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Well, duh

Dale Peck

18 July 1996
Infinite Jest 
by David Foster Wallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... Don DeLillo’s social, um, satires owe more than a little to Pynchon’s work; and in a recent essay in Harper’s magazine the young novelist Jonathan Franzen declares Pynchon a personal hero. DavidFosterWallace 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: Wallace out ...

Illuminating, horrible etc

Jenny Turner: David Foster Wallace

14 April 2011
Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster​ Wallace 
by David​ Lipsky.
Broadway, 320 pp., $16.99, 9780307592439
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The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel 
by David Foster Wallace.
Hamish Hamilton, 547 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 241 14480 0
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... late-stage revelation as to what is actually in ‘the Entertainment’, the video said to be so hideously gratifying that people die while watching it, round and round for ever, in an endless loop. DavidFosterWallace 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 ...

How to Catch a Tortoise

A.W. Moore: Infinity

18 December 2003
Everything and More: A Compact History of ∞ 
by David Foster Wallace.
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,’ DavidFosterWallace 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 ...

Don’t like it? You don’t have to play

Wyatt Mason: David Foster Wallace

18 November 2004
Oblivion: Stories 
by David Foster Wallace.
Abacus, 329 pp., £12, July 2004, 0 349 11810 8
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... the United States. Entitled ‘Tense Present: Democracy, English and the Wars over Usage’, its 17,000 words were generated by the celebrated youngish American novelist, journalist and story-writer DavidFosterWallace. 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 game: America is ...
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 DavidFosterWallace 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: I'll eat my modem

10 August 2000
... on paper to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Bret Easton Ellis has said that ‘it renders most other fiction meaningless. One can imagine Pynchon and Ballard and Stephen King and DavidFosterWallace 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 ...

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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... The ends​ of great fiction do not change, much,’ Zadie Smith wrote eight years ago in an essay about DavidFosterWallace. ‘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 ...

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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... something in order to write it, who use their ‘imaginations’. William Vollmann, with whom Zambreno professes a sympathy, intentionally puts himself in extreme situations, then writes about them. DavidFosterWallace (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 ...

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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... quite boring and annoying. And, as Thirlwell might say, I think you will too. His style has evolved since 2003. The repetition and baby-talk have largely cleared up, while some studiedly casual DavidFosterWallace-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 ...

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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... and puts it over his head, ‘tying it in back and making a number of small, precise adjustments until he was satisfied’, all the details coalesce into a portrait of Eugenides’s late contemporary DavidFosterWallace. 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 Leonard is an ...

It’s slippery in here

Christopher Tayler: ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’

20 September 2017
Twin Peaks: The Return 
created by Mark Frost and David​ Lynch.
Showtime/Sky Atlantic, 18 episodes, 21 May 2017 to 3 September 2017
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...  resented the Second World War for distracting readers from the newly published Finnegans Wake, and what with one thing and another I’ve sometimes felt the same way, on behalf of Mark Frost and David Lynch, about the news environment that accompanied the broadcast of Twin Peaks: The Return. I say ‘on behalf of’ because I imagine that Lynch couldn’t care less. ‘It’s good to kind of go ...

Rescue us, writer

Christian Lorentzen: George Saunders

7 February 2013
Tenth of December 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 251 pp., £14.99, January 2013, 978 1 4088 3734 4
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... violent veterans and desperate white trash. It’s tempting to see the recent uptick in his reputation – a profile in the New York Times cast him as a sort of national shamanic redeemer, heir to DavidFosterWallace – as a symptom of a collective rescue fantasy in dismal times. Me, I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the mutants ...

What the Public Most Wants to See

Christopher Tayler: Rick Moody

23 February 2006
The Diviners 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 567 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 571 22946 8
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... sound hard if you think of R&D as a matter of surface effects: pop-cultural references, metafictional gestures, glazed irony and so on. But for Moody (b.1961), as for Jonathan Franzen (b.1959) and DavidFosterWallace (b.1962), the previous generation’s experimentalism was as much a way of looking at society as a renovation of novelistic technique. Writers their grouchier teachers viewed as ...

Malfunctioning Sex Robot

Patricia Lockwood: Updike Redux

10 October 2019
Novels, 1959-65: ‘The Poorhouse Fair’; ‘Rabbit, Run’; ‘The Centaur’; ‘Of the Farm’ 
by John Updike.
Library of America, 850 pp., £36, November 2018, 978 1 59853 581 5
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... and that would be another victim for 9/11.’ Taste and tact had departed hand in hand; I had been reading too much John Hoyer Updike. In a 1997 review for the New York Observer, the recently kinged DavidFosterWallace diagnosed how far Updike had fallen in the esteem of a younger generation. ‘Penis with a thesaurus’ is the phrase that lives on, though it is not the levelling blow it first ...

How Dare He?

Jenny Turner: Geoff Dyer

11 June 2009
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi 
by Geoff Dyer.
Canongate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2009, 978 1 84767 270 4
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... mess, transgression – so what exactly was it about women’s assholes? – only with the risk and messiness cleaned up. Compare, for example, Dyer’s anti-travel writing with that of the late DavidFosterWallace, another sort-of post-mod sort-of slacker, with many similar interests and of much the same generation. Dyer could not, as Wallace did in ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do ...

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