ House of leaves has at least three ...

Don’t like it? You don’t have to play

Wyatt Mason: David FosterWallace, 18 November 2004

Oblivion: Stories 
by David FosterWallace.
Abacus, 329 pp., £12, July 2004, 0 349 11810 8
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... words were generated by the celebrated youngish American novelist, journalist and story-writer David FosterWallace. Although willing to tilt at shiny targets of grammatical contention (the ending of sentences with prepositions etc), Wallace was, for the most part, hunting bigger ...

Move Your Head and the Picture Changes

Jenny Turner: Helen DeWitt, 11 September 2008

Your Name Here 
by Helen DeWitt and Ilya Gridneff.
helendewitt.com, 580 pp., £8, May 2008
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... Some years ago, the novelist David FosterWallace submitted himself to a long television interview with Charlie Rose, the PBS chat-show host. It was a terrific performance, and in it Wallace talked about why, in much of his work, narrative is split into body-text and footnotes: There’s a way, it seems to me, that reality’s fractured right now, at least the reality that I live in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’, 24 September 2020

... weirder. Kaufman goes to town on the meet the parents scenario, and Mum and Dad (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) go through the motions with relish. Mum giggles and gushes; Dad’s idea of joviality is scariness itself. Jake loses his temper in embarrassment. None of this is excruciatingly funny, but it is excruciating. Surely this is where the gothic stuff ...

I dive under the covers

Sheila Heti: Mad Wives, 6 June 2013

Heroines 
by Kate Zambreno.
Semiotext(e), 309 pp., £12.95, November 2012, 978 1 58435 114 6
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... professes a sympathy, intentionally puts himself in extreme situations, then writes about them. David FosterWallace (to whom Zambreno doesn’t relate) in his fiction seemingly did not. So when Keeler, offended by Zambreno’s appropriation of the identities of these women, asks, ‘at what point does recognising ...

Whomph!

Joanna Biggs: Zadie Smith, 1 December 2016

Swing Time 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 453 pp., £18.99, November 2016, 978 0 241 14415 2
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... of great fiction do not change, much,’ Zadie Smith wrote eight years ago in an essay about David FosterWallace. ‘But the means do.’ She was between novels: three years had passed since her most traditional, On Beauty, was published; NW, her most experimental, wouldn’t appear for another four. But, as ...

Reconstruction

Christopher Beha: Jeffrey Eugenides, 6 October 2011

The Marriage Plot 
by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Fourth Estate, 406 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 00 744129 7
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... he was satisfied’, all the details coalesce into a portrait of Eugenides’s late contemporary David FosterWallace. I want to call Leonard a ‘tribute’ to Wallace, whose suicide presumably occurred while Eugenides was in the middle of writing the book. But most of the time ...

Better on TV

Jon Day: The Tennis Craze, 8 October 2020

A People’s History of Tennis 
by David Berry.
Pluto, 247 pp., £14.99, May, 978 0 7453 3965 8
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... has it, was brought to him mid-set). ‘At the peak of its popularity in the 16th century,’ David Berry writes in his history of tennis, ‘Paris alone had 250 courts, including one at the Louvre and another at Versailles, the latter of which was occupied in the revolution of 1789 by the Third Estate as a symbolic protest at the elitist nature of this ...

This is me upside down

Theo Tait: ‘Kapow!’, 7 June 2012

Kapow! 
by Adam Thirlwell.
Visual Editions, 81 pp., £15, May 2012, 978 0 9565692 3 3
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... since 2003. The repetition and baby-talk have largely cleared up, while some studiedly casual David FosterWallace-ish ‘so’s and ‘anyway’s have crept in. But there are still the perky pop-cultural asides (‘Amigos, I had my doubts’) along with the unidiomatic, vaguely Yiddishy noises, probably descended ...

A Kind of Gnawing Offness

David Haglund: Tao Lin, 21 October 2010

Richard Yates 
by Tao Lin.
Melville House, 206 pp., £10.99, October 2010, 978 1 935554 15 8
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... novel. But Lin doesn’t do anything cute with the names: he uses them as straightforwardly as David FosterWallace uses X and Y in ‘Octet #6’, for example, or as Lorrie Moore uses Mother and Baby in ‘People like That Are the Only People Here’. Jonathan Lethem has said that ‘strange character names are an ...

Following the Fall-Out

Alexander Star: Rick Moody, 19 March 1998

Purple America 
by Rick Moody.
Flamingo, 298 pp., £16.99, March 1998, 0 00 225687 8
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... nodding to DeLillo’s coolly precise technical jargon, Pynchon’s loose historical riffs and David FosterWallace’s involuted, self-undermining thought-processes, Moody weaves together a great number of voices into agile and extremely long sentences. He ventriloquises the clinical impersonality of a technician ...

Showers of Hats

Robert Baird: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’, 30 March 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, March 2017, 978 1 4088 7174 4
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... satire and sentiment’. The shape of that sentiment became increasingly clear. In a eulogy for David FosterWallace, who killed himself in 2008, Saunders explained his friend’s accomplishment in terms that made it hard not to imagine he was also describing his own aspirations: ‘Something about the prose itself ...

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